As they start to pop up on some College Football Playoff projections, the sixth-ranked TCU Horned Frogs are both embracing the thought and keeping it at a distance.
“It’s cool, but it’s a long way to go,” quarterback Kenny Hill said Tuesday in a talk with reporters. “We’ve played five games. We’ve still got another seven and hopefully eight. It’s a long way to go.”
But the quality of the Frogs’ first two Big 12 victories — at Oklahoma State and against West Virginia — is hard to ignore. Those teams are a combined 7-1 outside of the TCU games. No one else in the league has two better conference wins.
“Looks like TCU is Arlington-bound,” writes Barry Tramel, longtime college football writer for the Daily Oklahoman.
AT&T Stadium in Arlington is the site of the Big 12 championship game, where the top two teams in the standings meet for the league title on Dec. 2.
“We don’t even try to really look at it like that,” Hill said about gauging the quality of the two league victories. “It’s going to the next game and trying to get a win. But it definitely does feel good to get those wins. It definitely does.”
Next for the Frogs is an 11 a.m. Saturday game at Kansas State, a preseason Top 25 team that is no longer ranked, and is coming off a double-overtime loss at Texas.
Potentially, the Frogs do not see a ranked team again until Nov. 11 at Oklahoma.
The next three opponents for TCU — Kansas State, Kansas and Iowa State — are a combined 7-8. If the Frogs can take all three games, they would set themselves up for a high debut spot in the first set of CFP committee rankings on Oct. 31.
In 2014, TCU debuted at No. 7 with a 6-1 record in the first-ever set of CFP rankings.
They were No. 8 with an 8-0 record in the first set of 2015 rankings.
Last season, the Frogs were 4-4 when the rankings came out and never appeared on the list.
With a 5-0 start this year, the Frogs can think big.
“Starting out 5-0, it’s what you want, it’s what you’re trying to do,” Hill said. “With this group of guys, we’ve got a very close-knit group, a real older group. I think all of us together, we wanted to make this last one special. And it’s been special so far.”
The Frogs are building a résumé for 2017. In the last three games, the defense faced three of the top offenses in the country — SMU, Oklahoma State and West Virginia — and forced eight turnovers, allowed only five touchdowns in 11 red-zone trips and gave up a total of 91 points.
“Great offenses,” defensive tackle Chris Bradley said. “We’re humbled to say that we were able to stop [West Virginia] on the last drive and get that win last week.”
In the same three games, the Frogs’ offense scored 131 points, rushing for 662 yards and nine touchdowns. It’s part of what has made TCU the nation’s best third-down offense. Hill is 15-of-23 for 194 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions on third down this year.
TCU coach Gary Patterson said he knew after last year’s 31-23 Liberty Bowl loss to Georgia that the Frogs would be a better team in 2017.
“Someone on their team said, ‘I’m glad I played you now,’ ” Patterson said. “Because we gave them a fight, and they have good players.”
The Frogs sound like they are getting close to realizing their potential.
“We’re all in,” Bradley said. “We want to go out there, we want to be one, we want to be a tribe, we want to be all together. If someone messes up, it’s not him — we all mess up. We just want to be together.”
No. 6 TCU at Kansas State
11 a.m. Saturday, FS1