If not for a Saturday in Ames, Iowa, who knows where TCU might have ended up in the first set of College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday night.
But No. 8 is not bad.
The Horned Frogs were a season-high No. 4 in the AP Top 25 before last week’s loss at Iowa State. Would it have translated to No. 4 in the CFP?
Maybe higher, considering Penn State also lost?
Instead, the Frogs debuted only four spots lower than their AP poll spot in the initial pecking order released by the CFP selection committee on Halloween night, signifying a committee impressed by what had been a 7-0 start that made TCU look like the Big 12’s best bet this season.
The Frogs clearly got credit for their lone loss being on the road against an Iowa State team that has claimed two No. 4 opponents.
“Iowa State is not Iowa State,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “That was a good football team.”
Indeed, the committee thought so, too, placing the Cyclones at No. 15 in their first-ever appearance in the CFP rankings.
TCU almost certainly would have had a top-four spot and been the Big 12’s highest entry without last week’s loss.
Even so, even the best-case scenario placement would have felt empty.
The Frogs were burned in 2014 when they debuted at No. 7, climbed to No. 3 in the next-to-last set of rankings and were rated sixth in the final rankings despite a 55-3 win to close the regular season.
“I wouldn’t have looked at them if we won or we lost,” coach Gary Patterson said. “You remember, I’m the team that went from third to sixth. Until I see it in writing, even if we were up there, I wouldn’t have paid any attention to it.”
The players had promised themselves the same thing. Whatever last week’s result, they weren’t watching Tuesday night.
“Not at all, man,” receiver John Diarse said. “Even if we would have won last week, it still would’ve been the same idea.”
Still, the Frogs might want to sneak a peek as the season goes on. They have four weeks to make a case to crack the top four.
Exhibit A ought to be their defense.
It ranks 10th in the nation after three strong weeks against Kansas State, Kansas and Iowa State, allowing only two touchdowns and two field goals. Those are not one of the best offenses in the country, but upcoming games against Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Baylor offers a chance for the Frogs to argue that their defense alone makes them playoff worthy.
If TCU hits its stride on defense in November, it would be just in time to make an impression on the committee members.
Patterson subtly suggested the idea immediately after the loss in Ames.
“We played well enough defensively to still put ourselves in a situation that we’re a good football team,” he said.
By putting the Frogs at No. 8, that’s a message the committee echoed Tuesday night.
Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez
College Football Playoff rankings
3. Notre Dame
6. Ohio St.
7. Penn St.
11. Oklahoma St.
13. Virginia Tech
15. Iowa St.
16. Mississippi St.
17. Southern Cal
20. NC State
24. Michigan St.
25. Washington St.
The College Football Playoff Selection Committee will issue weekly rankings each Tuesday, with the final rankings being announced Sunday, Dec. 3 (Noon EST). The playoff semifinals will match the No. 1 seed vs. the No. 4 seed, and No. 2 will face No. 3. The semifinals will be hosted at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2018. The championship game will be played on Jan. 8, 2018 at Atlanta.