Gil LeBreton

In the end, TCU lacked royal pedigree

There’s no doubt that the Ohio State Buckeyes are college football royalty, and why wide receiver Evan Spencer can celebrate after after a 59-0 win against Wisconsin.
There’s no doubt that the Ohio State Buckeyes are college football royalty, and why wide receiver Evan Spencer can celebrate after after a 59-0 win against Wisconsin. TNS

In the end, the head-to-head thing didn’t matter.

Nor, it seems, did all the touchdowns, the Minnesotas, whatever Kirk Herbstreit said, or how much finger-poking was directed at the league commissioner.

The College Football Playoff committee’s task was to select the four best teams to compete for the national championship.

In that regard, it’s hard to argue that Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State don’t constitute a worthy inaugural field.

But here’s my question: Did the 12 committee members pick the four best teams? Or did they simply settle for the four biggest names?

On the TCU campus Sunday afternoon, after the announcement had been made, Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson calmly talked about what has to happen for his team not to be disappointed on the national stage again.

“Now we have to prove we’re part of royalty,” Patterson said. “We need to become one of those teams that’s always in the top 15.”

As Oregon has done, Patterson said.

“Then,” he said, “you get the benefit of the doubt.”

In the end, they got nothing, assuming there’s no shiny trophy for sixth place.

The Frogs won 11 games. They defeated four teams that were ranked in the top 20. They showed themselves at the end of the regular season to be the Big 12 Conference’s best blend of championship defense and offense.

Yet for that, they got nothing, as far as the playoff was concerned. The 11-1 Frogs spent seven weeks ranked high in the CFP standings, including No. 3 just a week ago, but somehow were downgraded three spots in the final results.

At the podium at Sunday’s announcement, CFP chairman Jeff Long of Arkansas dug deep into his bag of committee chestnuts and sought to explain how Ohio State leapfrogged the Frogs into fourth place.

“Body of work” was mentioned often. The veneer of a final, championship-quality test on the last Saturday — Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, while TCU was merely dismantling Iowa State — seemed to be the ultimate factor.

The Big 12, in other words, was shut out of the CFP field because a Wisconsin team that had lost to LSU and Northwestern failed to register a pulse in its league’s championship game. Shame on you, Badgers.

Long suggested that the committee was impressed that the Buckeyes had rebounded from a poor early loss at home to Virginia Tech to rise through the CFP rankings from No. 16.

But did those weekly rankings mean anything or not?

TCU regularly hovered around the No. 5 spot in each of the week’s rankings. It was a clue, Long himself had said, that the committee was impressed with the Horned Frogs.

How much did it hurt the Frogs, therefore, not having a tough 13th game on their résumé?

It probably didn’t help, nor did the constant bleating from Waco about co-champions and head-to-head results.

Speaking of head-to-head, four of the five Big 12 coaches who vote in the weekly USA Today poll had the Horned Frogs ranked at least two places above Baylor. (The one who didn’t understandably was Art Briles).

Add it all together, though, and it simply became a convenient excuse for brushing off the two little Big 12 private schools once Ohio State destroyed Wisconsin.

The “co-champions” tempest was merely a footnote. If Texas and Oklahoma had been tied atop the Big 12, the committee certainly would have picked one without hesitation, with or without commissioner Bob Bowlsby’s official stamp.

This isn’t to suggest that Ohio State isn’t worthy of the final No. 4 spot. What I’m suggesting is that the committee, after conducting itself so professionally and independently all these weeks, opted in the end to take the easy way out.

Four college football pedigree programs. Four examples, no doubt, of current college football royalty.

Let me suggest, though, that TCU and Baylor could beat any of them. And the committee failed to produce a convincing reason why it felt otherwise.

“You’ve got to trust the committee,” Patterson said. “In the end, you’ve got to believe that people are going to do the right things.

“Baylor and TCU — we’re new on the scene, really, as far as us doing it in this conference. We’ve got to show that we can do it on a year-to-year basis.

“That’s the best way to quiet down the critics. That’s how they’ll ever give you the benefit of the doubt.”

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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