Mac Engel

New playoff system may paint rosiest of all scenarios for TCU

There is a fun, no-win debate circulating in sports bars around these here parts about this TCU team and that TCU team.

Is this TCU team as good as or better than that team — the group that won the Rose Bowl?

“Oh, I don’t know,” coach Gary Patterson said. “They won a lot of games in 2008 to 2010. I told people, ‘They could have played in the Big 12,’ and they just kind of ...” He rolls his eyes.

TCU cornerback Kevin White, who was a member of that team, said: “That’s tough. You got a team that went 13-0. I couldn’t even tell you.”

Former receiver Curtis Clay, who was a senior on that Rose Bowl team, said: “We didn’t lose to Baylor.”

BAM! In the face!

For the record: This team is not as good as that team — yet. That team went undefeated, smoked everybody and beat a loaded Wisconsin team in the Rose Bowl. TCU was stacked with pros, and it would have been successful in the Big 12.

What cannot be debated is that this team has the opportunity to do more than that team because there is a system in place that allows it. This team can win a national title.

TCU is ranked sixth in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, one spot ahead of Saturday’s opponent, Kansas State.

Whatever problems that existed on this team in the spring, most notably a lack of internal leadership, have been corrected, and everything Patterson said could happen when TCU jumped to the Big 12 is there for the taking.

Granted, there is the little matter of winning out, beginning Saturday at home, but everything this program wants right now is available. (BTW: TCU is a six-point favorite vs K-State.)

Much like the Rose Bowl team in 2010, TCU is again in the middle of the annual college football debate, and specifically whether it belongs in the discussion for a “final four” spot.

It should be noted that every team not in the SEC finds itself labeled as a fraud unworthy of a final four spot. To hear the pundits, an eight-loss Vanderbilt team is more deserving of a final four spot than one-loss Michigan State, Oregon, TCU, etc.

In 2010, it was a question of whether TCU could go undefeated and if a BCS bowl would extend an invite. The moons, stars and Boise State’s loss aligned to allow for a trip to the Rose Bowl.

Now in 2014 as a member of the Big 12, the prospect of a one-loss season has TCU in the middle of the great debate of which non-SEC team (besides Florida State) belongs in the new College Football Playoff.

Some deserving team, or teams, are going to get the shaft here in about a month when the new College Football Playoff committee decides on the final four. That TCU is a part of this discussion this late in the season, so quickly after its admittance into the Big 12, is a wonderful sign for this school, this team and this fan base.

At least, unlike in 2010, TCU actually has a path to a national title. As a member of the Mountain West Conference in 2010, there was virtually no chance the voters would put TCU in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 title game.

Now if TCU can somehow slide up to No. 4, it will have the shot it so desperately wanted.

The only way to remain in this discussion is to win out and then hope the selection committee respects the Big 12, and more specifically TCU’s three-point loss at Baylor. Right now, TeamRankings.com rates TCU’s schedule as the ninth-hardest in the nation. Sports-Reference.com ranks TCU’s schedule 52nd.

How ever you cut it, and barring an unforeseen collapse, this has been a wonderful season for TCU.

“Obviously proved to all of those people that said TCU couldn’t win in the Big 12,” GP said. “There is still a lot of work to do. We are just touching the iceberg. I told you guys that — ’bout like when I told you someday we’d go to a BCS bowl. You kinda looked at me strange.”

There is no reason to look at GP or TCU strange now.

This team can be as good as that team.

“They’re very good and I truly hope they can keep it going all the way,” Clay said. “It’s awesome to watch. Still remains to be seen. I think next year, they could be unreal good and dethrone us.”

If TCU keeps winning, the dethroning process will begin much earlier.

Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog at star-telegram.com/sports/.

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