Mac Engel

Don’t be surprised if TCU and Baylor get left out of the new playoff

TCU coach Gary Patterson with his players during the trophy presentation after the Horned Frogs beat Iowa State 55-3.
TCU coach Gary Patterson with his players during the trophy presentation after the Horned Frogs beat Iowa State 55-3. Star-Telegram

TCU is a better football team than Baylor, but the Bears should be ahead of the Horned Frogs.

The game was two months ago, but Baylor did beat TCU, which in sports should be the deciding factor between two teams. Only in the dysfunctional world of college football is there enough random criteria to reduce head to head to the same level as “game control.”

“It’s not subjective,” Baylor coach Art Briles said.

Only in college football, it is.

The new playoff system features computers, rankings and a committee, but it’s still primarily an eyeball test. These eyeballs say TCU is better than Baylor, but the Bears still beat the Horned Frogs and are going to get robbed nonetheless.

These eyeballs also say both teams should be scared to death of Ohio State, and no PR firm could convince anyone otherwise. College football, which is run by a governing body that rivals FIFA in terms of cleanliness, always seems to favor the biggest schools, and names.

Everything that needed to break for Baylor to jump into the inaugural college football final four did not, including its 38-27 win against No. 9 Kansas State on Saturday night. The game was much too close, and Baylor’s defense allowed Kansas State to stick around when the Bears needed a blowout.

Both TCU and Baylor will share the Big 12’s “one true champion” conference trophy. Both teams may also share in the pain of becoming the first teams to be hosed in this new era of a college football playoff. One team for sure will feel that pain today.

Baylor, congratulations — you had another historically wonderful season complete with a new stadium, and yet this playoff exclusion will define this year. Have fun with that trophy.

TCU, keep your mouth shut and just pray the committee won’t drop you from No. 3 to No. 5 when the final announcement is made Sunday morning in Grapevine.

Wisconsin “taking one for the Big Ten” in its white-flag loss to Ohio State in that conference title game effectively killed Baylor’s chances of making the playoffs.

No. 4 Florida State’s two-point win against Georgia Tech in the ACC title game makes it impossible for the college football selection committee to drop the undefeated Seminoles.

That leaves No. 3 TCU vs. No. 5 Ohio State and No. 6 Baylor for the fourth spot. When it comes to Condi Rice and her playoff selection committee cronies, rule out nothing. That includes dropping No. 3 TCU out of the playoff entirely despite its blowout of Iowa State. Ohio State is always a much more attractive (lucrative?) alternative than TCU.

In this new era of a college football playoff, the team or teams that are left out will feel little joy in making the Cotton or Fiesta Bowl unless they are semifinal games. This is “the other side” of having a playoff — not making it ruins the rest of the season, including a conference title. This was always going to happen when the crooks that ran the BCS bowed to public pressure to create a four-team playoff — some team, or teams, were going to be irate.

Briles may preach the “American way” when it comes to the playoff rankings, but nothing is more red, white and blue than a deserving team being left out in the college football postseason.

There is some irony to Baylor’s season. No team game-planned the system more than the Bears, and in the end that system will game them. Baylor is good enough for an eight-team playoff, but not a four.

“Look at the résumés and make a decision,” Briles said in a post-game media session that was a glorified lobbying effort.

The Bears can be mad at the system, but they should check the mirror first. Their nonconference schedule was an embarrassment, and their 14-point loss at West Virginia was a killer.

“If we had won the West Virginia game, it would have helped,” Baylor offensive tackle Spencer Drango said. “We are Baylor. We are back-to-back Big 12 champions. That should be enough.”

It should be, and it won’t be. Had Baylor defeated TCU later in the season, it would have changed the dynamic; that game on Oct. 11 feels like years ago. Since then, Baylor and its fans have sold the final score of that game against TCU, 61-58, as the determining factor in any debate. At McLane Stadium on Saturday night, signs bearing that score were visible from every possible vantage point.

But by Sunday afternoon, 61-58 will be reduced to a cute T-shirt and Internet smack-talk fodder for Baylorites, if it hasn’t been already.

On a side note — it is with great sports sadness this debate and drama between TCU and Baylor will effectively end Sunday. This season has provided so much fun, tension and nastiness that it is sad to see it end.

Both teams had wonderful seasons, are deserving of a title, and yet in this new era one — or both — will feel hollow soon enough. This was always going to happen to some team or teams, just no one thought five months ago it would be Baylor or TCU to first to feel the pain, and possibly share, that trophy.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @macengelprof And The Big Mac Blog

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