If the season ended today, TCU would be in the College Football Playoff.
And a team that defeated the Horned Frogs, with an identical record to TCU, would not be part of the national semifinals.
TCU’s edge over Baylor was one of the big revelations Tuesday night in what’s becoming the biggest post-action moment of the college football week — the announcement of the College Football Playoff committee rankings.
The third installment has the same leader as the previous two, Mississippi State.
But there was a switch at second, with Florida State falling to third, and Oregon jumping to No. 2.
The Horned Frogs, coming off their impressive 41-20 victory over Kansas State, are fourth. They are followed by Alabama, Arizona State, Baylor, Ohio State, Auburn and Mississippi.
Kansas State fell six spots to No. 13.
The TCU/Baylor position was an attention-grabber, with the conflict established by Saturday’s results. The Frogs entered the week sixth in the committee rankings and Baylor 12th.
Both won impressively, with the Bears crushing Oklahoma 48-14 at Norman. TCU and Baylor are 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the Big 12.
The Horned Frogs’ lone loss was at Baylor, 61-58.
But for now, TCU’s body of work is considered more impressive by the committee.
“TCU has two top-25 wins and Baylor has one,” committee chairman Jeff Long said. “And TCU’s loss is a top-ten loss. When you put those factors together, we still think at this time that TCU has a better resume.”
The Horned Frogs’ best victories have been over Kansas State and Oklahoma, both top-10 teams at the time. Baylor’s best triumph is over TCU. The Sooners weren’t in the top 10 when they fell to the Bears.
If TCU and Baylor win out and finish as co-champions with 11-1 records, the committee could consider the Big 12’s opinion if the final playoff spot came down to those two. The league would designate co-champions, as it did in 2012 when Kansas State and Oklahoma tied and the Wildcats defeated the Sooners during the regular season.
“Certainly we’d take that into consideration if the Big 12 tells us who their champion is,” said Long, who is the athletic director at Arkansas. “We’d factor that in.”
Current schedule strength also came into play when comparing TCU with Alabama, which stayed at No. 5 from last week despite defeating LSU 20-13 at Baton Rouge, La.
“I think TCU had a very impressive win against a higher-ranked team in Kansas State, and Alabama went to overtime against a then-16th-ranked LSU team,” Long said. “I think these are very, very close teams, and that win, and the way they won in comparison, is what gave TCU an extremely slight edge over Alabama.”
The committee has indicated that it doesn’t use the previous week’s ranking as a guide.
The Horned Frogs’ stay at No. 4 could be short-lived because of strength of schedule. Their remaining games are against unranked Kansas, Texas and Iowa State.
The Crimson Tide has another opportunity to impress the committee when it plays host to Mississippi State on Saturday. There’s also a later date with Auburn.
Baylor also has a chance to impress voters with a regular-season finale against Kansas State.
The teams ranked first and fourth in the final poll will play in one national semifinal game, and the second- and third-ranked teams in the other. Those games will be played in the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl.
The winners will meet Jan. 12, 2015, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for the national championship.
To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @BlairKerkhoff.
College Football Playoff ranking
3. Florida State
6. Arizona State
8. Ohio State
12. Michigan State
13. Kansas State