One of the big story lines from the first college football playoff rankings being announced, along from every other thing that people were freaking out about, was the lack of a Big XII team in the playoff picture, despite still having three undefeated teams in the conference. And there’s some completely legitimate points that could be made to support the idea that maybe one of them should be in the top four. Never mind the fact that Football Outsiders’ F/+ rankings has Baylor and TCU sitting at No. 7 and No. 10 respectively. Also ignore their schedules up to this point, as no team has either played enough decent teams, or won all of their games in a convincing enough fashion to prove they deserve a playoff spot. If you’re operating on the basis that being undefeated in college football is incredibly difficult to do, no matter what the schedule or circumstances, then yes, you could probably argue for one of these teams to be in the top four. However, the best way for these teams to show they’re legit is to win out…which means beating the other undefeated teams in the process. As it stands, one Big XII team’s dream of being in the playoff this season is effectively over after this weekend. Neither the Horned Frogs or the Cowboys can afford to lose this game and still expect to make it in, especially after last season when two one-loss Big XII teams lost out on the fourth spot to a team that had lost to Virginia Tech earlier in the season. (That team also went on to win the national championship, but you shut up, this is my narrative.) With that said, let’s take a look at which team is most likely to still be in the playoff hunt after the dust settles on Saturday in Stillwater.
There Will Be Yards And Points
In a conference in which most every team has shown a relative unwillingness to field a strong defense most years, and with two of the most high-powered offenses in college football playing against said defenses, yards and points are just going to happen here. This isn’t going to be a slow slog of a game like we’ve seen with some other big conference games between ranked teams with national title implications (casually looks in the direction of Tuscaloosa). This also will probably not come down to one team failing to score while the other racks up as many points as it can in a fevered panic to try and gain the attention of the committee that they feel snubbed them of what they’re due. That’s not to say this game can’t be a blowout, but we’re looking more at the 70-42 variety, rather than 35-10. For TCU, Trevone Boykin is simply going to make things happen. The senior QB is probably the best player in the country, and leads arguably the best offense in the country to boot. Couple that with receiver Josh Doctson who should be getting as much attention as Corey Coleman from Baylor but it doesn’t seem like it for some reason, and running back Aaron Green who has excelled in taking some of the pressure off of Boykin to be the all-time playmaker for the offense, and there’s little that can be done to stop this team. When this offense is running at peak efficiency, it will score in a heartbeat, let you do your thing for a few minutes, and then get the ball back and try and beat its own time.
Conversely, the Cowboys have also fielded a solid offense of their own, even if, when compared to TCU’s, it doesn’t look as impressive. Sophomore quarterback Mason Rudolph has done well in his first full year as a starter, especially considering he hasn’t really gotten much help from the backfield. More impressively though, is that he’s gotten the Cowboys to 8-0 without having a clear advantage or connection with any one receiver. Whereas Baylor has Coleman and TCU has Doctson, there’s no one player on Oklahoma State’s receiving corps who you can look at and say, “That guy is Rudolph’s safety valve” because he doesn’t have one. He’s done well to spread the ball around and create a multidimensional passing game for the Cowboys. And if they want to beat the Horned Frogs on Saturday, they’ll need it to be on point.
The Defenses Will Just Kind Of Be There
Sure, technically you could say this is a chance for either defense to make a statement and show that they’re legitimate, but if we’re being honest that probably doesn’t happen. Yeah, Josh Carraway and the rest of the TCU defensive front might be able to get some pressure on Rudolph and make some things happen, but the odds are that these two defenses will just kind of run around a lot and get some exercise. That isn’t to say that things like turnovers won’t happen. Rudolph has thrown eight picks already this season, and the Horned Frogs defense, while not the most statistically monstrous, has a solid turnover margin of +4 (let’s ignore the fact that they only have 11 takeaways thus far, whereas a team like Florida has 19). So we could see some things happen defensively in this game, but this is all shaping up to look like a Big XII shootout the likes of which have come to define the conference over the last decade.
A Win Here Is A Good Start
Whoever wins this game will likely not suddenly slide into the playoff committee’s top four come next week. Sure, if Oklahoma State manages to steal a victory at home they could certainly see themselves catapult upwards, but it still probably wouldn’t land them in a playoff spot just yet. But whoever does win this game can begin to really make its case for one, and as both team still have Baylor and Oklahoma on their schedules to close out the season, a win on Saturday would certainly get more people to start looking at those games a lot more closely.