Wednesday, October 27

Frogs Are Outside Looking In

BLINK BLINK went the little Horned Frog one day,
BLINK BLINK went the little Horned Frog.
BLINK BLINK went the little Horned Frog one day,
and his eyes went BLINK BLINK BLINK.

CHUG CHUG went the BCS one day,
SMUSH SMUSH went the little Horned Frog.
His eyes didn't go BLINK BLINK anymore,
Because they all got eaten by a dog.

A slight variation on a song I used to sing at Camp Eagle Rock as a kid. The little green frog was replaced by the symbol of TCU (which is actually a lizard but when it blinks it shoots blood out of its eye). I thought about changing the last word to strength of schedule but why kill a good rhyme?

The common sentiment in college football this year, and football in general, is that things are wide open. It is good from a spectator point-of-view, every week brings new exciting games with wide sweeping implications. However, with all these new contenders it makes it even more confusing when media, fans, and pollsters rely on reputation prior season performance to place these teams. Now granted there is a long way to go before the season is over. Undefeateds still may fall, Alabama has a great chance of sneaking back into the picture, and we may very well see a logjam at the front of the line.

TCU is one of the best teams in the country. That is not an opinion, it is a fact. They are a great team. The confines of the current system however will not allow them to make the BCS title game in Glendale, even if they go undefeated. I am not going to argue about whether the system is just or not, it is what it is. I simply want to show that the Horned Frogs are playing for a statement BCS game in January, not the crystal trophy. More after the break.

Have you watched TCU play a game? Seriously? More than one? This team is as good defensively as anyone. We will get to the weaker schedule but if Gary Patterson was preparing for any quality opponent I would bet on his defense to make a strong showing. The Frogs rank number 1 in the country in average points allowed, with 9.0. Nine points a game in today's spread it out, fly around college football. They held the high octane offenses of SMU and Baylor under their season averages. Baylor was held to 10 points, while they average nearly 35. The loss of DE Jerry Hughes, who was a beast for them last year led everyone to discount the defense from where it was last year. So far they have proven to be just as good. Gary Patterson is a damn good coach, the incident with the concussed player doesn't speak well for him, but

The offense has not been far behind. They've scored under 30 only once (a 27-0 victory over Colorado State) and rank 7th in points scored. Again, their competition has not been upper-tier all the way through but when you dominate opponents like this consistently, it shows you are that good.

Good enough to make the title game? Again, not under this system. It is not a lack of respect. People know TCU is good. They hear about them constantly and some people give them more credit for not railing against the system the way the folks in Boise seem too. As far as watching them, sometimes it is not that easy. The Mountain West has its own network and sometimes there games are Versus. That right there is not a recipe for eyeballs on your team. They had a showcase against Oregon State in Cowboy Stadium on ESPN on opening weekend, but it aired opposite LSU-North Carolina so not everyone was watching. Most would watch highlights or scan the boxscore. Oregon State is being used as a barometer this season. They played both TCU and Boise State. They are clinging to a top 25 ranking right now but an overtime loss in Washington has them sitting at 3-3. They did manage to beat #9 Arizona making them as of now the only team to play three top 10 teams. The Beavers are a good team, but will their record reflect it after they get through the rest of their schedule? The loss of James Rodgers did not help.

TCU's other BCS opponent this year was Baylor, who wasn't expected to be seen as a quality opponent but the Bears have are thus far undefeated in Big 12 play. As noted above the Frogs hammered Baylor 45-10, but don't expect the strong ranking from Baylor to hold up. They still have Texas, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma on the schedule.

Last year, TCU played at Virginia (not a good team but still a BCS opponent on the road, in Death Valley against Clemson, at BYU (they were ranked 16 at the time they played them and were much better than this year), and Utah at home. It was a schedule that was not too far above the slate they have this year but all the chips began to fall in front of them. After they destroyed Utah 55-28 when gameday came to their campus, people began to take note. The Alabama-Florida winner was guaranteed to get to Pasadena but Texas needed a fortunate clock stoppage and a last second field goal to get the other spot. TCU was left waiting in the wings, 3 in the polls, 4 in the BCS. They were instead forced into the Fiesta Bowl against fellow non-AQ Boise State. Boise had a month to craft their offensive attack, which had routed opponents all year. TCU was up to task as they held them to just 10 points. The difference turned out to be a fake punt from their own 33 for the Broncos in a 17-10 win. It was a bitter defeat, because TCU knew this was the only game when a majority of the country was watching. The Frogs beat the Broncos in 2008 in the Poinsettia Bowl but the stakes were not as high. TCU quarterback Andy Dalton had a nightmare game, throwing 3 picks and constantly derailing offensive drives. I still feel TCU was the better team but you have to prove it on the grand stage.

The leader of the horned frogs, which are actually lizards, rocks a mock turtle.

Enter this year, with everyone talking about Boise State. Mainly because they had a Labor Day showdown with Virginia Tech at FedEx Field. They also did quite a bit of talking about the BCS and how they deserved their shot, since they were also passed over for the title game last year. TCU entered lower in the polls but once again have beaten everyone out there on their schedule. They now sit at #4 in all the polls and the BCS. It seems so tantalizingly close. Another huge showdown with the now #8 ranked Utah in two weeks looms. How far will that vault them if they win? Enough to make up for playing bottom-feeders New Mexico and UNLV? The weakness of those two teams will likely spell doom as far as the computers are concerned. According to the Sagarin poll, the Frogs have the 62nd ranked schedule. It is the biggest factor working against them. If any of the other undefeateds (Oregon, Michigan State, Missouri, Auburn) don't lose, they get to the title game before TCU. A one loss Alabama team gets in ahead of TCU. If TCU is undefeated and there is a one loss Ohio State, Wisconsin, Auburn, Oklahoma, Missouri, etc. team sitting there it is a tough call. Also, what about Boise? Let's say Auburn wins out (don't think they will) and everyone else has one loss. If TCU and Boise are the only other undefeateds does that mean it is down to those two for a shot at the title? Right now it appears the advantage is in TCU's favor from the computers, but Boise is ahead in the polls. Which means they will be ranked number 2 right behind an undefeated Auburn. Will the computers be enough to get TCU ahead of Boise?

To even get to that scenario, TCU needs to win out, which I think they will. Will they get their shot? I remain doubtful. A lot of dominoes have to fall their way. The hardliners in college football will be pointing to TCU's schedule, saying the tough road of a undefeated/1-loss BCS school holds more weight. I cannot sit here and disagree with them. TCU is a victim of what conference it plays in and big schools hesitant to play them consistently. Will that change in the future? Utah is leaving for the Pac 12 next year. Boise is coming in. That seems a swap rather than an upgrade. The ability of playoff expansion, or a plus 1 would give schools like TCU that extra opportunity. If a school from a non-AQ is deemed to have a high rank early in the season, plays quality BCS schools in its non-conference, faces top 25 teams multiple times during the year, and goes undefeated there should be a way to get them an opportunity to face the other worthy teams. Many would disagree, and say the non-AQs don't face the week in, week out tests that BCS conference schools do. Others would argue that there is an opportunity for teams like TCU to make the title game, if all the other AQ schools fall by the wayside. The bottom line this year is that the last scenario is all TCU can hope for. Despite the upheaval in football this year I don't see it happening. The Frogs will remain a great team, but one watching the title game instead of playing it in.

Ratings and rankings were drawn from the polls, but most of the info was based on this week's Sagarin rankings.

1 comment:

Catfish said...

TCU and Boise State need to root like hell for Oregon State and the SEC East. Even that likely won't be enough because TV executives rule. It's why the Yankees and Phils are in the... oh wait, the BCS doesn't run baseball.