CFP rankings preview: Ohio State is in, TCU should be and Bama is done — right?

  • College football reporter
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2007
  • Graduate of Indiana University

GRAPEVINE, Texas — TCU is this year’s darling of college football. Even fans of other teams and national media have embraced the gutsy Frogs, their chaotic comebacks, their funky “Hypnotoad” and their relentless quarterback who left the field bruised and bleeding.

How No. 3 TCU lost Saturday in the Big 12 championship game — by a field goal in overtime to No. 10 Kansas State after being stuffed on fourth down just inches from the goal line — matters to the College Football Playoff selection committee. While the early inclination is to assume one-loss TCU remains in the top four, the committee will at least discuss No. 6 Alabama, leaving open the possibility — however slight it might be — that TCU could be left out because of the very conference championship game it was a catalyst for implementing.

Remember that?

TCU hasn’t forgotten. The Frogs dropped from No. 3 to No. 6 in the fifth ranking of the inaugural playoff, and when TCU and Baylor were deemed co-champions, the Big 12 was left out of the CFP entirely. The conference reinstated the game in 2017 in part because of projections and models that said its chances of reaching the CFP would increase if it did.

So here they are again, without a conference title, with one loss and at the mercy of the committee. If CFP committee were to reward Alabama with a semifinal spot instead of TCU, it would be one of its most controversial decisions since … the last time TCU dropped out. The optics of rewarding teams that didn’t play for a conference title while eliminating one that put it all on the line in a close game would lend to criticism of the closed-door process, but it wouldn’t be the first time.

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