FORT WORTH, Texas - Watching TCU toy with No. 7 Kansas State should leave no doubt as to the national legitmacy of the Horned Frogs. Watching Baylor embarrass Oklahoma in Norman a few hours earlier on Saturday only does the same for the Bears.
As to which team is better - TCU or Baylor - head to head should always be the No. 1 factor. Baylor beat TCU earlier this season, and that should be it.
The fact that TCU remains ranked higher than Baylor despite the Frogs' three-point loss in Waco on Oct. 11 is a total indictment on the short-sighted scheduling by coach Art Briles and athletic director Ian McCaw.
(Yes - I have been beating this dead Bear for months and will continue to do so until this issue is no longer relevant.)
The Baptists are gambling it all that the college football playoff selection committee will ultimately regard the head-to-head with TCU as the decisive element in this debate. What is working against Baylor is that the game was in early October, it was close, and a non-conference schedule that impressed no one.
The only reason Baylor is not ranked higher than TCU right now in any poll is can summed up with a non-conference schedule consisting of SMU (0-8), FBS Northwestern State (5-5) and Buffalo (3-6).
It's not as if TCU's non-conference slate is a death row, but TCU head coach Gary Patterson has mastered the illusion of the fake hard game. He has learned to find the right team from the power conference to create the appearance of slaying a monster. In the past, he found a Virginia, a Clemson, or an Oregon State to do the trick.
In this case, the Frogs' slaying of a Gopher has done the trick and created a debate: Is TCU or Baylor more worthy of a final four spot. Know this - no conference outside of the SEC is going to land two teams in the final four.
TCU's 30-7 win against Minnesota is the reason the Frogs' are ahead in the polls, but on closer inspection the Gophers are no Buckeyes. Minnesota is 7-2 and fattened itself on a slew of bad teams - Eastern Illinois, Middle Tennessee, San Jose State, and a Big 10 schedule that remains soft. Minnesota has not defeated a Top 25 team.
But the Gophers have won far more than they have lost, thus providing the difference for TCU's case. Of note - UM plays No. 14 Ohio State, No. 13 Nebraska and No. 25 Wisconsin to close the season. UM's 7-2 could be 7-5.
Had Baylor played anybody from a legit Power 5, the Bears would be ahead of TCU in every poll. Had Baylor played anybody, it would mitigate the Bears' 14-point loss at West Virginia on Oct. 18.
This brings to mind when I asked McCaw back in July during Big 12 media days about their schedule.
"When we scheduled the three non-conference opponents this year we were in the midst of a 15-year bowl drought; the philosophy was, let's get to six wins and bowl eligibility," McCaw said. "Our goal is to win three non-conference games, and set us up to have a great year in the Big 12 and hopefully win a Big 12 championship."
He added: "I want us to play a name opponent, but I want us to play a name opponent in January and not September."
With remaining games against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas State, there is a good chance Baylor will do just that, jump TCU and reach college football's new final four.
But Baylor's decision to schedule garbage in the non-conference has made this a debate when there should be none, and left the Bears vulnerable when they should be secure.
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