What’s The Matter With Beating Kansas? The View of TCU This Week

TCU remained in the middle of the College Football Playoff discussion by coming back to beat Kansas on Saturday. The win wasn’t emphatic, but it sure beats a loss. The Student Section editors discuss how that 34-30 win should affect TCU’s place in the sport’s pecking order.


Very simply, should TCU fall in the standings?

Terry Johnson:

On Twitter: @SectionTPJ

Contrary to what many experts are saying, TCU should not fall in this week’s standings.

Make no mistake about it: Kansas is a much different team now than it was when the season started. Under the leadership of Clint Bowen, the Jayhawks are much better team offensively, allowing them to remain competitive in every contest except Baylor. With KU needing to win out in order to make it back to the postseason, I expected this contest to be much closer than people had predicted.

Regardless of who the opponent was, the Horned Frogs deserved a lot of credit for the way that they stormed back to win this game. Remember, immediately after Kansas went up 27-17, the Jayhawks took over on the TCU 45 (thanks fumble recovery which was forced by the kicker) with a chance to blow the game wide open. However, the Frog defense rose to the challenge, forcing Kansas into a three-and-out. This timely stop changed the entire complexion of the game. TCU would go on to score on its next three possessions to take a 34-27 lead.

Call me crazy, but that type of resilience has to count for something. Whether it came against the likes of the 1985 Chicago Bears or perennial doormat Eastern Michigan, the fact that the Horned Frogs dug deep and did what they had to in order to win speaks volumes about the character of the team. After all, anyone can win when things are going well, but it takes a true champion to improve, adapt, and overcome adversity.

Kansas is a revived team under Clint Bowen, and the competitiveness of the Jayhawks on Saturday should be factored into an assessment of the quality of TCU's narrow victory.

Kansas is a revived team under Clint Bowen, and the competitiveness of the Jayhawks on Saturday should be factored into an assessment of the quality of TCU’s narrow victory.


Bart Doan:

On Twitter: @TheCoachBart

It depends on how sold you are on Baylor, I suppose. I will say this: in this spot last week I felt comfortable saying that if both won out, Baylor would be the team that goes based on the head-to-head result. That makes almost too much sense.

Side note here: I really love the Big 12 commercials where they jab the other conferences with the “everyone plays everyone, 9 game schedule” deal with all of the coaches getting their two cents in. I do believe that while less exciting, the Big 12’s model is a really good way to choose a champ. You know, by playing.

As far as TCU goes, you don’t want to ding the Frogs too much for winning … winning games is hard. Just ask Nick Saban. Every week is difficult, no matter what the media or self-proclaimed “experts” might say. The other guys want to win too, and this being college, college kids are unpredictable in effort and emotion.

So I think when you talk about dropping TCU, the hard and fast rule shouldn’t be “You get punished for struggling with a bad team.” I’m not sure what that proves, other than you prefer style over substance.

However, when you have a very close team like a Baylor that won a head-to-head meeting, yeah, I’m comfortable in jumping that team ahead. Alabama struggled against Arkansas. Ohio State with Penn State. And so on. It happens. You might be better going in, but you’re going to have games that simply don’t showcase your best against someone that, on paper, might not look as talented.

Furthermore, don’t discount Kansas’ players playing for their interim coach. That’s powerful stuff. TCU has been in a glut of big games these past few weeks as well. Trotting into frozen, mostly empty Memorial Stadium probably didn’t get the juices as flowing as much as rabid Morgantown or feisty Waco.

So I don’t think it sends a good message to just drop a team for struggling with an assumed inferior opponent. However, I think it’s reasonable in this case when you’re looking at teams that are very close, and one that actually defeated them. Short of Baylor, I don’t think it merits just automatically punishing TCU.


Matt Zemek:

On Twitter: @SectionMZ

The short answer to this question is yes — TCU should fall in the standings. Who wouldn’t think less of the Horned Frogs after failing to hammer Kansas, a team that — while certainly (laudably) competitive on many occasions this season — isn’t particularly good?

The longer answer to this question is what’s important.

TCU should fall in the short term, but if the Horned Frogs handle what now looks like a very difficult assignment on Thanksgiving night against Texas, they would probably improve their standing. When you then factor in other dominoes that could fall in the Frogs’ favor, they would have chances to move up the ladder by the time December 7 arrives.

The true issue at the heart of the TCU question, following the unimpressive win at Kansas, is this: Should a sloppy, below-average performance — even in victory — be held against a team because it occurred later in the season, when everyone was watching and the magnifying glasses were out in full force?

Seen in microcosm, this is a negative, but let’s add some contextual detail here: If this same 34-30 win occurred on Sept. 20 and not Nov. 15, would it be dissected nearly as much? You know the answer to that question: No.

In the bigger picture, this remains one game out of 12. It’s not an argument-deciding issue. College football is sadly replete with examples of how teams’ fortunes in the rankings changed partly because they lost earlier or later in the season. If they lost earlier, they were more often rewarded. If they lost later, they were more often punished.

The TCU issue is in many ways a matter of being able to make adjustments in rankings week to week, and of not being beholden — intellectually or procedurally — to the idea that if Team A wins one week, it must automatically not drop in the rankings.

Teams can win and still drop one week. They can also lose (to a great team, by one point, on the road) and not drop in the rankings.

Critical thinking is what we’re after here — based on 12 games, not just one.