Two weeks ago, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen starting preparing for a Baylor team that was coming off a wild comeback win over TCU.
Last week, he flipped the script and examined that game as he and the Mountaineers prepped to play TCU.
Which one is better?
“I’d hate to have to choose between them, so good luck to the (playoff) committee,” Holgorsen said Monday. “We’ve played a lot of good football teams, and those two are as good as I’ve seen. If they continue to win in the Big 12 and finish 11-1, then they should be in the top four. That’s for certain.”
No. 5 TCU and No. 6 Baylor (both 8-1 overall, 5-1 Big 12) are the clear front-runners if the Big 12 is going to grab one of the spots in the new four-team playoff.
Oklahoma is the only team that has played the Frogs, Bears and No. 13 Kansas State (7-2, 5-1), losing to all of the Big 12 co-leaders. The Wildcats are likely out of playoff contention with two losses overall after a 41-20 loss at TCU on Saturday.
Asked on the weekly Big 12 coaches teleconference which of those three teams was the best, Sooners coach Bob Stoops said he wouldn’t offer an opinion on that. But he made reference to that Oct. 11 game in which TCU led by 21 points in the fourth quarter only to see Baylor rally for a 61-58 win on the final play.
“As you look at right now, Baylor and TCU obviously are sitting at the top and they had a heck of a game that went down to the last seconds,” Stoops said. “Again, that’s for everyone else to decide.”
Conference champions will be weighed heavily by the 12-member playoff selection committee for its final rankings Dec. 7. The Big 12 is the only power-five league without a championship game, but is the only one that plays a round-robin schedule.
If Baylor and TCU both finish 11-1, the Bears would have the head-to-head victory. But the Frogs won 31-30 at West Virginia two weeks after Baylor’s two-touchdown loss there in its lowest-scoring game of the season.
When the playoff committee put out its first rankings two weeks ago, defending Big 12 champion Baylor was coming off an open date following the loss at West Virginia. TCU had won a pair of lopsided games since the setback in Waco, with an eye-catching 82 points against Texas Tech.
TCU has been the highest-ranked Big 12 team in the playoff rankings, starting at No. 7, six spots ahead of Baylor. That margin was unchanged last week when both were up one slot, after the Frogs’ game-ending field goal at WVU and the Bears with an expected lopsided win at home against Kansas.
In the new AP and coaches polls released Sunday, TCU was fifth and Baylor was up four spots to sixth after an impressive 48-14 victory at Oklahoma. Kansas State dropped to 13th in both, and will also surely slip in the new playoff rankings Tuesday night after being seventh last week.
“The only thing we can control is to try to win out, be 11-1 and have an opportunity to be (Big 12) co-champions,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “Just how we play, and what the general public and the committee think about us when we get done ... we’ve just got to control our own destiny.”
TCU, after playing five ranked teams in a six-week span, has road games against Kansas and Texas before ending the regular season at home against Iowa State.
Baylor is off this week before playing Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas State, the finale at home.
“Our mission when we started this season was to try to repeat as Big 12 champions, and that’s still our goal,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “We’re not going to get our vision and our hopes and aspirations caught into the vapor right now. The reality is we have to go win.”