FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Third-ranked TCU has a definite route to the playoff after another regular season-ending rout of Iowa State. That is much different from 2014, when the Horned Frogs got left out.
“I know the history with TCU and Iowa State, and big victories, and it didn’t work out particularly well in 2014,” first-year Frogs coach Sonny Dykes after their 62-14 win over Iowa State on Saturday.
A day after a 55-3 win over the Cyclones eight years ago, TCU was left out of the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff even after going into that game ranked in the top four.
TCU (12-0, 9-0 Big 12, No. 4 CFP), which moved up a spot from fourth in the new AP Top 25 released Sunday and likely will do the same Tuesday night in the next CFP rankings, is in a much better situation this time.
The Frogs are one of only three remaining undefeated teams, with No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Michigan, after being the first Big 12 team since Texas in 2009 to finish the regular season without a loss. And they still have the Big 12 championship game next Saturday against No. 13 Kansas State (9-3, 7-2, No. 12 CFP).
Dykes believes so much is different since 2014 in college football, the CFP selection committee and how people view the Big 12.
“It’s a gauntlet. I think people that know, really study the game, know how good the league is,” Dykes said. “So to be able to go through this thing undefeated, to be able to win the road games that we did, to grind through some of the tough ones we had to grind through, I think shows that we have a good football team.”
Before the lopsided finish, none of TCU’s previous seven wins had been by more than 10 points. The Frogs had to overcome double-digit deficits after halftime in back-to-back games in October, including a 38-28 win over Kansas State after being down 28-10 in the second quarter.
Another win over K-State next Saturday will leave no questions about TCU becoming the first Big 12 team other than Oklahoma to make the four-team playoff.
But the Frogs might not even have to win that rematch to get into one of the national semifinal games after everything else that happened on the final day of this regular season. Previously undefeated Ohio State (No. 2 CFP) lost 45-23 at home to Michigan, and Clemson (No. 8) also lost before TCU had even kicked off Saturday. LSU, fifth in the CFP rankings even with two losses already, lost again Saturday night, as did Oregon (No. 9).
There was no Big 12 championship game in 2014, when TCU was third in the CFP rankings going into what was the final weekend of its conference’s regular season while other leagues played title games.
So a day after overwhelming Iowa State at home, the Frogs dropped to sixth in the final CFP rankings, a spot behind one-loss Baylor, the only team to beat them that season in a 61-58 thriller. Ohio State, after a 59-0 win in the Big Ten championship game, moved up to fourth and went on to win the national title — a final game played at AT&T Stadium, only about 20 miles from the TCU campus.
The Cyclones were a two-win team that season, with that finale being their fifth loss by at least 20 points.
Iowa State (4-8, 1-8) entered Saturday’s game with the Big 12’s best defense, allowing 16.5 points a game. Only two opponents had scored more than 24 points, the most being 31, and its seven losses had been by a combined 38 points — or less than 5 1/2 points per game.
TCU had 17 points on its first three drives and led 24-0 at the end of the first quarter after the first of two interception returns for touchdowns. Max Duggan threw TDs to three different receivers and Kendre Miller ran for two scores, his 13th consecutive game with a rushing touchdown.
“We showed the true team that we really have,” said fourth-year cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson.
Duggan said, “It was probably our most complete game.”
At the perfect time in the season to make a strong statement.