Rah, Rah, TCU!

It has been interesting to read the TCU "Killerfrogs" board. They have as many posts panning Texas as they do pumping TCU.

There are two reasons for that. First, they believe they should have been #2 in the BCS, playing Alabama, and not Texas.  Second, they have it in their heads that a big win over Boise State, paired with a narrow Texas win over Alabama, could allow TCU to win the AP Poll MNC.   A few thoughts, as I live in Tarrant County and am interested in TCU…

1. TCU has a really, really good team. In my opinion, they are at the elite level this year of Texas, Alabama, and Florida. Jeff Sagarin's "Predictor" model (the one used by Vegas to set betting lines) agrees, as it has TCU as the 6th strongest team, and predicted to play within a TD of any of the fore-mentioned schools.   This is based on MOV over the teams they played, and is in no way dependent upon a soft Mountain West schedule, as it takes that into account.   With one exception (USAFA), when TCU played an average or weak team, they did what an elite team is expected to do- they pummeled them. The 3 point squeaker over the Falcons is due to a funny matchup,  Air Force's conservative clock-running offense, and the variances of production in any team's season.  When TCU played good teams (they played three- Clemson, Utah, and BYU), they beat them, and BYU and Utah were beaten badly.

 In my opinion, TCU is the kind of team from a mid-major conference that could absolutely beat anybody on a given day. They have speed, a great defense, and a very sound, perfect for college football, offensive scheme. I think that they would struggle more if they had to play a major conference schedule, due to the physicality of each week's games (remember how Fresno State was drilled in the three games after its near upset of USC in 2005) taking a toll.  When Texas and Florida look at their schedule, the coaches have to calculate which games the QB is going to have to run in, and which games they can tell him not to run.  TCU has fewer games where they have to run their QB, and fewer opposing players that are real threats to hurt him.

2. Does TCU deserve to play Alabama? In my opinion, sure. So does Texas. So does Cincinnati. Unfortunately, as Clint Eastwood said in "Unforgiven", "Deserving's got nothing to do with it".

As a Texas fan, I am very, very sympathetic to TCU's plight. They did everything they could do to get to Pasadena, and still fell short. Of course they fixate on Texas, who is where they believe they should be (let's ignore Cincinnati, the BCS's actual #3 by a hair, for now). Last year, Texas did not do everything it could to get to the BCS CG (or rather, the B12 CG that would have led to the BCS CG), but it did everything and more than OU did, and resented being supplanted. Like TCU this year, Texas had plenty of media support for its case. Like TCU this year, we chose then to believe the media support was heartfelt, and not just a way to generate needed content for columns and shows.  We were wrong.

3. The AP Poll. As a poll crowning a MNC, independent of the BCS, the AP poll is TCU's last chance for a MNC (well, not the last chance. There is also the Football Writers' poll).  Again, Texas fans thought similarly last year. Our idea, supported by some in the media, was that a Texas win over the Buckeyes, combined with a narrow OU win, would force voters to again compare the two teams. Remember, Texas beat OU.

 That dream died before the Fiesta Bowl, when Utah beat Alabama. Now, we understood that if OU won and voters had to make contrarian decisions, we had a rival for votes. Utah's case was as strong as ours, maybe stronger. They were actually undefeated, the only such team in the nation, and had beaten a very strong Alabama team. Texas played the Fiesta Bowl knowing that the MNC was beyond our reach.

 Something else happened with the AP poll. The BCS CG was played several days after the other bowls, and the constant media focus and promotion of the game made everybody forget whatever warts either of the teams might have. By game start, all controversy over the entrants was squashed. This was the winner-take-all championship game. That will happen again this year, as the media gets more and more excited about a Texas-Alabama match.  In short, despite what Patterson says to motivate his team, the AP poll is not going to help out.

 4. Does TCU deserve to be rated higher than Texas? I say, "No". TCU is very talented, but Texas is more so, as measured by All-Americans and draft projections.   Every computer rating that accounts for Margin of Victory has Texas rated stronger, and most that don't count MOV do as well.  Mid-season, you heard much from TCU about them having a comparable strength-of-schedule to Texas. No more. By every measure, accounting for the full season, Texas has played a significantly tougher schedule than TCU.

Per Sagarin's "Predictor" model, TCU's top 4 opponents were #16 Clemson, #31, BYU, #42 Utah, and #46 USAFA. Texas' top 4 opponents were #5 OU, #9 NU, #18 TT, and #29 OSU. Texas also had to play #40 Mizzou, and # 52 TAMU. In other words, Texas played two foes tougher than TCU's toughest, and four others that approximate TCU's best four opponents.  And Texas played no D-1AA teams.

 TCU has played a few very good teams. They have not played against the award candidates Texas has (Gerald McCoy, Suh, Briscoe, etc.). The unranked teams in Texas' conference still have more elite players than the unranked Mountain West teams. Like OU, which although unranked, is still calculated as a better team than TCU in Sagarin's "Predictor" model.  The biggest crowd TCU played in front of was at Clemson (70,000). Texas played 10 games in front of more people. There are real differences between the two leagues.

 5. What can TCU do? Win their bowl game. If they do, with all of their returning seniors, they are likely to start next year rated higher than Texas or any Big 12 team.  Doesn't seem fair, Frogs?  Well, that's the situation Texas was in just one year ago.

They need to enlist the media's help in stopping Texas Tech from dropping them from the schedule. Come on, Red Raiders, keep the game! It's in Lubbock, for crying out loud.

TCU is doing all it can to be big time.  TCU is 9 - 5 since 2001 against teams from BCS conferences (collection of Baylor, Virginia, Stanford, OU, Texas, Texas Tech and sundry bowl opponents), and 9 - 3 since 2003. They have played 9 of those games on the road, and another at a neutral site. They have tried to get to the big boys' table, and have acquitted themselves when they got there.

 The Frog fans need to go to the games. It would be nice if the Mountain West got a better TV contract. Would Texas schedule a home and home with TCU, if the Tarrant county game were in Jerryworld instead of Amon Carter, so a decent number of Texas fans can come? Would TCU? I would like that. It was fun before the 2007 game, seeing all of our old SWC friends again.  It would be fun again.

Thoughts?

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