TCU’s loss gets Tide one last look, but Frogs should be in

Kansas State players celebrate as TCU’s Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (1) sits in the end zone with Dee Winters (13) after Kansas State defeated TCU in overtime of the Big 12 Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Alabama is going to get one last look from the College Football Playoff selection committee.

Whether the Crimson Tide deserves it is debatable, at best, but after both TCU (12-1) and Southern California (11-2) lost on championship weekend the committee has to at least talk about making Alabama (10-2) the first team with two losses to make the playoff.

The field of four will be announced Sunday.

TCU coach Sonny Dykes said Saturday he was concerned about the Frogs’ playoff status, but that he also had faith in the committee.

“For sure I do,” Dykes said when asked if he thinks the Horned Fogs deserve to be in.

No. 4 USC’s loss to Friday to No. 12 Utah in the Pac-12 championship pretty much ended the Trojans’ playoff hopes.

That was huge news for No. 5 Ohio State. A week after the Buckeyes (11-1) were thumped at home by No. 2 Michigan, fans in Columbus were glued to the events in Las Vegas and got the result they needed — and maybe a rematch with the Wolverines in their future.

On Saturday, down went the third-ranked Horned Frogs to No. 13 Kansas State in the Big 12 title game. As has been the case all year, it was a wild ride for the Hypnotoads. They erased an 11-point deficit in the fourth-quarter behind a heroic effort by Max Duggan before losing in overtime.

They head to the clubhouse having beaten every team they have played, with plenty of close calls and comebacks, but no conference championship.

There is precedent for unbeaten teams losing their conference title games and remaining in the top four. Georgia was No. 1 when it happened last year against Alabama and fell to No. 3.

In 2020, Notre Dame lost a rematch with Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game and went from No. 2 to No. 4.

There is no previous case to support Alabama making the playoff under these circumstances, but this system has only been around for nine years. So don’t get too hung up on previous results predicting future performance by the committee.

The Tide has its supporters.

“I am no expert but no one can convince me that AlabamaFTBL isn’t better than these teams I have been watching despite 2 heartbreaking L’s. if rule is BEST 4 for playoffs BAMA should be in,” Tweeted ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale.

So ‘Bama has that going for it.

The 13-person panel already made one questionable call that went Alabama’s way when it ranked the Tide sixth last week and Tennessee, which beat Alabama in October, seventh.

The committee chairman cited Alabama’s close losses compared to the Volunteers (10-2) being beaten soundly in the two games they have lost.

Alabama twice lost on the last play of the game, by three at Tennessee and by one at LSU (9-3), which was playing No. 1 Georgia (12-0) in the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday.

Good losses indeed, but Alabama also has its share of great escapes. Games against Texas and Texas A&M came down to the last play. Alabama’s best victories? Probably against Mississippi State, Mississippi and Texas, all 8-4.

TCU’s resume is built mostly on the foundation of the Big 12 being a conference with no easy outs. Oddly, the Frogs’ best victory got better Saturday when they lost a rematch to Kansas State, which was already in the committee’s top 10.

The best argument for Alabama is made by advanced metrics. Coming into this weekend, ESPN’s SP+ had the Tide fourth and its FPI had Alabama second. FEI, used by Football Outsiders, had Alabama fifth.

A composite of popular computer formula rankings had Alabama third and TCU eighth. Those are the type of forward-looking metrics used by oddsmakers. Put the Tide and Frogs in a game on a neutral field and Alabama is favored by about a touchdown.

The recruiting rankings give Alabama an edge, too. The Tide has the second-most talented roster in college football behind Georgia ,if you count up the stars. TCU’s is 32nd.

But games and results have to matter or why even make Alabama play?

As it is the Tide, and Ohio State for that matter, essentially benefitted from not winning their divisions, and sitting out championship weekend while USC and TCU had to prove themselves one more time.

Playing in the playoff should be a reward for the season, and what has Alabama done to earn that reward aside from losing its two toughest games?

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com

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