No. 4 TCU tries to avoid slipping up vs Cyclones
Fourth-ranked TCU has it easy this weekend, relatively speaking.
All the other College Football Playoff contenders are playing ranked teams this weekend. The Horned Frogs (10-1, 7-1, No. 3 CFP), on the other hand, will wrap up their regular season Saturday at home in Fort Worth, Texas, against lowly Iowa State (2-9, 0-8).
They hope to hold onto their spot in the selection committee's top four and earn the right to play for the national championship.
TCU even gets an early kickoff at 11 a.m. CT. The Horned Frogs can take care of business and still have plenty of time to get in front of a big screen and watch the other big games on Championship Saturday.
Sounds like a breeze, but TCU coach Gary Patterson is having none of it.
''You have an Iowa State team that's played us, beat us the last time they played here, it was a close ball game when we played them there, so we better get ready to play,'' he said. ''I think they've scored the most points on Texas, which probably is the team that has played the best defense (in the conference).''
Patterson has every reason to be on guard, even if the Cyclones and the worst defense in the Big 12 (allowing 6.33 yards per play) don't pose much of a threat to the high-scoring Frogs (46.1 points per game).
If TCU does anything less than throttle Iowa State, it could cause the playoff selection committee to change their minds about the Frogs and give Ohio State (No. 5 CFP) and Big 12 rival Baylor (No. 6 CFP) another look.
The Buckeyes play Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game Saturday night. About 85 miles south of Fort Worth, the Bears, who beat TCU in October, take on Kansas State at night in Waco.
''They'll be going out to leave no doubts in anybody's mind,'' Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said about the Horned Frogs.
But the last thing Frogs can afford to do is worry how badly they need to beat Iowa State to secure a playoff spot.
''As it's gotten closer and closer, it's hard to keep saying we can't focus on it, because at this point it's the last game of the season and then after this, we'll find out if we're in the playoff or not,'' cornerback Kevin White said. ''We've got to focus on winning this game right now at hand. After that, we can start focusing on whatever comes after that.''
Here's what to watch as TCU tries to make its final argument for a place in college football's first final four.
BOYKIN 4 HEISMAN?
Trevone Boykin has become a star directing the Frogs' new spread offense. He has passed for 3,254 yards and 26 touchdowns and run for 598 yards and eight scores. He is fourth in the nation in total offense at 350.2 yards per game, just ahead of Heisman front-runner Marcus Mariota of Oregon. Boykin has had a season worthy of Heisman consideration, but seems to be on the outside looking in at the most serious contenders. And playing a team that doesn't have a conference victory on the final day of the season won't help Boykin make one last loud statement.
NOT SO LONG AGO
Last season, there was not much difference between Iowa State and TCU. The Horned Frogs beat the Cyclones 21-17. Neither team went to a bowl game.
Both teams brought in offensive coordinators (Doug Meacham for TCU and Mark Mangino for Iowa State). While Boykin has flourished and TCU has taken off, Cyclones quarterback Sam Richardson has been spotty. The junior has thrown for 2,517 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Unless the Cyclones pull off the upset of the season (34-point underdogs), they will finish with one less victory than they had last season. Rhoads, an Iowa native in his sixth season as coach, appears to be safe for another season. Athletic director Jamie Pollard had what sounded like strong words of support for Rhoads this week, acknowledging the path to success at Iowa State is not an easy one and saying, ''I look forward to continuing that journey with coach Rhoads and hopefully getting there.''
Rhoads has taken Iowa State to three bowl games, but hasn't had a winning season since his first in Ames, Iowa.
AP sports writers Stephen Hawkins in Fort Worth, Texas, and Luke Meredith in Ames, Iowa, contributed.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP