Up and down I-35 in Texas, playoff will be settled

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Texans like to think the Lone Star state is the center of the football world. This weekend, the biggest of the college season, it is.

Up and down I-35 in East Texas, from Grapevine to Waco, the College Football Playoff field will be settled.

First stop on Saturday is Fort Worth. TCU tries to stay in the selection committee's top four at home against Iowa State. The Horned Frogs are a 34-point favorite against the last-place team in the Big 12.

Losing isn't likely for TCU. It would go down as one of the greatest upsets in college football history, given the circumstances. But this is a beauty contest, so the Horned Frogs can't afford to get into struggle with the Cyclones (2-9, 0-8) - especially considering what's going on Saturday night, 85 miles south in Waco.

On the banks of the Brazos River, Baylor takes on Kansas State. The Bears are sixth in the playoff rankings and have already beaten the Horned Frogs, a 61-58 comeback thriller at McLane Stadium in October.

Selection committee chairman Jeff Long has said TCU's overall body of work has been good enough to overcome the head-to-head result with Baylor. Will that stand up with Baylor ending the season with one of the Big 12's best teams while TCU plays its worst?

How much is a victory against Minnesota really worth? The only significant difference between the Bears' and Frogs' schedules is TCU played Minnesota out of conference and Baylor played Buffalo.

The Baylor-TCU debate has been one of the flashpoints during the first season of the College Football Playoff. The 12-member selection committee has been ranking teams since late October. The committee has been less-than-overwhelmed by Florida State's unbeaten season, turned game control into an internet meme and made Long, the Arkansas athletic director, one of the most criticized men in sports.

Long and his crew of athletic directors, former college football coaches and administrators and Condoleezza Rice convene Saturday in North Texas, the Gaylord Texan Resort Hotel in Grapevine to be exact, to begin work on their final rankings.

On Sunday, a little before lunchtime locally, about 15 minutes before the NFL games kick off, Long will reveal those rankings and announce the field for the first football final four. Oregon, which won the Pac-12 title Friday night by blowing out Arizona, will be one of them.

The semifinals will be played in New Orleans at the Sugar Bowl and Pasadena, California, at the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.

The winners move on to the national championship game on Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas - of course.

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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