In what may wind up as the Big 12’s unofficial championship game and an elimination game for the College Football Playoff, No. 6 TCU proved it is on another level. Quarterback Trevone Boykin and the Horned Frogs controlled their matchup with No. 7 Kansas State, piling on the points in a 41-20 win.
Here are three quick thoughts on the game:
1. When TCU’s offense is humming, no one can keep up
TCU’s offense has been inconsistent and sometimes out of sync (just reference last week’s 31-30 win over West Virginia), but when the Horned Frogs are clicking offensively, they might be the most fearsome attack in the country.
Boykin amazed, racking up four total touchdowns (one passing, three rushing) as he built on his darkhorse Heisman campaign by terrorizing a sturdy Kansas State defense. The junior contributed perhaps his top highlight of an already electrifying season by flipping into the end zone for a rushing score.
But what was most impressive was Boykin’s decision-making. He didn’t commit a turnover, and consistently made the correct choice to either extend the play and pass or to tuck the ball and run. The result was nicely balanced stat line with 23 of 34 passing for 219 yards and 17 rushes for 123 yards.
The college football world has seen plenty of powerful offenses led by dynamic quarterbacks. What separates TCU is its diversity of weapons. Even with running back B.J. Catalon out, Aaron Green stepped up to punish the Wildcats. Green carried 18 times for 171 yards, including a 65-yard score that helped pushed the game out of reach. Despite facing a potent Kansas State defense that held Auburn to just 20 points, the Horned Frogs racked up 6.8 yards per play and almost scored at will.
2. The Horned Frogs defense deserves some praise, too
It’s easy to get caught up in TCU’s offensive firepower, but to do so would ignore some impressive play on the other side of the ball. Other than in its loss to Auburn, Kansas State has had little trouble moving the ball throughout the season with Jake Waters’ dual-threat abilities and one of the nation’s top receivers in Tyler Lockett. TCU wasn’t fooled by much of it on Saturday.
The Wildcats struck in the first quarter when Lockett got behind the Horned Frogs’ secondary for a 70-yard score, but Kansas State failed to reach the end zone again until midway through the third quarter. That touchdown drive was the Wildcats’ lone sustained scoring drive.
Waters completed just over 50 percent of his passes (20 of 37) and threw an interception in the end zone. TCU completely smothered Kansas State’s ground game, essentially turning Waters into a passer only and stifling his usual dynamism. The Wildcats gained just 34 rushing yards on 19 carries.
3. TCU looks playoff bound
Obviously the Horned Frogs can’t book their tickets for the College Football Playoff until December, but they’ve cleared every major obstacle in their path. All that remains on TCU’s schedule are road dates with Kansas and Texas and a home matchup with Iowa State. Texas’ stout defense could cause some problems, but no one has stuffed the Horned Frogs’ offense for an entire game. The stiff tests of the schedule are over, and TCU’s lone loss to Baylor looks a lot better after the Bears routed Oklahoma on Saturday.
The playoff picture is still in flux, but it is hard to imagine an 11-1 TCU team getting shut out of the top four. The Horned Frogs will have the statistics to impress, their Big 12 slate should give them a quality strength of schedule -- their nonconference win over Minnesota also looks nice with the Golden Gophers in the hunt in the Big Ten West -- and few, if any, teams will look better by the eye test. If the Horned Frogs can avoid a late-season slip-up, their path to the playoff looks pretty well paved.
Saturday’s matchup also eliminates Kansas State from the playoff field. Although the Wildcats could still win the Big 12, their second loss of the season simply makes a playoff run too difficult. Two teams in their conference still boast one loss, and the Wildcats wouldn’t even be the top choice of two-loss teams, given that Auburn won their head-to-head matchup in Manhattan.