Three and Out: TCU rolls Iowa State in final College Football Playoff audition

TCU dominates Iowa State 55-3 to make its final impression for a berth in the College Football Playoff.
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FORT WORTH, Texas -- TCU made its closing argument for a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff with a 55-3 win over Iowa State on Saturday. What does that mean? It means everyone will look south to Waco (where Baylor faces Kansas State) on Saturday night and east to Grapevine (where the playoff selection committee meets) on Sunday morning.

1. All TCU can do now is wait

TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte was resplendent in his purple blazer as he jogged toward the makeshift awards stand where TCU was presented with a Big 12 championship trophy. The twin of that trophy will be presented to the winner of Saturday’s Kansas State-Baylor game, because one of those teams will finish with an 8-1 conference record. “Be kind to us,” Del Conte joked upon seeing a writer.

But it doesn’t matter what writers or poll voters think about the TCU-Baylor issue. The only opinions that count belong to the members of the selection committee, and they seem to like TCU very much. Still, all the Horned Frogs can do is wait. “I don’t know what happens tomorrow, but the bottom line is we’ve done everything we can do,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. The committee seems to have declared itself by placing TCU at No. 3 in its most recent rankings, but committee chair Jeff Long told ESPN earlier in the morning that not all pieces of teams’ résumés are in place. In other words, if Baylor beats Kansas State and wins the Big 12’s championship tiebreaker by virtue of its head-to-head win over TCU on Oct. 11, that might allow the Bears to close the gap.

However, it’s entirely possible -- and seems more likely -- that the committee would keep TCU ranked ahead of Baylor no matter what. (That part certainly would be easier for the committee and for the Horned Frogs if Kansas State beats Baylor on Saturday night.) Then it would just be a matter of how favorably the committee views the Horned Frogs relative to other contenders. Given where TCU is ranked this week, that seems like a fairly favorable view. 

The Frogs don’t seem particularly worried about placement. Asked where he would like to finish, TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin smiled. “In the top four,” he said. “I really don't care where.”

2. The Horned Frogs left little doubt on Saturday

Sure, the Frogs played one of the Big 12’s worst teams against Iowa State. But the last time they played one of the Big 12’s worst teams (Kansas), they nearly lost before escaping 34-30. This time, TCU dominated. The Frogs opened the scoring in the first quarter with a nifty 55-yard throwback pass from receiver David Porter to Boykin. TCU rolled up 721 yards of total offense and averaged 8.7 yards a play, while holding the Cyclones to just 3.2 yards a play.

3. TCU could be a Big 12 contender for years to come

Lost in the playoff discussion is this: There are no more questions about whether the Frogs can compete in the Big 12. After going 6-12 in league play over the last two years, the Frogs clinched at least a share of the conference title with this win on Saturday. While that championship will become the subject of debate if Baylor beats Kansas State -- the conference office gave TCU a trophy, but no one outside the fan base will consider the Frogs to be Big 12 champs -- there is no doubt TCU has everything it needs to be one of the league’s elite programs going forward. The Frogs are stocked with young talent, and proving their legitimacy in a Power Five conference will give them a further recruiting edge in addition to being the only Big 12 school in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. We could be debating TCU’s playoff worth often over the next few seasons, which is amazing considering the fact that TCU had to march through the mid-major hinterlands for years after the breakup of the Southwest Conference.

“One of the reasons I’ve had a lot of patience in this playoff thing is this: TCU’s been sitting outside the circle for many years. We’ve had to be patient,” Patterson said after Saturday's victory. “The two most nervous games I had were KU and today. They were like my last six or seven years in the Mountain West Conference. You knew you had to win every game, and you had to do it with style points and you had to do it all a certain way. Now we’re in a conference where everybody knows you’re good at what you do.”