The Big 12 — TCU included — are screwed. To understand why, we must examine the transitive property of college football and its effect on voters. The property infers that if one team beats another, then a squad who beat the aforementioned game’s winner must be better than both. The formula in essence is a bit like the QAnon conspiracy theory: It isn’t valid, has little or no basis in logical thinking, but the fallout and consequences are quite real. Subscribing to this line of reasoning, as many who vote on the rankings do, the best program in the Big 12, as of now, are the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns. Second place are therefore the Arkansas State Red Wolves. But how? Those teams both reside in the Sun Belt Conference who aren’t associated with the mighty power-five Big 12 at all. Unfortunately, ULL beat Iowa State (currently leading the Big 12) and ASU squeaked past Kansas State (Big 12 runner-up) in the opening week of COVID college football. There’s still plenty of football weeks remaining but as of now it seems like ISU and KSU must only overcome the Oklahoma State Cowboys to advance towards a conference championship game appearance.
For our next expose in doom and gloom, we’ll examine the state of Texas specifically. Texas-OU fought in their Red River Showdown over the weekend. A game that was grand in every aspect excepting the records of the competitors. The contest featured quarterback benching, special teams choking, questionable coaching calls, officiating less efficient than Congress, a heroic comeback, and four overtimes. What did we learn? That 2-2 OU is slightly better than 2-2 UT. This matchup hadn’t extended past four quarters in 24 years and consequently dragged through almost the entire first quarter of our Frogs hosting their purple counterparts, and Coach Gary Patterson’s alma mater, Kansas State. If you missed the opening quarter, it was one of the few stretches where Offensive Coordinator Sonny Cumbie’s offense looked synchronous and focused. The Frogs second drive featured running back Darwin Barlow (#24) and quarterback Max Duggan (#15) moving their boys steadily downfield with a balanced run/pass attack that culminated with a Barlow touchdown and a 7-3 lead that the Wildcats would cut to a single point with a field goal on the subsequent drive. Three combined punts came next before the Frogs lost track of pint-sized K-state running back Deuce Vaughn (#22), who ripped a 45-yard reception to flip the field and lead to a touchdown with a matching two-point conversion and 7-point lead for the wrong-colored purple heading into halftime. TCU threatened to cut their deficit with a late field goal but was blocked during a 48-yard attempt to send the teams to their quarantine rooms.
Patterson’s defense started the third frame with a Josh Foster (#15) interception in center field which the offense squandered with a three-and-out drive. Both offenses stagnated on subsequent drives before Duggan was temporarily sidelined and backup Matthew Downing (#17) relieved long enough to step in for two series that punctuated with an egregious interception returned for a Wildcat touchdown. Duggan returned immediately and drove his teammates just outside the KSU redzone before stalling and surrendering the ball on downs. Down two touchdowns, Duggan rallied his troops near the end of the game and punched the second Frog score himself. Kansas State required one yard to ice the game near midfield when freshman quarterback Will Howard (#15) was tackled for no gain by the TCU turf monster. (He tripped on his own feet.) Duggan and the Frogs needed to go 96 yards in one minute armed with one timeout and couldn’t. TCU dropped to Kansas State 21-14 in essentially a repeat performance of last season when they also fell by a touchdown. The numbers from this game are both disappointing and revealing. Our Frogs won almost every conceivable category: total yards, pass yards, rush yards, penalties, possession time. These teams finished with an even turnover margin, but the backbreakers proved to be a blocked field goal and interception returned for a touchdown.
If you watched the game, the elephant in the room is the team of elephants on the line. TCU’s offensive and defensive lines are not doing their job as well as their opponents. Duggan is constantly pressured and running backs are creating space where none exists. Patterson’s secondary is performing admirably considering the pass rush is hardly what you’d expect from a Frog defense. Howard led rushing for the Wildcats and created first downs in crucial moments to dash opportunities for the Frogs.
In an even stranger twist to this season, the crosstown SMU Mustangs were the top-ranked Texas squad last week and remain undefeated. The ponies were eclipsed in this week’s rankings by the Aggies, who upset fourth-ranked Florida in College Station. The Mustangs and Aggies are the only two Texas-based teams who appear anywhere in the Associated Press or Coaches’ polls. TCU might have to be satisfied with a season where their goal is to beat up on their in-state brethren. Patterson bested Texas, Baylor has temporarily suspended all football activities due to positive COVID tests, and Texas Tech’s only win was by two points against Houston Baptist in Week 1. The best possible culmination of this season would be the creation of a one-time DFW or Iron Skillet Bowl between TCU and SMU to proclaim the true kings of the Lone Star State, because we all know the Aggies will end up imploding sooner than later.