Two teams that were thought to be snubs for the first College Football Playoff are already receiving quite a bit of attention as legitimate national contenders for the 2015 season.
TCU and Baylor, who finished No. 6 and 5 in the final playoff rankings heading into the postseason, are currently the No. 2 and 3 teams in Bleacher Report’s Post-National Signing Day preseason Top 25 rankings.
Though the two teams tied for first place in the Big 12, neither were handed an invite to the CFB Playoff due to strength of schedule, incomparable resumes, and lack of conference championship game. Baylor went on to lose to Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl and dropped to No. 7 in the final AP Top 25 poll while TCU justified its snub by destroying Ole Miss, 42-3.
“As far as the national scale, believe it or not, whether y’all like it or not, Baylor’s going to be in the top,” quarterback Bryce Petty told David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest after the loss to the Spartans.
He may be right. Coach Art Briles has proven that he has built Baylor into a “reloading” program that will replace departing talent with guys that are just as – if not more – explosive. The Bears lose Petty, wide receiver Antwan Goodley, and linebacker Bryce Hager, among others, but have a massive amount of playmakers returning on both sides of the ball, including running back Shock Linwood and defensive end Shaun Oakman. (Yes, THAT Shaun Oakman.)
Briles will also have yet another plug-and-fit situation at quarterback (remember: Petty replaced Nick Florence, who replaced Robert Griffin III) with the option of Seth Russell or incoming freshman and five-star recruit Jarrett Stidham.
And then there’s TCU, which looks almost unbeatable on paper.
“The Horned Frogs may have missed out on the playoffs in 2014, but they won’t be sold short heading into their follow-up national championship push,” wrote NationalChamps.net back in December. “Either Oregon or Ohio State will likely be the challenger for this No. 1 preseason spot depending on who leaves early for the NFL. With some luck maybe the Big 12 can figure out a way to get a conference championship game in place. That may not matter this time around.”
How about this: TCU returns 10 starters to an offense that scored 46.8 points per game in 2014 – No. 2 in the country – including rising senior quarterback Trevone Boykin, who is No. 1 on my Way-Too-Early list of Heisman candidates. The Frogs also return four of five starting offensive linemen and could possibly have five seniors on the front line in 2015. Combine that with a senior running back, three senior receivers, and a favorable schedule (similar to the one it had last season), and you have yourself one heck of a team.
TCU loses some depth and experience on the defensive side of the ball, but if the offense turns out to be as good as advertised, that won’t have any significant matter – that is, until November 27 when the Horned Frogs face off with Baylor.
It’d be a safe bet to assume that one of these two teams finish the regular season undefeated this fall, but even with a loss, the chances of making an appearance in the second College Football Playoff are going to be far greater thanks to TCU’s performance against Ole Miss in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Alas, it will be nearly impossible for both teams to finish within the Top 4 by season’s end without a conference title game, bringing us back to the controversy that fueled message boards – and Big 12 staff meeting rooms – just two short months ago.
So which one will it be: TCU or Baylor? Let us know in the comment section below!