Sitting at 8-1 (5-1 in the Big 12), the Frogs still have life, but they will need help from some Big 12 foes and other Power 5 conferences in order to play in Miami or Arlington on New Year’s Eve.
TCU dropped seven spots to No. 15 in the most recent edition of the College Football Playoff rankings.
Realistically, these are the four things that must happen for the playoff dream to stay afloat for TCU. It’s unlikely, but not impossible.
TCU finishes 11-1, wins the Big 12
With one loss this season, even the slightest room for error was eliminated for the Frogs if they want to emerge as Big 12 champions. Running the table is the most important task for them now and the only thing they can control.
The Frogs catch a break this weekend as they face Kansas, a team with no wins, at home Saturday morning.
The last two games will be two of the toughest of the season, however. The Frogs will first have to defeat the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman, where the Sooners have not lost a game all season.
The Frogs then return home for a match up against an undefeated Baylor on Black Friday. Despite losing starting quarterback Seth Russell, the Bears remain a formidable opponent given the Frogs’ woes at secondary.
The Frogs may also be without standout wide receiver Josh Doctson. Doctson left the game against Oklahoma State with an apparent wrist injury and did not return. Whether or not Doctson will play again this season is unknown.
Oklahoma State finishes with two losses
This is where Saturday’s loss hurts the most. Even if the Frogs do finish the season with one loss, they will need a serious slip from Oklahoma State to win the Big 12.
Oklahoma State sits at No. 8 in the CFP rankings after the win over the Frogs last week.
The Cowboys now have a huge advantage over TCU as they possess the head-to-head tiebreaker in case both squads finish with one loss. That means Oklahoma State must lose at least two of its final three games, or the Frogs are mathematically eliminated from Big 12 title contention.
The odds of that happening are slim, as the Cowboys have a favorable schedule to end the year. The team heads to Ames to face Iowa State this weekend, before hosting Baylor and Oklahoma to finish the season. After defeating the Frogs soundly, the Cowboys have all the momentum they could ask for to be the seasonal playoff dark horse.
Michigan defeats Ohio State, wins the Big 10 with two losses
It seemed certain that the Big 1o champion would be a one-loss team at worst, but Nebraska changed that this weekend with an upset win over Michigan State. The superior Big 10 East now has only one undefeated team, Ohio State, and two teams with one loss in conference play, Michigan State and Michigan.
The wrinkle, however, is that Michigan also suffered a non-conference loss to Utah in week one.
If Ohio State hands Michigan State a second conference loss in Columbus on Nov. 21, the Big 10 East comes down to Ohio State and Michigan. If the two run the table up until their meeting in Ann Arbor on Nov. 28, all the Wolverines have to do is defeat the Buckeyes and they will play in the Big 10 championship game. If they win that contest, the Big 10 has a two-loss champion, which is unlikely to trump a one-loss Big 12 champion.
Stanford or Utah wins the Pac-12 with two losses
Thanks to USC and Northwestern, the favorites for each division of the Pac-12 conference already have one loss. Like the Frogs, Utah and Stanford have their work cut out for them entering the final month of the season.
The Utes still have to face Arizona in Tucson and then UCLA at home. Having already shown their vulnerability after being thrashed by the Trojans several weeks ago, it’s not unfathomable to see the Utes dropping another contest while still winning the division.
Stanford, on the other hand, has looked dominant since falling to Northwestern in week one, but they face a challenge in the final week of the season against one-loss Notre Dame. If Stanford falls, they too would most likely enter the championship game with two losses. If a two-loss team emerges as champion, the Pac-12 is all but out of the playoff picture.
The bottom line
If all of the above occurs, the probable playoff lineup will be the SEC champion, ACC champion (likely Clemson), independent Notre Dame (if they run the table) and the Big 12 champion.
The sobering truth is TCU no longer controls its own destiny, but if the stars align perfectly, they’re right back in it. Winning the Big 12 won’t be easy, but the Frogs have found improbable ways to stay alive all year long — so why not one final ride?