FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Even before undefeated Big 12 leader TCU was seventh in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, coach Sonny Dykes talked about how that wouldn't have any impact on his team.
“I think our guys understand that for us to be in the conversation, we have to win," Dykes said. “And so why worry about anything else other than winning.”
The Horned Frogs (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) have gone from a preseason pick to finish seventh in their own league to now being seventh in the CFP rankings and the AP poll. They almost certainly have to win their remaining four regular-season games, plus the Big 12 championship game, to make the four-team playoff. Their closing stretch starts Saturday at home against Texas Tech (4-4, 2-3).
“I don’t like getting up in the clouds,” TCU senior guard and team captain Steve Avila said. “It's hard to enjoy it because I was telling someone that we’re just as beatable as anybody. No 8-0 team just has some crown of immunity to not getting beat, and that’s the mindset I’ve just had. ... I'll be able to enjoy it when we win a championship.”
After starting October with four consecutive wins over ranked opponents, the Frogs survived a tough game last week at West Virginia, winning 41-31 after a touchdown in the closing seconds.
TCU is looking for its first 9-0 start since 2010, its undefeated 13-0 season capped by a Rose Bowl victory and No. 2 national ranking. That was pre-CFP, and two years before the Frogs were in the Big 12.
The Red Raiders, like TCU, have a first-year coach in Joey McGuire and an offense that gains a lot of yards.
Texas Tech averages an FBS-best 87.4 offensive snaps per game and its 475.9 total yards per game trail only TCU’s 518.6 yards in the Big 12. The Red Raiders lead the league with 338 yards passing per game while using three different starting quarterbacks, but have the league's least efficient passing game. They have thrown a Big 12-high 15 interceptions and allowed 30 sacks.
“You can’t keep trying to make plays,” McGuire said. “In our three quarterbacks, the good thing about them is they can make plays with their feet. Sometimes that gets the better of you too.”
TCU senior quarterback Max Duggan leads the Big 12 with 276.5 yards passing per game and 22 touchdowns, and has only two interceptions. Quentin Johnston has averaged 134 yards receiving the past four games, with a touchdown in each of them. Kendre Miller has more than 100 yards rushing in five of the past six games, and run for a TD in nine consecutive games.
The 30 sacks allowed by the Red Raiders are tied for the most by a Power Five team, and 13 more than any other Big 12 team. Baylor last week was the third team this season with six sacks against them, and defensive end Gabe Hall became the fourth opposing player with three.
“The right tackle, left tackle, there’s `ors’ by both of them there,” McGuire said, pointing out the depth chart.
Dykes is a Texas Tech graduate and played baseball at the school where his dad Spike was the head football coach from 1986-99. The younger Dykes was then on the Red Raiders football staff for Mike Leach from 2000-06.
So facing the Red Raiders certainly has to stir some special feelings for Dykes, right?
“Not at all, zero. I mean, probably should," he said. “I’m probably devoid of whatever those feelings are just having been around and being in this profession long enough. ... You learn that it's kind of a nameless, faceless opponent.”
McGuire described Dykes as a good friend he's known forever, "West Texas' own, his dad was a legend here.”
STAYING IN STATE
Even with two road games left, the Frogs won't leave the state of Texas again during the regular season, or even if they make the Big 12 championship game played about 20 miles from their campus. TCU goes to Texas and Baylor before hosting Iowa State.
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