Making a Case for Baylor

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One of the most anticipated aspects of Tuesday night’s third College Football Playoff selection committee ranking release is how the committee will rate TCU and Baylor, rivals who are competing for the Big 12 Conference title and in turn a place in the four-team playoff.

Baylor beat TCU 61-58 last month, but entering Week 12 of the season, the Football Four Playoff Projection committee sees TCU as the better playoff candidate. For the first time, the committee placed the Horned Frogs in the bracket.

The committee’s vote would pit TCU against No. 1 Mississippi State in one semifinal, and No. 2 Florida State against No. 3 Oregon in the other.

“At this point — and that’s what we’re doing, picking a top four at this point — TCU has a better résumé than either Alabama or Baylor,” said panelist George Schroeder of USA TODAY Sports. “If all three win out, that changes. Alabama would pass the Frogs if it were to beat Mississippi State on Saturday. And if TCU and Baylor both win out, the Bears would eventually get the nod because of that head-to-head win on Oct. 11.”

Panelist Tommy Bowden’s ballot mirrored the committee’s final ranking. He voted Mississippi State and Florida State 1-2 based on their unblemished record and Oregon and TCU 3-4 because of their combined eight “quality wins” (Michigan State, UCLA, Stanford and Utah for Oregon, and Minnesota, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kansas State for TCU).

Mississippi State has been the top seed in four of the past five Playoff Projections, and this week matched the record 74 voting points it earned after its Week 7 victory against Auburn. Its opponent Saturday, Alabama, is No. 5 in this week’s Projection, earning 31 voting points.

“The rubber meets the road at Alabama in a game that will be tougher than a $2 steak,” said panelist and WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross. “Playing at home against Mississippi State is huge for ‘Bama.”

In addition to Schroeder, Bowden and Ross, the Football Four Playoff Projection panel includes former FBS coaches Rich Brooks, Jim Grobe and Rick Neuheisel, former FBS athletic directors Bill Byrne and Jim Livengood, and USA TODAY Sports college sports staff members Nicole Auerbach, Joe Fleming, Paul Myerberg, Daniel Uthman and Dan Wolken.

The panel is modeled after the College Football Playoff selection committee to show what the Playoff pairings might be if they were to be set today. Each panelist enters a six-team ballot, with six points awarded for a No. 1 vote, five for a No. 2 and so on. The projection is purely a mock selection with no bearing on the Playoff selection committee’s decisions.

Last week the Football Four panel had a top six of Florida State, Mississippi State, Auburn, Oregon, TCU and Alabama. The Playoff selection committee had the same six teams, with Mississippi State at No. 1 and Florida State at No. 2 and Alabama at No. 5 and TCU at No. 6.

The selection committee’s third Top 25 ranking is scheduled to be announced at 4:30 tonight pst.

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