NCAA Week 13 – The TCU Horned Frogs ended an undefeated regular season Saturday with an emphatic victory over Iowa State, taking a 24-0 lead in the first 15 minutes and doubling that lead in the last three quarters to win by a final score of 62 -14. The Cyclones ended a disappointing year bottom of the Big 12, so this wasn’t exactly TCU’s toughest test. But it was still the Horned Frogs’ best match-adjusted overall in their remarkable year and one of their best single-game results of the season. They are the first Big 12 team to top the table in the regular season since the conference switched to a full round-robin regular season format in 2011, and they will be the first team to win 10 games against Big -12 opponents with a win in this weekend’s conference championship game against Kansas State.
Count me among those skeptics who expected a stumble somewhere along this route. Four weeks ago I wrote that no Big 12 team is likely to lead the table in November and that my FEI game predictions put TCU at a better chance of a 1-3 finish (16%) than a 4-0 finish ( 10%) this month. The Horned Frogs flirted with disaster and eluded Baylor in Week 12, but the punctuation mark in Week 13 against Iowa State put them in a position to now secure a berth in the college football playoffs I never expected at the start of the year would have. Back in August, TCU was ranked 60th overall in my FEI predicted ratings, with a predicted regular season win total of 5.2, a 0.3% chance of winning 10 games, and a 0 chance .0% of being a legitimate playoff contender. View these cold shots fully exposed.
As a program, TCU has a long history of success that shakes the ceiling, but the 2022 season still came out of nowhere. From 2018 to 2021, the Horned Frogs never won more than six FBS games in a season and bottomed last year with an overall FEI ranking of 84, overshadowed by disastrous defensive efficiency metrics. Following the departure of Gary Patterson, TCU brought in Sonny Dykes from SMU, a program that was more reliable and consistent at the same track than TCU but did not have breakthrough elite success in his tenure. Dykes have not completely turned the squad around, opening transfer portal floodgates to speed up the transition, although they have shored up key areas of need. More importantly, the new hires found ways to maximize the veteran roster already in place at Fort Worth, most notably senior quarterback (and Davey O’Brien Award finalist) Max Duggan and junior wide receiver (and Blietnikoff Award semifinalist) Quentin Johnston . If their current efficiency ratings hold up, this season would be TCU’s first since 2014 with top-25 efficiency ratings on both sides of the ball.
That TCU made conference history in this particular Big 12 season is particularly noteworthy. This isn’t a top-heavy league where a few contenders can feast on a handful of conference bottom-feeders and then prepare for just a few tentpole matchups scattered throughout the year. Every single Big 12 team has an FEI rating higher than the FBS average at the end of the regular season, nine out of 10 are in the top 50 and six out of 10 are in the top 35. TCU leads the nation with nine wins against FEI top 50 opponents, and no other team that has played nine top 50 opponents has won more than seven. TCU has already bagged a very worthy one Playoff Resume.
That could be important because, womp womp, TCU could have their hands full against Kansas State on Saturday. The Wildcats haven’t avoided the weekly pitfalls as nimbly as TCU this season, but their peak performances have been just as impressive. Can TCU repeat their 38-28 winning performance over Kansas State in Week 8, or could that result be reversed this weekend and bring a bit of chaos to the final playoff committee proceedings? My FEI game predictions (yes, based on the same imperfect formula referenced above) give the Wildcats a slight advantage to avenge that regular-season loss and capture the conference crown.
And… this is where that statistical skepticism creeps in again. Time to prove FEI wrong again, Horned Frogs. (I believe in you a little bit more than the numbers, whatever those instincts may be worth.)
FEI Ratings 2022 (until week 13)
Fremeau Efficiency Index ratings (FEI) is opponent-adjusted possession efficiency data that represents the goal advantage per possession that a team would expect to play on a neutral field over an average opponent. Offensive ratings (OFEI) and defense values (DFEI) is opponent-adjusted drive efficiency data that represents the point advantage per drive that a team unit would expect over an average enemy unit. net propulsion efficiency (NDE) is the sum of Offensive Drive Efficiency and Defensive Drive Efficiency data representing the scoring value achieved by offensive and defensive units per drive. The Schedule Strength rating represents the expected number of losses an elite team would have two standard deviations above average versus each team’s historical schedule (ELS), the expected number of losses a good team would have one standard deviation above average compared to the historical schedule (GLS) and the expected number of losses an average team would have compared to the historical schedule (AS). Ratings for all 131 teams can be found here, and advanced ratings including projected overall wins can be found here.
|3||State of Ohio||11-1||11-1||1.24||1.78||3||.91||8th||2.29||3||1.28||29||3.57||39||7.08||37|
|7||State of Kansas||9-3||8-3||.89||1.06||16||.79||11||1.01||20||1.14||39||4.29||20||8.47||4|
|10||State of Florida||9-3||8-3||.82||1.39||8th||.40||34||1.44||8th||.65||66||2.84||53||6.51||50|
|fifteen||State of Mississippi||8-4||7-4||.63||.49||38||.74||fifteen||.37||42||1.94||8th||4.66||7||7.96||14|