FORT WORTH — If the fourth and final spot for the 2018 College Football Playoff comes down between two 1-loss teams which TCU football fell to this season, head coach Gary Patterson knows which one he would like to see earn a shot at a national title.
And for the most defensive-minded head coach the Big 12 has to offer, it’s not the non-conference power that the Horned Frogs held their own with for three quarters in a top-15 matchup at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Sept. 15.
Patterson, following TCU’s 31-24 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday, embarked on a tangent in which he vouched for CFP No. 6 Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1 Big 12) to crack the playoff over other contenders still lurking on the outside of the top 4 — namely CFP No. 10 Ohio State (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) — if the Sooners defeat CFP No. 14 Texas on Dec. 1 to win the Big 12 Championship.
“Having been a defensive guy in this league, I’m looking forward to watching everybody else defend them instead of me,” Patterson said. “I’m just going to tell you right now, holy smokes. That’s a lot of work.”
For the 18-year TCU head coach, Oklahoma’s season-long production on offense — one that included a 52-27 rout of the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth last month — has outweighed the team’s defensive struggles that have generated scrutiny throughout the rest of the college football landscape.
The Sooners surrendered at least 40 points for fourth straight game on Friday — a 59-56 triumph at No. 13 West Virginia — en route to becoming the first team in the AP era to win four straight contests while giving up 40 points or more in each outing.
As concerning as that trend might be on paper, however, Patterson suggested that the defense shouldn’t be a knock against Oklahoma’s resume considering that nobody has been able to shut down the Sooners’ offense for an entire four quarters this season.
“If anybody wants to say that Oklahoma,’well they say they aren’t playing very good defense,’ it really doesn’t make any difference,” Patterson said. “If you can’t slow them down — this thing that I hear about that you’ve gotta be a ‘complete team,’ no you don’t. You just have to have one side of the ball that is better than anything else that anybody can do.”
Entering the Big 12 Championship Game, Oklahoma’s offense leads the nation in both total yards (583.8) and points (50.3) per game. Quarterback Kyler Murray — following in the footsteps of 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield — has thrown for 3,674 yards and 37 touchdowns on the season while rushing for an additional 853 yards and 11 touchdowns.
After facing facing the Mayfield-led Sooners twice in 2017, dropping both contests before falling victim to Murray & Co. this October, Patterson said Oklahoma is the last team he’d want to face anytime soon.
“Texas is going to get another opportunity again this next Saturday, but I could just tell you right now, I don’t want to,” Patterson said. “Last year I had to play Oklahoma twice with Baker [Mayfield], I would not want to play them twice with Kyler [Murray]. I’m just telling you right now. It’s recess. It’s full-blast.”
With CFP No. 4 Michigan falling to Ohio State by a lopsided score of 62-39 on Saturday at Ohio Stadium in Columbus and Oklahoma fresh off a ranked victory of its own, the Sooners will likely move up one spot in the second-to-last playoff rankings of the year on Tuesday night. Should Oklahoma get the job done vs. Texas and CFP No. 1 Alabama knock off CFP No. 5 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, the path for a return trip to the playoff would seemingly be clear.
But the playoff picture may no longer be as simple as it once appeared after the results at Ohio Statdium on Saturday. The 62 points Ohio State scored on Michigan’s defense, who entered the the contest ranked the No. 1 unit in the nation, were the second most single-game points ever allowed in Michigan football history. With CFP No. 8 Washington State and No. 7 LSU also falling over the weekend, the question has been asked whether or not Ohio State could jump Oklahoma — should both finish as 1-loss conference champions — as the Sooners and the Big 12 struggle to do away with a perceived “lack of defense.”
Patterson, however, would like for the rest of college football to experience life in the Big 12 before racing to conclusions. The TCU head coach also pointed at — for the second time in the matter of the days — the disparity when it came to how the Los Angeles’ Rams 54-51 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs was viewed last Monday compared to shootouts in the Big 12.
“You look at the offenses in the league and I’m just telling you right now, they can say anything they want,” Patterson said. “You heard me the other day. I think it’s just amazing that you guys have an NFL game — maybe the most storied NFL night game of all time — but it wasn’t bad defense.
“How about that the offenses were just really really good? How about that? Everybody needs to come in this league and see how this all goes down. It’s probably shortened my lifespan.”
Patterson defended his point by referencing the struggles that Georgia’s highly-touted defense endured vs. Oklahoma last season in the College Football Playoff. The Bulldogs entered the semifinal matchup allowing an average of just 13.2 points per game before giving up 45 in regulation to Mayfield and the Sooners.
“That Georgia team was a good defensive ball team and Oklahoma was up 31-14,” Patterson said. “All I’m saying to you is that I’m a coach and I just watch. I played Ohio State. I saw what they did to Michigan today. I played both. I know who I’d rather play again and who I wouldn’t, and they’re both good football teams.”
Depending on the results next weekend, it will become clear if the committee agrees with Patterson’s sentiments when the final playoff rankings are unveiled on Sunday, Dec. 2. The latest rankings will be unveiled Tuesday night at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN.
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