Photo from GoFrogs.com
By Ryan Terry
The No. 9 Horned Frogs won’t be taking the field this weekend, but there are a few matchups happening that could have major implications for the rest of their season. While we’re waiting for TCU’s next Big 12 matchup against No. 23 West Virginia, these are the games to keep an eye on for Week Five.
After a tough loss to TCU at home last week, Oklahoma State will travel into enemy territory to face off against Texas Tech at Jerry World in Arlington. This Big 12 matchup could solidify the Red Raiders as a playoff contender if they can claim an upset against the wounded Cowboys. This will be Tech’s first conference face-off of the season, coming off a thrilling win at Houston where it snapped the Cougars’ 16-game home winning streak. Tech has started to build some hype around its program this year, starting 3-0 while racking up 45 points per game and nine forced turnovers. On the other hand, Oklahoma State has averaged 48.3 points per game and boasts a slightly more consistent pass defense. It ought to be a pretty close matchup, and the result will be telling.
What it means for TCU: If Texas Tech can come out with a win, it will assert itself as a contender for the Big 12 title, joining TCU and Oklahoma as the only remaining unbeaten teams in the conference. If head coach Mike Gundy and the Pokes can secure a victory, he’ll take a little heat off his seat and the Cowboys could still have a chance at the playoff. This would also narrow the hunt for the Big 12 title to two undefeated teams, pitting No. 4 Oklahoma against No. 9 TCU for the top spot.
How to watch: 7 p.m. on FOX
Undefeated Georgia will head to Knoxville this weekend to face off against conference rival Tennessee in a matchup with some upset potential. Tennessee — after being eliminated from the Top 25 in a heartbreaking loss to Florida, which won with a 63-yard Hail Mary as time expired — went on to narrowly outlast UMass 17-13 last week. The Volunteers were sluggish at best against what many would have called a “cupcake” game. Meanwhile, Georgia stomped No. 17 Mississippi State in a convincing 31-3 victory. The obvious advantage goes to the Bulldogs in this conference matchup, but we expect that Tennessee won’t go down without a fight, playing at home in Neyland Stadium.
What it means for TCU: If Tennessee can stun Georgia with an upset, it is sure to bump Georgia down a few spots in the polls and make room for TCU to keep moving up. Not only that, but it would be some sweet retribution for the Horned Frog faithful who are still feeling the sting from the 2016 bowl game loss to the Bulldogs.
How to watch: 2:30 p.m. on CBS
Virginia Tech will have the homefield advantage in this highly anticipated ACC matchup. Besides the fact that it’ll be one of the best games to watch this weekend, this will be one of the few tough contests that defending champion Clemson will face the rest of this season. With convincing wins over No. 13 Auburn and No. 14 Louisville in prior weeks, Clemson quickly established its dominance this season despite the departure of quarterback DeShaun Watson to the Houston Texans. Junior quarterback Kelly Bryant has proved himself capable of leading the Tigers to another impressive season through the air and on the ground. On the other hand, the Hokies of Virginia Tech have been mostly untested so far this season, facing only one ranked team in No. 22 West Virginia in Week One. Despite the lack of strength in its early schedule, Virginia Tech has been impressive on both sides of the ball, shutting out both Delaware and Old Dominion while also averaging 40 points per game on offense. The redshirt freshman quarterback for Virginia Tech, Josh Jackson, is off to a hot start with 11 touchdowns compared to only one interception thus far. Still, the Hokies will need everything to go their way if they want to pull this one off.
What it means for TCU: Depending on the outcome, Clemson will further solidify its predicted place in the College Football Playoff, or Virginia Tech will expose weaknesses not yet seen and open up some speculation as to who may replace the Tigers in the Top Four. If Virginia Tech can take down Clemson, there is a strong case to be made for TCU to move into contention for a higher spot.
How to watch: 7 p.m. on ABC
While this isn’t the most exciting matchup of the weekend, and neither of these teams are playoff contenders, it could end up having a bigger impact on TCU’s postseason hopes than you’d expect. New Mexico State will travel to Fayetteville for a Saturday morning non-conference showdown. While the Razorbacks are expected to shut down the Aggies, they did fail to do so against the Texas A&M Aggies a week ago. Arkansas lost in Week Four to Texas A&M at AT&T Stadium in Arlington in an overtime shootout, moving them to 1-2 on the season. Meanwhile, New Mexico State has split its first four games 2-2, but junior quarterback Tyler Rogers has racked up an impressive 1,413 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Arkansas defense will give the high-flying New Mexico offense its hardest test of the season so far, in a competition that shouldn’t, but just might turn into a close game.
What it means for TCU: The Horned Frogs’ Week Two victory over the Razorbacks was a convincing first step toward their current position in the AP Top 10. An important factor in deciding the College Football Playoff teams is each team’s strength of schedule. The stronger Arkansas can finish its season, the better it looks for TCU.
How to watch: 11 p.m. on SEC Network
USC comes into Week Five undefeated, though barely so. With some help from the Cal offense, which turned the ball over in four consecutive possessions to start the fourth quarter, the Trojans escaped what was shaping up to be a possible upset for the Golden Bears. This followed a narrow victory over unranked Texas that took two overtimes to resolve. In short, the Trojans’ spot in the Top Five remains questionable. They look to solidify their position against the Cougars in a Friday night Pac-12 showdown. Washington State also comes into the weekend undefeated, although its toughest competition to date has been unranked Boise State. The Cougars are preparing for their biggest test of the season on a short week but are still entering the competition as only a 3.5-point underdog. Washington State is hot off its first 4-0 start since 2001, while USC is riding a 13-game winning streak, the second-longest in the country.
What it means for TCU: This will be each team’s chance to take control of the Pac-12 and stake its claim on a playoff run. USC is arguably one of the weakest teams ranked higher than TCU, and a loss would almost certainly result in a rise in the rankings for the Horned Frogs while also introducing some new competition from Washington State for a coveted spot in the College Football Playoff.
How to watch: 9:30 p.m. on ESPN