The Times’ annual college football countdown concludes with the top pick for 2015.
Roll over Dutch Meyer, and tell Sammy Baugh the news.
Texas Christian is our preseason No. 1, and no, this is not a sympathy nod to last season’s botched College Football Playoff rollout in which the Horned Frogs were demoted in the final ranking, from third to sixth, after a 55-3 win.
The way TCU handled the controversy factored into our belief that there is no more motivated team in America.
Gary Patterson, coach of the Horned Frogs, refused to let his team whine about the playoff snub. Instead, he said the right things publicly and prepared his team for the Peach Bowl against Mississippi, where TCU hammered out a 42-3 win over a team that earlier in the season had been ranked No. 1 in the nation.
“We wanted to be able to make a statement,” Patterson said afterward.
And so here we are: TCU returns 10 starters from that prolific offense, including Trevone Boykin, who is a Heisman Trophy candidate and arguably college football’s best quarterback.
Boykin passed for 3,901 yards and 33 touchdowns last season and also rushed for 707 yards and eight touchdowns.
The Horned Frogs must replace six starters on defense, including all the linebackers. But defense just happens to be Patterson’s forte, and he says his new linebackers are even faster than last season’s set.
Patterson earned universal respect for taking the high road last season after TCU was excluded from the four-team playoff.
“I’m always going to be a team player,” Patterson said this summer. “Bottom line is, I handled it the way I handled it because that’s what was best for college football, best for the Big 12 [Conference], best for TCU, best for my team.”
Expect him to use last season’s disappointments — including a 61-58 loss to Baylor in a game the Horned Frogs led, 58-37, in the fourth quarter — to get his team primed for 2015.
As controversial as the final regular-season ranking was a year ago, it’s hard to say now that jumping Ohio State into the national semifinal mix was a mistake. The Buckeyes did go on to win the national championship, after all. But as long as there are only four playoff slots available and there are five major-conference champions, there’s going to be an issue.
The Big 12 Conference, which doesn’t have a championship game, thought that by naming TCU and Baylor co-champions last year they were helping those teams. Instead, it was a hindrance.
That hasn’t changed. The Big 12 still won’t play a title game this season. What has changed are the expectations for TCU.
Last season’s team, coming off a 4-8 record the previous year, was picked to finish seventh in the Big 12. No one had a clue that TCU, which was installing a new spread offense, would be so good.
This season, the Horned Frogs are expected to be good. Very good.
“So a year ago you had to prove people wrong,” Patterson reflected this summer. “This year you have to prove people right.”
The rest of the Top 25: 25. Michigan; 24. Nebraska; 23. Utah; 22. Missouri; 21. Arkansas; 20. Tennessee. 19. Boise State; 18. Oklahoma; 17. Notre Dame; 16. Wisconsin; 15. Georgia Tech; 14. UCLA; 13. Arizona; 12. Florida State; 11. Arizona State; 10. Georgia; 9. USC.; 8. Auburn; 7. Clemson. 6. Baylor. 5. Michigan State. 4. Oregon. 3. Alabama; 2. Ohio State.