Is there precedent for the head-to-head result not being the deciding factor when comparing two teams with the same number of losses?
Yes, here are three:
• In 2008, Texas defeated Oklahoma on a neutral field. The Longhorns’ only loss was at No. 6 Texas Tech on a last-second catch by Michael Crabtree. Yet, Oklahoma was selected to play Florida in the BCS National Championship.
• In 2000, the Miami (FL) Hurricanes defeated Florida State at home. The Hurricanes’ only loss was at No. 15 Washington. Yet, Florida State was selected to play Oklahoma in the BCS National Championship.
• In 1993, Notre Dame defeated Florida State in South Bend, Indiana. The Fighting Irish’s only loss was against No. 17 Boston College. Yet, Florida State was voted the AP national champion and Notre Dame finished second.
If there is precedent for not using head-to-head, then how do the résumés stack up?
Comparing TCU and Baylor Résumés
The résumés for No. 6 TCU and No. 3 Baylor are very similar. Both teams are 10-1, and they have the two best point-per-game differentials (Baylor +25.9, TCU +24.2) among Power 5 teams. Each team’s loss came against a conference opponent on the road.
They have played very similar schedules. Both have played eight other Big 12 opponents, SMU and an FCS opponent. The one non-conference difference is TCU hosted Minnesota and Baylor played at Buffalo. As a result, Baylor is last in the FBS in non-conference strength of schedule and TCU is 117th.
The big difference (other than head-to-head) is that Baylor has one fewer win against a team in the top 40 of FPI. Yet, that could change Saturday as the Bears host Kansas State and TCU plays Iowa State.
If the résumés are similar, then what about on-field performance?
Few teams can match Baylor’s offensive production. The Bears are averaging an FBS-high 49.8 points per game. They have scored at least 60 points in four games, including their win against TCU. No other FBS team has more than two such games.
Baylor Offense, This Season
Pace is a big factor in Baylor’s offensive success. The Bears average 20 seconds per play, third-fastest in the FBS. In the first half, they are even quicker, running a play every 18.2 seconds, best in the FBS. Not surprisingly, Baylor has an FBS-high 21 touchdown drives of 1 minute or less.
TCU’s offense is not too far behind. It is averaging 46.1 points per game, third-most in the FBS and on pace to break the school record of 41.6 set in 2010.
TCU is allowing 21.9 points per game, 26th-best in the FBS, which does not sound overly impressive. Yet, when you factor in the opponents and the impact the defense has had on games, few have been better than the Horned Frogs.
• TCU has forced an FBS-high 3.1 turnovers per game and is averaging 12.0 points off turnovers, second-best in the FBS behind Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (12.5).
• The Horned Frogs have held their opponents without a first down or touchdown on an FBS-high 51 percent of their drives this season. Not coincidentally, their average starting field position is their own 35-yard line, fifth-best in the FBS.
• TCU ranks fifth in the nation in third-down conversion defense (30 percent) and eighth in the percentage of opponents red-zone drives that end in a touchdown (45 percent).
Baylor Defense In 1st Half
Baylor has not been too far behind on defense, especially in the first half of games before it builds a huge lead: The Bears’ first-half point-per-game margin is an FBS-high +18.7.
So, with the teams so similar, it brings us back to head-to-head. Baylor defeated TCU by three points in Waco. How much does home field matter anyway?
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, home field would play a role in projecting a winner in a matchup between these teams. For instance, if Baylor and TCU were to play this weekend on a neutral field, Baylor would have a 51 percent chance of winning. If the game were at Baylor, the Bears would have a 59 percent chance of winning, and if it were at TCU, the Horned Frogs would have a 57 percent chance of winning.
Maybe the best solution would be to have a Big 12 championship game, on a neutral field. If there were, and if the second matchup was anything like the first, then everyone would be in for some excitement.
In that game, Baylor became the only team in the last 10 seasons to overcome a 21-point (or more) fourth-quarter deficit against a ranked team. It was also the most combined points (119) for a game involving two top-10 teams in the Associated Press Poll.
--Information from Chris Fallica and Sharon Katz of ESPN Stats & Information was used in this post