TCU misses College Football Playoff berth in OT loss to Kansas State in Big 12 title game

Max Duggan’s fourth-quarter efforts weren’t enough for TCU to complete another comeback victory in the Big 12 title game. (Photo: Tim Heidman/Getty Images)

Kansas State held off fourth-ranked TCU for a 31-28 overtime win in the Big 12 title game and could hurt TCU’s College Football Playoff hopes.

TCU RB Kendre Miller was stopped across the goal line in overtime. Kansas State’s Ty Gentner kicked the game-winning field goal on K-State’s possession to give the Wildcats their first Big 12 title since 2003.

The Horned Frogs (12-1) enter the Big 12 title game as one of three remaining undefeated teams in college football. While the loss puts TCU’s playoff chances in jeopardy, it shouldn’t. Especially given USC’s loss to Utah on Friday night.

Kansas State (10-3) led 28-17 in the fourth quarter, but TCU scored 11 points in the final eight minutes to send the game into overtime. TCU QB Max Duggan had a heroic effort on the game-tying TD drive when he rushed for 95 yards on an 80-yard TD drive that included a 15-yard offensive pass interference penalty.

Duggan’s 8-yard TD run cut K-State’s lead to two with 1:51 left, and he hit Jared Wiley for the game-tying score. At that point, it looked like TCU was going to pull off another second-half comeback to keep its undefeated season alive. But it didn’t materialize in extra time.

What happened in overtime?

TCU faced second-and-goal at the K-State six and Duggan appeared to be inches short of the goal line on a second down run.

He was flagged a yard shy of the end zone, although replays showed the ball was too close to the goal line, not a full yard. But despite a lengthy review, the ball was moved into the 1, not where it should have been.

That’s important, because Miller was blocked on third down just short of the goal line. Had the ball been near the end zone, he would have scored.

There was also an overhead replay angle that showed Miller reaching the ball across the goal line. But the play was not reviewed.

On fourth down Miller was stuffed just short of the goal line, and Kansas State punted for a game-winning field goal.

Why TCU still needs to make the playoffs

The Horned Frogs can’t go lower than No. 4 in Sunday’s rankings. Assuming Georgia and Michigan win their conference title games, the Bulldogs and Wolverines will be the top two seeds in the four-team tournament. TCU then went 11-1 over Ohio State at 12-1 against No. 3 can be placed. The Buckeyes are out of the Big Ten title game after losing to Michigan a week ago.

There’s no way TCU is going to fall behind USC (12-2), and especially Alabama (10-2), as the Crimson Tide also sits on the sidelines Saturday. Due to the strength of the Big 12 in 2022, having played one more game than both Ohio State and Alabama, the Horned Frogs have the best strength of schedule of any leading team.

While it’s reasonable to expect TCU to be in the playoffs, the loss to the Wildcats leaves TCU fans with some dilemmas. After all, the same team that was No. 3 going into the final weekend of the season in 2014 found itself out of the playoffs despite a big win against Iowa State that week. TCU fans never want to see that scene again.

However, Duggan’s Heisman hopes are more unrealistic than TCU’s playoff hopes. Duggan was in pain Saturday after some big hits, but he still threw for 251 yards and rushed for 110. The TCU win made it easy to jump USC QB Caleb Williams in the Heisman pecking order after the Trojans’ loss.

But now that TCU has lost its conference title game, Williams is still the Heisman frontrunner.

Kansas State is headed to the Sugar Bowl

As most of the focus will be on TCU and the playoff scenario after the game, it’s important to note the Wildcats’ amazing season. Kansas State is a deserving Big 12 champion and had to play three quarterbacks in an earlier season loss to the Horned Frogs.

With Week 1 starter Adrian Martinez sidelined with an ankle injury, Will Howard filled in admirably at QB. Howard threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday and rushed for another.

Deus Von’s running back was the start of the show. He rushed 26 times for 130 yards and had two catches for 30 yards. Vaughn scored K-State’s last TD of regulation with this amazing open-field move.

At 10-3, Kansas State heads to the Sugar Bowl as the Big 12 champion. The Wildcats will face Alabama there and have a shot at their first 11-win season since 2012.

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