AMES — Of course, the Big 12 Conference wants fourth-seeded and undefeated Texas Christian to win 4-7 against Iowa State on Saturday. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, and if they do, feel free to laugh at them.
The more convincing TCU wins, the better. Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell knows. His players know it. The college football world knows it.
Anyone who follows this great sport knows that TCU must keep winning if they want to be one of four teams in the college football playoffs. Don’t fool yourself into thinking the Big 12 don’t know it either.
College football playoff money aside, this is about reputation. This is about prestige. This is Texas-sized braggart rights.
This is about ending the two-year drought of the Big 12 college football playoffs with a team that will be in the conference for longer than next season or so. It’s about a different Big 12 team from Oklahoma that finally reaches college football’s top-tier game.
With the Sooners and Texas heading to the SEC on July 1, 2025, it’s important for the Big 12 to be able to brag that one of their loyal (emphasis on loyal) members is achieving what has been a Never Never Land for Big 12 programs that are not named Oklahoma.
Among the Power Five conferences, the SEC and Big Ten had three CFP teams, the ACC and Pac-12 had two each, and the Big 12 had only Oklahoma.
Saturday’s TCU win is a big deal for folks at the conference offices in Irving, Texas. It’s a huge thing. TV deal negotiations appear to be going well, but how much better would it be if Commander Brett Yormark had TCU as a nationally relevant negotiating tool a year or so before the Sooners and Texas defections?
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A lot of.
Yormark joined the Big 12 from the entertainment industry. He is a promoter. He has an attention-grabbing national history in TCU. Possibly the best story in college football.
He knows what something like this can mean for the image and future income of the conference. Prestige quarterback Max Duggan and first-time Horned Frogs coach Sonny Dykes can bring immeasurable to a conference for which naysayers were preparing last rites.
On Saturday in Fort Worth, the state of Iowa stands in that path.
Remember back in 2011 when Paul Rhoads’ Cyclones upset runner-up Oklahoma at Jack Trice Stadium on a Friday night in November? Coach Mike Gundy’s team and LSU were the only undefeated college football teams with two games remaining. They were on their way to what was then the BCS championship game.
That all changed dramatically, of course, when Leonard Johnson intercepted a pass, Jeff Woody rumbled 4 yards into the end zone, and the Cyclones stunned the college football world with a 37-31 double-overtime win that forever etched in Iowa football history State will live .
“BCS Bedlam” smashed The Register’s morning-after headline.
“We literally played the same game three times in a row,” Woody said after the game. “Because of our preparation, we knew how they would line up and what they would do.”
I’m sure the Big 12 were beyond upset.
That game began with a minute’s silence for Oklahoma State women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna, who died in a plane crash the day before the football game. It was certainly an emotional evening – for various reasons.
Eleven years later, the state of Iowa can once again change the state of college football by winning Saturday’s 3:00 p.m. game in Fort Worth. And you know what? The way college football — and the Big 12 in particular — has fared this season, I wouldn’t bet against it.
And if it happens?
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“Oh my goodness, I don’t know,” Campbell said when asked how the Big 12 might react. “At the end of the day you play the games that are on your schedule. Each game has a unique meaning for us.
“For us you’re getting closer to the end of the season and a point where you want to play your best football.”
Obviously, everyone within the football complex of the program expects victory. They’re among the “Who Cares What the Big 12 Wants?” Mentality.
“I feel like nobody in the Big 12 expects us to go into TCU and win,” receiver Jaylin Noel said Tuesday. “Of course it will come as a shock to a lot of people.
“For people in this building? I don’t think it will be a big surprise for us.”
And consider this: How often do you watch a Power Five conference football game where two Iowans will be the starting quarterbacks? That would be Duggan from Council Bluffs starting for TCU. That would be Hunter Dekkers from Hawarden billeting the Cyclones.
So what happens if the state of Iowa wins?
“I don’t think it’s just going to shock the Big 12, it’s going to shock the whole world,” Dekkers said.
Non-conference college football teams, notably Tennessee, LSU and USC, will suddenly be cheering for Iowa State.
The big 12?
Not as much.
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson began his 50th year as a sportswriter for the Des Moines Register in December 2021. You can reach him at [email protected], 515-284-8132 and on Twitter @RandyPete.