AUSTIN, Texas – Texas can spoil everything for TCU.
The Big 12 title talk and No. 5 TCU's playoff position won't mean much if the Longhorns, playing their best football of the season, beat the Horned Frogs (9-1, 6-1 Big 12) on Thursday night.
Texas coach Charlie Strong and his players insisted Monday they'll take the field trying to get the win just to keep momentum going after a poor start in Strong's first season. TCU's title talk isn't part of the conversation.
"We don't even talk about them. It's all about us. We need to go get another win for ourselves," Strong said.
But the rest of college football will be watching the Horned Frogs and calculating what a win or loss would mean nationally in the final push for one of four berths in the first College Football Playoff.
Under the current standings, TCU would be left out at No. 5. And struggling to beat a bad Kansas team — which gave up an NCAA-record 427 yards rushing to Oklahoma's Semaje Perine last week — has cast some doubt on whether TCU deserves a shot at the national championship.
TCU perhaps doesn't just need to win, but win impressively against Texas. The Horned Frogs close the season against Iowa State, which ranks near the bottom of the Big 12.
The Horned Frogs will catch a Texas team on the rise.
Since a 23-0 loss at Kansas State a month ago, Texas (6-5, 5-3) has won three in a row. The Longhorns' defense is arguably the best in the Big 12 and the offensive line, a patchwork unit when the season began, has been opening up huge holes for running backs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray.
"This is the best football we've played in November since I've been here," wide receiver John Harris said. "Kansas State was a turning point for this team. We made up our minds we had to be better."
Harris is among a Texas senior class looking for a defining win to cap a career that has been underwhelming. Texas is 31-19 over the past four seasons, including three seasons of at least five losses. The Texas seniors haven't won a Big 12 title and withstood the early struggles of a 2-4 start under Strong.
They saw friends and teammates dismissed by Strong, who says he doesn't think his team started enjoying the season until it finally got bowl-eligible two weeks ago by beating Oklahoma State.
"I would have loved to have walked in here with an undefeated team," Strong said. "I don't know if they ever had a chance to sit back and enjoy it ... But they got to six (wins) and they battled through it all."