No. 9 K-State, No. 6 TCU battle to stay in mix for College Football Playoff

K-State's Jake Waters and TCU's Trevone Boykin square off on Saturday with first place in the Big 12 on the line.

TCU and Kansas State are very much in the mix for the first College Football Playoff heading into Saturday night’s showdown in Fort Worth. That almost certainly won’t be the case when all is said and done.

The No. 6 Horned Frogs and No. 9 Wildcats try to keep their championship hopes alive as they square off with first place in the Big 12 on the line.

TCU (7-1, 4-1) remained one game behind Kansas State (7-1, 5-0) after storming back to win 31-30 at then-No. 20 West Virginia last Saturday. B.J. Catalon ran for 105 yards and two touchdowns and Jaden Oberkrom kicked a 37-yard field goal as time expired as the Horned Frogs erased a 10-point deficit over the final 7:33.

TCU climbed four spots in this week’s AP poll and also came in at No. 6 in the latest four-team playoff rankings — just ahead of No. 7 Kansas State.

"We don’t worry about the rankings right now and where we’re at," Horned Frogs safety Chris Hackett said. "Every week something’s going to change. And we just want to keep going up the ladder and try to win a game each week."

Another victory won’t be easy to come by against the Wildcats, who have taken both meetings since the Horned Frogs joined the conference in 2012. Kansas State won 33-31 in Manhattan last Nov. 16 on a last-second field goal.

"I’m a happy camper. They have to come to our house," Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson said. "Because of our mindset, this will be a different team than they have played the last two years. Both of us can play ground and pound or play action. It’s a different animal."

TCU is averaging 48.0 points to rank second in the FBS while Kansas State is 15th with 38.3 per game. The Wildcats are coming off last Saturday’s 48-14 win over Oklahoma State, their fifth in a row since falling 20-14 to then-No. 5 Auburn on Sept. 18.

Jake Waters threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns, one to each of his star wideouts. Curry Sexton and Tyler Lockett combined for 15 catches and 253 yards, including a career-high 159 from Sexton.

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"I thought we showed signs of clicking on all cylinders, but we still have work to do," said Waters, third in the Big 12 with a passer rating of 149.1.

Waters has 12 touchdowns – three rushing – and no interceptions over the last five games. He threw for 234 yards and two TDs in last year’s win over TCU, finding Lockett eight times for 123 yards and a score.

Lockett is second in school history with 2,877 receiving yards and tied for second with 23 touchdowns, trailing only father Kevin Lockett’s records of 3,032 and 26.

"It means a lot," Lockett said, "but I’m just going to keep playing. … You get anxious every now and then, but it’s not going to happen in one game. We still have four games left. If it happens, it’s going to happen. You just have to go out there and play. You might look to see where you are at the end of games, but as long as we win, I’m OK with that."

Kansas State has won both of its road games by a total of five points, including 31-30 over then-No. 11 Oklahoma on Oct. 18. The Wildcats play three of their final four away from home.

"My only thinking right now is TCU and we will worry about the others when we come to them," coach Bill Snyder said. "We all know the quality of TCU’s football team, players and coaches."

The Wildcats have won four of their last five road games against Top 25 opponents. However, the Horned Frogs are 5-0 at home for the first time since winning all six games in 2010, when they went on to finish 13-0.

TCU set a school record for points in an 82-27 home win over Texas Tech on Oct. 25. Trevone Boykin threw for a career-high 433 yards and established a school mark with seven touchdowns, giving him 843 yards and 10 scores in the last two home games.

Boykin is second in the Big 12 with 22 passing TDs.