It's been a year and a half since TCU quietly added Minnesota to its 2014 football schedule to help Golden Gophers coach Jerry Kill fill a gap created when he dumped North Carolina off his schedule to -- of all things -- lighten it.
There's nothing quiet about it now.
Because by this weekend, TCU's 30-7 win over Minnesota way back on Sept. 13 could be the only legitimate thing the Horned Frogs have to point to as to why they made the College Football Playoff field and Baylor did not. A match made from friendships -- Minnesota coach Jerry Kill was best man in TCU coach Gary Patterson's wedding -- is well-positioned to be the cause of a most unfriendly debate.
Baylor, of course, beat visiting TCU 61-58 on Oct. 11. And if both close the season with wins this Saturday, they'll finish the year with identical records (11-1), identical conference records (8-1), and identical conference schedules. Which means that chasm of a gap between No. 3-ranked TCU and the No. 6-ranked Bears, despite Baylor's head-to-head win, boils down to Minnesota. Baylor played a brutally weak non-conference schedule against SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo. TCU's non-conference slate? Every bit as weak, with one exception: SMU, Samford and the Golden Gophers. Beating a four-loss Minnesota team whose most impressive win is over a three-loss Nebraska team that fired its coach has not only put TCU ahead of the Baylor team it lost to, but way ahead.
Baylor coach Art Briles has pretty much bitten his tongue through this weeks-long development, probably leaving quite a mark. But after the Horned Frogs advanced from fourth to third in the rankings this week, Briles could stay quiet no longer. He told the "Mike and Mike" radio show that head-to-head results are "the American way" when it comes to judging one team against another.
While TCU is all but certain to beat a hapless Iowa State team, Baylor isn't without hope, because the other four teams ahead of the Bears -- Alabama, Oregon, FSU and Ohio State -- could all find themselves in a close conference title game.
Meanwhile, the Big 12 and its now-comical "One True Champion" motto will hedge the playoff bet by declaring TCU and Baylor co-champions. In other words, Baylor's head-to-head win over TCU doesn't even buy it championship respect from its own league, much less the selection committee.
With a win over a tough Kansas State team Saturday, also not a given, Baylor is 100 percent deserving of being the sole and undisputed champion of its league. The Big 12 might think it is increasing its chances of a playoff berth by giving the committee two champions, but all it's really doing is watering down the legitimacy of Baylor's case.
About the only positive to come from a Baylor snub would be a strong message to athletic directors about the importance of scheduling decent non-conference opponents. The millions of dollars Baylor stands to lose because it ate a row of three non-conference cupcakes this season would compel even the weakest schedulers to think twice.
Especially if Minnesota is available.