TCU may sit No. 3 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, but the Horned Frogs view Saturday's Big 12 Championship against No. 10 Kansas State at Arlington, Texas, as a must-win affair.
A loss to the Wildcats could open the door for No. 5 Ohio State to possibly slide ahead of TCU (12-0)and claim one of the four spots.
But fretting about losing isn't of interest to Horned Frogs star quarterback Max Duggan, who is aiming to maintain perspective despite how much is at stake.
"It's the next game, but I don't think we need to make it bigger than it needs to be," Duggan said. "It's a football game, we have to prepare the same way and we're going to go into it with the same mindset. ... The lights aren't going to be brighter and nothing is going to be different."
Coach Sonny Dykes feels TCU's resume is solid and that there should be no debate that his team is one of the best four in the nation. The Horned Frogs have started 12-0 for just the third time in program history and have scored more than 40 points on six occasions.
"As I've said all along, I think this is different," Dykes said. "I think college football is different. I think this committee is different, and I think the Big 12 is viewed differently (than the past).
"It's a gauntlet. I think the people that really study the game know how good this team is. To go through this thing undefeated and win these road games shows that we have a good football team."
Duggan, a rising Heisman Trophy candidate, has passed for 3,070 yards and 29 touchdowns against just three interceptions. Only Trevone Boykin (33 in 2014, 31 in 2015) has thrown more touchdowns in a single season in TCU history.
Running back Kendre Miller is also enjoying a big season. He has rushed for 1,260 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Kansas State (9-3) has won three consecutive games and put a major scare into the Horned Frogs when they met Oct. 22 in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Wildcats led by 18 points in the second quarter before TCU scored the game's final 28 points to record a 38-28 victory.
That scare is certainly on the minds of the Horned Frogs, while Kansas State is now playing its best football of the season.
The Wildcats have averaged 40.2 points over their last five games, scoring 47 or more in three of those contests.
Kansas State coach Chris Klieman is well aware few people think his club can win the championship game.
"Our guys have really risen up," Klieman said. "Especially when people have doubted them, they've risen to the top and I can't say enough about our team leaders and about our captains because they control that locker room and this player-led team has taken ownership in it."
Running back Deuce Vaughn is stamping his name as one of the top running backs in Wildcats' history. He has rushed for 1,295 yards and is just the third player in program history to record multiple 1,000-yard seasons -- joining College Hall of Famer Darren Sproles (three straight from 2002-04) and Daniel Thomas (2009-10).
Vaughn ranks second in school history with 3,341 career rushing yards, trailing Sproles (4,979).
With Adrian Martinez (leg) questionable at best, Will Howard will again be the starting quarterback for Kansas State.
Howard has thrown 13 touchdown passes against two interceptions in five appearances this season and he's ready for the challenge.
"The job isn't finished," Howard said. "We have one more and we have to finish it out. This is a very big game coming up, obviously, but we're going to be ready."
--Field Level Media