If Clay Tryan didn’t win the world title in 2005, it would be truly heartbreaking how close he’s been. Four times he has finished runner-up to the gold buckle.

He’s been a favorite to win the last few years, as well, only to fall short. In March, both he and Jade Corkill shook up the status quo to rope with one another. Since then, they’ve led the world standings. Interestingly, their former partners, Kaleb Driggers and Travis Graves, teamed up and are a close second heading into the Finals.

Team roping, historically, is one of the events in which the money is spread out more evenly among the competitors than others. This makes predicting it especially difficult as more teams have legitimate chances. A realistic case can be made for nearly every team. Beyond the top two, Brandon Beers and Jim Ross Cooper have been the hottest team all fall, and Beers may have the best horse in the field. Erich Rogers won more than anyone at the NFR last year: $90,000, and he’s roping with a former NFR average champion in Cory Petska. Luke Brown is a former NFR average champion as well and Kollin VonAhn won the gold buckle in 2009. Trevor Brazile and Patrick Smith are ending their partnership and the last time they planned to do that, in 2010, they won the world title.

And on it goes. All the teams have legitimate reasons they will have a great Finals, which, in the team roping, is sometimes all it takes. Drew Horner, Buddy Hawkins and Justin Davis are the only NFR rookies.

“You’re not going to out-heel Jade Corkill,” Joe Beaver said, to narrow the field. “I think Driggers is going to win a ton out there, but I don’t think anyone will out-heel Jade. So I think you have to go Clay and Jade.”