In a perfect, Gary Patterson kind of world, there is no way that TCU would open its football season against the likes of an LSU.It’s not that Patterson is afraid of the challenge of playing an out-of-conference game against a team that has played in three BCS title games since 2003. It’s that the Horned Frogs don’t have to. Not anymore, now that they’ve moved into the Big 12 neighborhood.TCU no longer needs to shout for attention. The Mountain West Conference is already a distant memory. The Big East turned out to be a summer fling. Win enough games, Patterson and the Frogs know, and the big prize is no longer Door No. 3 — a bowl game against Boise State. The reward can go as high as the pyramid chart of goals that Patterson posts each year in the team meeting room. The top line of this year’s chart reads, “No. 1 — national champions.”Well, why not? Where once the Frogs had dreams, now they embrace ambitions. And in that regard, the LSU Tigers are as ambitious an opening game foe for TCU as any. The old grads bristled when it was announced that the original home-and-home contract with LSU was being replaced by a one-shot, ESPN-televised Cowboys Classic in Arlington. TCU faithful were anxious to see how the Frogs would play at Amon Carter Stadium against a Southeastern Conference power such as LSU. Patterson is all for home-and-home series — “sometimes,” he said Tuesday. “I think our fans deserve to play some of those,” he noted. The problem with a home-and-home series with LSU, though, would have been the road game at Tiger Stadium. LSU hasn’t lost a home game to an out-of-conference opponent in 13 years.With that in mind, Patterson seems relatively comfortable with the way the compromise has worked out. He doesn’t mind at all that the Frogs are considered the underdogs Saturday. “I like that role,” Patterson said. He can sell that to his young team, he said. He can fill a bulletin board with it.In the meantime, Patterson has seemed to have enjoyed playing coaches’ poker with LSU’s Les Miles over suspensions and his starting quarterback. Miles hasn’t said whether sophomore running back Jeremy Hill, no longer suspended, would play against the Horned Frogs. Patterson has chosen not to announce whether his best defensive lineman, suspended Devonte Fields, would play against LSU.“Find out at game time,” Patterson said Tuesday. As our Stefan Stevenson pointed out, “The depth chart that the school released confused some people.”Patterson smiled. “That’s what it was for,” he coyly explained. “It’s still about teaching life lessons,” the coach said, discussing Fields’ fate. “If you were a betting man, knowing me, you’d probably know which way you’d bet.”The wager here, therefore, is that Fields sits out Saturday’s game. Hill probably won’t play against TCU, either. For Frogs fans who see this as an opportunity to make a statement against an SEC power, losing Fields hurts. Under Patterson, TCU’s chances to win are always going to rest on the defensive side of the ball. Know this — Patterson will have done his homework. When I asked whether he had delved into the film archives to study new LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Patterson said that not only had he watched watched film from Cameron’s time with the NFL Ravens, but also from Cameron’s stops at Miami and Indiana University. The Frogs will be ready. Patterson’s teams seldom aren’t.But as he admitted Tuesday, “I probably would have liked to have gone into a game of this magnitude with a little bit older football team.”Too late for that now, though. The Bayou Bengals are coming to Arlington. Patterson’s pyramid has been printed and posted. Ambition awaits.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton