If TCU wants to recapture some of its preseason heat, a win at Oklahoma State would bring back some of the sizzle.
The No. 21 Cowboys garnered much of the preseason Big 12 buzz and were picked by the league media to win the conference. Despite a loss at West Virginia, OSU (4-1, 1-1) still is relatively in control of its title hopes. And, to a lesser degree, so are the Horned Frogs (3-3, 1-2), who return to Stillwater, Okla., at 11 a.m. Saturday, a year after playing, arguably, their worst game of 2012.
TCU could cancel out its unexpected loss at Texas Tech in September with an upset of OSU and reignite the Frogs’ hopes of challenging for a league title.
Of course, in the wild and wacky Big 12, where teams are written off for dead (Texas) and others are crowned presumptive champs (Oklahoma, Baylor), nothing is certain and no win is guaranteed. But a win in Stillwater would be the Frogs’ most surprising result of the season and shake the league’s already topsy-turvy foundation. Not only would TCU’s chances have to be re-examined, but the Cowboys’ grip on a title also would be in serious jeopardy.
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“Somewhere we have to make somebody miss serve,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said during his Tuesday media luncheon. “We need to get up on the positive end of catching up, be 4-3 instead of being 3-4 ... we need to get on the positive end of it. It’s a lot less stressful, at least for me, and that’s all that matters.”
A win would reshape the Frogs’ Oct. 26 game with Texas (4-2, 3-0) as another of many bellwether moments to determine league superiority, if only for that moment.
But winning in Stillwater is a tall task, as TCU found out in a 36-14 loss in 2012. The Frogs’ quick 14-0 lead vanished as the Cowboys outgained them 393 to 223 the final three quarters. OSU scored on five of its six second-half possessions, including twice after turnovers by Trevone Boykin (a fumble and interception) that allowed OSU to put the game away in the fourth quarter.
“You’re not going to play 12 ballgames at your highest level,” Patterson said. “As coaches, your job is to be able to notice that they’re not and how do I still get them before game time where they can play well enough and they can go win a ballgame, which we were able to do [against Kansas]. Not many people are going to lose the turnover battle 5-1 and win a ballgame. It doesn’t happen very often when you’re in the same league. I give our kids a lot of credit for that.”
Like last year, the Cowboys are good enough to take advantage of TCU turnovers. They lead the Big 12 with a plus-seven turnover margin.
TCU linebacker Marcus Mallet said the Frogs failed to finish the game a year ago.
“Play within our scheme, play for each other, and just finish,” he said before saying that Big 12 presents a tougher challenge week to week than TCU’s former conference, the Mountain West. “You just have to come prepared week in, week out. Not taking anything away from the Mountain West, but I feel like you have to come with your mind right every week.”
A year ago this month, TCU’s mind wasn’t right in Stillwater, and the Cowboys pounced.
“Oklahoma State is a really good football team,” Patterson said. “When you look at us and where we’re at, it’s not one of those things where we’ve been out of ballgames. You get a couple breaks here and there, you’ve got a chance to maybe be 5-1 or 6-0, but you’re 3-3. You’ve got to understand you have to go make those plays.”
Patterson and his players have recently suggested that their main goal is to get to six wins to earn a bowl berth. A win in Stillwater would perhaps light another fire, return some heat, and raise their standards.