TCU has been there.
Not to Lawrence, Kan., on a snowy Saturday afternoon, necessarily.
But to Colorado Springs.
Those places get cold and snowy, as the Horned Frogs learned during their days in the Western Athletic and Mountain West conferences.
“My freshman year, we were out in Wyoming, and it just started snowing at halftime,” receiver David Porter said. “So that was pretty new. But I was like, ‘It’s not too bad.’ When you’re out there running, it’s not as cold as it actually feels. It’s not that bad.”
But Saturday’s trip to Lawrence for a 2 p.m. game against Kansas — with a 90 percent chance of snow and a high around 34 — won’t be like any of those other trips.
Saturday, the Horned Frogs have to look like they’re playing in sunny weather. They take with them their new spread offense — not necessarily built for the conditions — and a No. 4 ranking on the College Football Playoff list.
They will have to adapt their offense while also looking dominant enough to keep their position in the playoff committee’s eyes.
It won’t be an easy trick.
“It’s November. You’ve got to be able to run the ball in November,” coach Gary Patterson said.
The Horned Frogs are better on the ground than might be expected for an “Air Raid” offense. They are the second-best rushing team in the Big 12, picking up 227.4 yards per game. They have produced six 100-yard games by a running back and one by the quarterback, Trevone Boykin. Twice in the past three games, two rushers have gone over 100 yards.
B.J. Catalon, who has three of those 100-yard games, won’t be around Saturday. He will miss a second game following a hit under the chin at West Virginia.
But Aaron Green has proven capable — and explosive — in Catalon’s place. Green had a 65-yard touchdown run last week against Kansas State in rushing for 171 yards. Three weeks ago against Texas Tech, he had a 62-yard run for a touchdown.
Combined with an offensive line that Patterson said is showing more physicalness, plus a willingness by play-caller Doug Meacham to stick to the ground if the situation calls for it, it all gives the Horned Frogs confidence that the offense can function in unfavorable weather.
“Yes, it can. It can,” Porter said.
How is he so sure?
“Because this is what we do. We’re going to practice outside and get used to the weather, catching in the cold weather, blocking in the cold weather,” Porter said. “We’ll be able to do it.”
How well is another matter.
The Horned Frogs ascended to the No. 4 spot in the CFP rankings released Tuesday. If they can hold on to it for the rest of the season, they will have a spot in the national semifinals and with it, a chance at the national championship.
But their spot depends in part on the opinion of their play by the 12 members of the committee, who watch the games, study the stats and consider strength of schedule to produce the rankings.
A win by one is as good as a win by 30 to Patterson and the Horned Frogs, if not to the committee.
“A win is a win,” safety Chris Hackett said, asked if it feels better to win by 82-27, as the Horned Frogs did against Texas Tech, or 31-30, as they did against West Virginia. “To be honest with you, the score might say something else, but at the end of the day, it just shows a W. That’s the most important thing.”
The Frogs might get a concession for the weather. Might. But that is thinking about more than Patterson wants to.
The win must come first.
“The only way we can be in consideration is to win the last three,” he said. “All the different parameters change. It’s probably going to be snowing. Texas is going to be a different football team than they were six or seven weeks ago. All those things change. You can only judge on what happened at the time it happened.”
In the cold. In the snow.
Appearances count. The Horned Frogs want to win, but they will do themselves a favor if they can look strong doing it. They are No. 4 in the CFP rankings, but the teams behind them are making a push.
Getting ahead. TCU has led 14-0 or better in seven games this year and averages 13.9 points in the first quarter. Neither team wants to be playing catch-up and having to throw in wintry conditions.
Special teams. If there is snow, anything that involves putting a foot on the ball will be tricky. Kansas has a good punt-return game. But blocks or muffs can also change the game dramatically.
Head to head
|Category||TCU (8-1, 5-1)||Kansas (3-6, 1-5)|
|3rd down %||42.4||35.5|
|Def. 3rd down %||28.7||40.8|