The last time TCU played Iowa State with this much on the line was in 2014 when the Horned Frogs pummeled the Cyclones 55-3 in the regular-season finale.
It didn’t matter. The College Football Playoff selection committee, in its first season, inexplicably dropped TCU three spots to No. 6 in their final rankings and the Frogs were prevented from playing for the national championship.
This time around, a similar slight is unlikely.
The No. 25 Cyclones (5-2, 3-1 in the Big 12) are ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 2005 and present a formidable challenge for No. 4 TCU when the teams meet at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa.
The initial CFB rankings are announced Oct. 31 and TCU (7-0, 4-0) is poised for a semifinal pole position. They first have to take care of business in Ames, of course, which coach Gary Patterson was quick to point out during his Tuesday media luncheon.
“Maybe I’ll think about that on Sunday but it won’t make any difference if we don’t win,” Patterson said. “We need to make sure we take care of our business.”
The company line has been ingrained.
Senior corner back Ranthony Texada, who started 13 games as a redshirt freshman in 2014, remembers the disappointment of that rankings snub.
“It hurt and guys were a little disappointed but at the end of the day we couldn’t control that,” he said. “I tell the younger guys that we’re really in control of what our season can be right now. You win out then you don’t have to worry about it.”
In ’14, TCU ranked 6th in the first week of CFB rankings despite a 61-58 loss at Baylor.
Patterson isn’t campaigning yet but he did express some annoyance that tough wins on the road at Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Kansas State have been dismissed by some.
“I welcome anybody who wants to go to Stillwater against the football team they have,” Patterson said. “It’s a tough place to play. We win and all of a sudden it becomes no big deal. I guess that’s what disappoints me more than anything.”
Iowa State’s Jack Trice Stadium is well-respected for being a tough place for opposing teams.
“It just shows how deep the Big 12 is,” Texada said. “With them being ranked, of course it’ll look good on our resumé if we win but we don’t really look at rankings because at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter until the end ... if we don’t handle business and take care of what we have now, it’s not going to really matter next week so that’s why we take the one-game-at-a-time approach.”
Running back Kyle Hicks was also a redshirt freshman in ’14. Hicks said seeing some highly-ranked teams get knocked off is a reminder to not look ahead.
“We want to be talked about in December, so in order to do that, we have to take care of business right now,” he said. “When you see all these upsets and teams taking other teams for granted, you realize they lost focus and you don’t want to be that squad. You see it, you can just tell watching the game, you can tell what team is focused when you’re watching the game.”
That’s music to Patterson’s ears.
“If this team can navigate through this season with no [losses] or one loss playing on the road at the places we have to play, it will be an amazing feat by this group. It’s hard to do,” he said. “Everything I read [says] the odds aren’t in our favor. And I read it because it fuels my fire of trying to prove y’all wrong.”
Patterson, stopped himself to clarify. “Whoever they are,” he joked. “I’m getting older and wiser.”
No. 4 TCU at No. 25 Iowa State
2:30 p.m. Saturday, WFAA/Ch. 8