A month ago, the TCU Horned Frogs ranked 49th nationally in defense.
Now they’re sixth.
Strong performances against Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State and Texas in consecutive weeks elevated the Frogs to new heights.
It’s impressive, but coach Gary Patterson is more interested in knowing where his unit ranks three weeks from now.
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“Stats are something that you show recruits and that shows that you play well,” he said Tuesday at his midweek press conference. “It really doesn’t make any difference until you get to the end of the season. We still have two really good offenses in Oklahoma and Texas Tech, and you’ve got to play them at their houses, where they’re better.”
Oklahoma is No. 1 in the nation in offense.
Texas Tech is No. 9.
So the Frogs’ defense will be challenged to stay at No. 6, or climb.
But to be in the top 10, this late in the season, after already having faced Oklahoma State, West Virginia and SMU — second, seventh and 10th in the nation offensively, respectively — says something.
“Great pride in that,” safety Niko Small said. “We’re still not satisfied. We want to be No. 1.”
Patterson, no doubt, would like that, too.
But it’s not necessarily what the Frogs are shooting for. They’re trying to get three wins to close out the regular season and clinch the top seed in the Big 12 championship game, where they could potentially launch themselves into the College Football Playoff.
If they’re still a top-10 defense at that point, it becomes a very meaningful benchmark.
“The key is to be that when you get to the end of the year,” Patterson said. “Obviously, if you can hold Oklahoma to 67 yards rushing, you probably have a chance to win. But that’s going to be tough to do.”
TCU leads the nation in rush defense, allowing 69.7 yards per game. The Frogs held Texas to 9 yards rushing in last week’s 24-7 victory.
It is not the only area where TCU is one of the nation’s best teams.
In scoring defense, the Frogs have moved to No. 6 after allowing 27 combined points in the past four games.
They are also No. 7 in third-down defense, No. 3 in red-zone defense, and No. 10 in fewest first downs allowed.
In sacks, they rank 11th nationally with 3.1 per game.
“I don’t feel we’ve reached our potential yet,” Small said. “Coach P tells us we’ve played a lot of hard games, but we haven’t played a lot of smart games.”
The numbers tell a story of all-around success for TCU on defense. Patterson lets the stats speak for themselves with his team.
“If anything, you let them know so they have pride in what they do and it gives them something else besides just winning to play for,” he said.
But the next three weeks, starting Saturday in Norman, Okla., will also tell a story.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Patterson said.