TCU coach Gary Patterson said Monday that Minnesota reminds him of last season’s Horned Frogs — underrated.
“Really a good football team, but probably didn’t get as much credit as they deserved,” Patterson said during the first Big 12 coaches conference call of the season. “They were a really good football team when we played them.
“Then I really watched them at the end of the year; they probably played Ohio State as well as anybody did, even better than anybody in the playoffs.”
Minnesota, which hosts TCU in the season opener for both teams Thursday night, finished 8-5 last season. That included a 31-24 home loss to Ohio State, which used that game as part of its momentum-building run to the national championship.
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[Minnesota] probably played Ohio State as well as anybody did, even better than anybody in the playoffs.
TCU coach Gary Patterson
The Gophers are unranked to begin the 2015 season but get the second-ranked Horned Frogs at home this year. The school is about 200 tickets away from a sellout of the 52,525-seat TCF Bank Stadium.
“Our kids understand what they have going on and what’s happening,” Patterson said of his Frogs, who beat Minnesota 30-7 last season in Fort Worth. “We’ve been in big ballgames; that’s what TCU’s been about.
“We understand the physicalness of playing somebody like Minnesota. We know we’ll probably play a better Minnesota team than we played — than we watched at the end of last season — just because of recruiting and guys growing up.”
Patterson and Minnesota coach Jerry Kill have been playing the shell game with each other about lineups, personnel and strategy. They even declined to release a customary depth chart a week before the game.
But they remain friends, and Jerry is not fooling Gary.
“I saw an article yesterday about, ‘Yeah, we put in the wishbone, that’ll give Gary something else to work on,’” Patterson said. “My answer to that is I’ve already worked on it because that’s what I felt like he’d do anyway.”
Patterson said he’d rather start the season with a lesser opponent that would let him “get all the kinks out,” but that run-based Minnesota has given the Frogs a chance to prepare for tight end and power formations.
“It really has been beneficial in teaching our whole package when you have to do that early in the season,” Patterson said. “It gets your kids ready, because you’re putting in what you’re going to play the rest of the year.”
Patterson said TCU will eventually get its chance at the College Football Playoff as long as it sticks to its plan.
“If we do our program the way we need to do and recruiting the way we need to, we’ll get our opportunities again, whether it is this year or some year down the road,” Patterson said. “We’ve got to keep attacking it with that approach. Because if I complain about it too long, my kids are going to do that, plus my administration, plus my fans.”
Patterson said the goal is to play on New Year’s Day “or somewhere real close to that,” and that the Frogs did that last year and shouldn’t “look a gift horse in the mouth.” But he doesn’t want to let momentum slip.
“We’ve got to work toward having a plan that we’re going to get in there and they won’t have a say about it, where you’re undefeated or you prove as a football team that you deserve to be there,” Patterson said. “I’m going to stay with that stand.”