After putting the Big 12 and the rest of the country on notice last weekend with its victory against Oklahoma, TCU is bound to have heightened expectations for itself.
Doesn’t sound like it.
“That got put up before the season,” coach Gary Patterson said at his weekly press conference in the team meeting room, pointing to a wall where a pyramid gets shaded in like a fund-raising thermometer every time the Horned Frogs win a game or reach a goal.
“That has national championship at the top of it,” he said.
So the top goal isn’t new. But a road map perhaps is. After the Frogs hurdled preseason favorite Oklahoma on Saturday, a handful of national analysts said if they win out, they can go to the College Football Playoff.
“I did see that,” cornerback Kevin White said. “Some had us No. 4, some No. 6. It was interesting to see guys think we’re good enough to be in that playoff. We think we are, too. It was good to see that recognition.”
That’s what an upset of formerly fourth-ranked Oklahoma will do. The Frogs went from No. 25 to No. 9.
But that covers only part of the pyramid. Saturday’s game at Baylor is the start of the rest of the job — another big game to win, unlike the days in the Mountain West and WAC, when the Frogs had the luxury of needing to gear up for only one or two premier matchups.
“This is what we came to the Big 12 for,” White said. “This is what we came to prove, that we could go out there and play top-10 teams every week. That we can get up not just for one game, play one team tough. We’re going to try to do it every single week. That’s our goal.”
Tough goal. If the Horned Frogs get past the fifth-ranked Bears, there is still Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and West Virginia to finish the month. November brings Kansas State to Fort Worth and a Thanksgiving night game in Austin against Texas.
But with their statement-making victory and shiny new top-10 ranking, maybe the Frogs are now the hunted, not the hunter.
“I don’t see it,” safety Chris Hackett said. “To be honest, we weren’t worried about national rankings. That can change each week. We just want to keep fighting hard, winning games, keep playing on. The rankings will speak for themselves once they’re finished. You can never start feeling like, ‘This is it.’ Our comfort level, we’re still not where we want to be.”
For receiver David Porter, being in the national discussion didn’t change anything he did this week.
“It’s a good feeling, of course. Everybody wants to be ranked the highest they can be,” he said. “So it was nice seeing that. But we have to keep moving forward because we still have a lot of room for improvement. We still have games to play.”
That is what Patterson wants to hear. He produced an undefeated season in 2010 and undefeated conference records in 2005, 2009 and 2011.
“I understood, and I understand, that we beat who we just got done beating and how big a ballgame it was,” he said. “But I also know how we went undefeated in the regular season and how hard it is to do that every week if you don’t keep perspective and you get too high or get too low.”
Right now, at No. 9, the Frogs are pretty high.
“That’s why I love the pyramid,” Patterson said. “You put the purpose up, you see what you’ve accomplished, what you haven’t accomplished. The road map becomes very simple, and it keeps you very focused in. And you can’t really look past that or bad things happen to you.”
TOUGH ROAD AHEAD
TCU’s remaining games against teams with winning records:
|Sat.||at No. 5 Baylor (5-0)|
|Oct. 18||vs. No. 16 Okla. St. (4-1)|
|Nov. 1||at West Virginia (3-2)|
|Nov. 8||vs. No. 17 Kansas State (4-1)|