The second half of the season has arrived, and Gary Patterson knows what comes with it.
“Finally, we get some Kansas weather.”
It will be waiting in Morgantown, W.Va., on Saturday when Patterson, a Kansas native, and the TCU Horned Frogs start another stage of the season — a championship drive, perhaps — with two road games in three weeks.
It is the latest test for the Horned Frogs (6-1, 3-1), who have gone from the lower half of the preseason Big 12 poll to No. 10 in the country with an offense that leads the nation in points per game and a quarterback who has inserted himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation.
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All of it happened in Texas.
In November, the Frogs will have to play their first two games out of state. The first is Saturday in Morgantown, where the high is expected to be 42 and the low 28 for the 2:30 p.m. kickoff. In two weeks, a game awaits in Lawrence, Kan., where Patterson knows the weather in his home state.
So long, friendly confines and familiar heat of home.
“Over the last two years, we’ve played very well on the road,” Patterson said. “This group is mentally tough enough to be able to go play on the road.”
But Saturday’s road game is no ordinary trip.
The winner of the TCU-West Virginia game keeps its shot at the conference championship and plays on national television in prime time next weekend. The loser not only loses a second conference game, but it drops out of the running for the College Football Playoff, the only road to a national championship today.
The Horned Frogs were seventh in the first CFP rankings released Tuesday night.
Not that many of them watched.
“I kid you not,” defensive tackle Chucky Hunter said. “That stuff does not mean anything. Because it changes every week. It matters what happens in December. I might watch it at the beginning of December.”
By December, when the Frogs have finished with the two out-of-state games and the Kansas State game at home and the Thanksgiving night trip to Texas, they will know where they stand. They will either be Big 12 title contenders or not. They will be CFP contenders or not. Boykin will be a Heisman contender or not.
“I don’t know if any of the road games we’ve played so far, except for the Baylor game, would be of more magnitude than this game,” Patterson said of the trip to West Virginia (6-2, 4-1). “But we’re going to take it as the next game and go about our business. And if we do that, then you’ve got a better chance of playing well. Just keep doing what we’ve been doing. Keeping our nose down.”
Hunter has been to Morgantown before. A lot of the players have been to Morgantown before. The crowd, the weather, the ESPN College GameDay atmosphere will not be new to them.
“Our team is more mature than two years ago,” he said. “It doesn’t matter, because we know what to expect.”
TCU has the nation’s fourth-best road record since 2009. A look at the last 10 seasons: