“Just win by one point.”
That decidedly modest mission statement isn’t hanging in coach Gary Patterson’s TCU locker room, but you can be assured his Horned Frogs have heard it.
And heard it. And heard it. And heard it.
Yet, a new day apparently has dawned in college football. Winning by one point remains a laudable objective, but winning by one exclamation point would be better.
Does his team still embrace the “win by one point” philosophy, I asked Patterson at his weekly media luncheon Tuesday?
“Oh, I think they did at West Virginia,” Patterson answered. “Do we all like the other part? Even Gary Patterson likes the other part a lot better.”
He was trying to say that all last-second field goals aside, he would rather win 82-27 each week, and so would his players.
“But I think they understand there’s an undertone of ‘do what we have to do,’ ” Patterson said, “and I think you should always keep that on your football team to make sure you can finish if the game’s not going the way you need it to go.”
Like on a dank, wet day in Morgantown, W.Va., three weeks ago when the Frogs found themselves down by two touchdowns in the third quarter. Or like a cold afternoon at Kansas, when the football kept caroming and deflecting the underdogs’ way.
“I think that’s the whole key,” Patterson said. “Several people that watched the TV told me that’s what our sideline looked like at West Virginia. Nobody looked like they were panicking — coaches, players, anybody else.
“It was kind of ‘stay in the ballgame, do what you need to do,’ and we found a way to win there at the end.”
Even the best teams in college football have been backed into a corner at some point this season, especially away from home. Look at the minefield that Florida State has tiptoed to stay undefeated.
Alabama, listed at No. 1 in the latest College Football Playoff poll, has trailed in the fourth quarter three times this season — at Ole Miss, Arkansas and LSU — and was locked in a seven-point game with West Virginia with eight minutes to go.
It’s been more like perception control, and the playoff committee’s perception this week appears to be that Alabama is the hottest team from the nation’s toughest conference. Hence, I suppose, the Tide is No. 1.
(Note to the committee: TCU and Baylor can beat any team in the Southeastern Conference this season. Any of them. Trust me on this.)
The Frogs remained at No. 5 in the CFP voting results announced Tuesday night. Ohio State and Baylor trail at Nos. 6 and 7, respectively.
While unchanged, the rankings appear to be yet-another clear look into the CFP group’s thinking. If none of the top four lose again, I believe those are the four teams in the playoff.
If one of the top four loses, all other things remaining equal — i.e., the Frogs, Buckeyes and Bears all win out — the replacement order has been established.
Baylor, in other words, got absolutely no boost in the vote from beating Oklahoma State by 21. TCU was idle — the Frogs didn’t have to beat anybody — and still held onto its No. 5 bubble spot.
The Bears, therefore, shouldn’t expect to climb in the committee’s eyes after they score 90 or so Saturday against Texas Tech. They probably have to hope that at least three teams ahead of them lose over the next two weeks — a large, but not impossible, order — if they want to sneak into the final four.
Head to head? That boat sailed down the Brazos weeks ago. Read what the committee’s votes are telling you.
Over the final two weeks, it’s true that a narrow, hard-earned victory may suffice for some of the top seven teams.
But don’t leave it all to the scoreboard.
Don’t just win by one point. Win by one exclamation point.