Cowboys Classic a statement game for TCU, LSU

TCU coach Gary Patterson noted this week he had read that LSU hopes to make a statement Saturday at AT&T Stadium.

The 12th-ranked Tigers, Patterson explained, aren’t happy with their preseason ranking. They feel dissed.

A win against the Horned Frogs, apparently, would show the experts.

This scenario, with a team carrying the pedigree such as LSU, hoping to prove something against TCU, wouldn’t have occurred as little as two years ago, when the Frogs were still playing in the Mountain West Conference.

But exactly how Patterson computes the chatter coming from Louisiana is another matter.

Sure, you can take pride in your program when a team thinks beating you makes a statement. But what if the statement they intend, and arguably, expect to make, is a big-time butt-kicking?

What if, in the name of the SEC and all its boasting, the Tigers think their statement involves taking the Frogs to the woodshed?

LSU coach Les Miles, publicly at least, is only concerned with escaping the nationally televised Cowboys Classic (8 p.m. kickoff) with a win.

He’s not concerned with making any kind of statement besides one that ends with a Tigers victory.

For Patterson and his Frogs, long the underdogs when it comes to matchups against BCS opponents, the perceived slight, as it has in the past, could work in their favor.

TCU has its two biggest offensive weapons back in quarterback Casey Pachall and running back Waymon James. Both missed most of last season, leaving two freshman replacements to navigate the team’s first season in the Big 12.

If there’s a team that wants to make a statement, if there are players who want to stand up and be counted again, it’s TCU with Pachall and James leading the charge.

“I think it’s our year,” TCU tight end Stephen Bryant said. “We’ve worked hard, we’ve got a bunch of leaders, we’re healthy.

“We went through a ton of adversity last year with people going down and stuff happening and we still stuck right there. There were a few games we missed just by a couple points. That’s a testament to us that even with all that going on we were able to hang with Big 12 teams that have done really well over the years. And that we cannot only hang, but I think we’re going to be a top contender in it.”

And they’ve done just fine against other BCS conferences, too, compiling a 21-10 record against BCS teams since 2002.

“If we come out and show we are able to hang with the SEC teams that are big powerhouses, it’s going to show the Big 12 has a lot more talent than people give it credit for,” Bryant said. “I think the SEC is a great conference. They obviously have great players, it shows in the draft. They’ve earned what they’ve gained.”

For the Frogs, who finished 7-6 in their first season in the Big 12, it’s not necessarily about proving something against the SEC and LSU, but proving something to themselves, that with their full arsenal, they are title contenders.

“We want to prove ourselves regardless,” TCU defensive end Jon Koontz said. “We don’t want to put all our eggs in this basket. It’s the first game of the season, but it’s not our entire season.

“Whatever happens in this game we still have 11 games to play, so we definitely want to prove ourselves, but at the same time that’s not all that it’s about.”

Staying healthy against a strong and physical LSU team has been a theme for Patterson the entire month of August.

With the Big 12 opener at Texas Tech less than two weeks away, the Frogs don’t want a busy training room Sunday morning.

“They make you live up to the big five,” Patterson said of LSU. “You’ve got to block, you’ve got to tackle, you’ve got to be physical, you have to take care of the football, and you’ve got to handle the grind. They’ll make it a three-hour middle drill.”

He respects the teams Miles puts on the field and sees similarities in style. The Tigers finished 10-3 a year ago and have won 41 consecutive nonconference regular-season games dating to 2002. They won the BCS national championship in 2007.

“That’s one of the more exciting things about it, to find out, as a measuring stick of what we’re like and what we need to be,” Patterson said. “They’re fast, they’re big, they’re well-coached. They know how to play at a high level. They try to intimidate you, they try to run over you in the running game, and they have guys that can run by you.

“These are the kinds of games you want to play in. That’s why everybody is excited. They know how to play in this big arena we’re getting ready to go into. We should understand the level. That’s our ambition to get to that point.”

With two vital players back on offense, that could be sooner rather than later.

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