One more week, one more game, one more win.
A spot in the first College Football Playoff is so tantalizingly close for the TCU Horned Frogs, they may have to think about it now.
“The goal here is just to win,” safety Chris Hackett said Tuesday, hours before the release of the latest rankings, when he was asked if the team needs to win convincingly against Iowa State on Saturday. “I think it’ll benefit us if we were to do something like that. But to be honest, I just want to win.”
It is the same thing the Horned Frogs have been saying all season.
Since they opened eyes with an upset over Oklahoma to start the conference season, since they trudged off the field in heartbreak at Baylor a week later, since they scored 82 points against Texas Tech, since they eased up on the gas in the second half against Kansas State, since they left Kansas shivering and barely alive.
No matter the week, no matter the situation, the Horned Frogs — whose convincing 38-point win at Texas last week vaulted them to No. 3 in the playoff rankings — have said they only wanted to win.
Now they have to tell themselves that for one more week.
“I think we have proven we can be one of those top teams that can be up there at the top of the conference,” said Hackett, a junior who leads the team with six interceptions. “I think we still have some proving to do, and that leads to Iowa State.”
Iowa State has not won a conference game. TCU is favored big.
That’s why the Horned Frogs have to tell themselves to just win.
“They beat us here two years ago, and it was a close ballgame last year,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “They moved the ball on Baylor really well. They took Texas to the wire. They know how to play on the road. We’re going to try to win the ballgame, period. That’s what we’re going to try to get done.”
The Frogs managed to avoid being sunk by by the Oct. 11 loss at Baylor, or by the debate surrounding their qualifications for the playoff versus Baylor’s.
“I don’t think that game has dragged us down,” Hackett said. “After that week was over with, it was on to the next.”
It is the drill instilled in the Frogs by Patterson. He is always saying he is fine with winning by one point. When the Frogs tell themselves the same thing, it perhaps takes the pressure off to win by more.
“I use this quote all the time — it starts with the coaches,” Hackett said. “We’ve got great coaches that keep us level-headed, who let us know what we have ahead of us, going into each week prepared. As players, we’re listening and doing everything that we need to do.”
Patterson needs to squeeze one more week of focus out of his team. It actually hasn’t been hard for him. He said this team has gotten itself ready every week, except perhaps for Kansas. Even after the tearful Baylor loss, he said the Frogs were ready to go the next week.
“We didn’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves,” Patterson said. “We had an Oklahoma State team we hadn’t beat coming into town that was ranked 15th in the nation.”
Now they have an Iowa State team with nothing to lose coming to town.
The Frogs have to “just win” one more time.
One more week.
“We’ve just got to go finish our journey, and then we’ve got to see how it happens,” Patterson said.