Yes, TCU wants to get back into the national conversation.
Yes, Saturday at Arkansas is a chance to do that.
Yes, it would be a big deal.
If the 23rd-ranked Horned Frogs leave Fayetteville with a victory, they will climb the rankings and put “non-conference Power 5 road win” on their résumé. They would solidify themselves as a Big 12 contender and give the league a shot in the arm.
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No TCU player or coach would mind that.
But not because they would have become a talking point, because they would have won.
“Somebody said, ‘Do you carry the flag for the Big 12?’ ” Patterson said this week. “I carry the flag for TCU. My job is to win ballgames. That’s all I’m worried about. If we can win enough of them, then we’ll be back in the national conversation. If we don’t, we won’t.”
TCU spent the better part of two years in the national conversation. The Frogs missed the College Football Playoff by a whisker in 2014 and started 8-0 in 2015, coming within a two-point conversion at Oklahoma of getting a chance to pull out at least a share of a second consecutive Big 12 title.
Last year, the Frogs were part of no conversation.
Thanks to the team they’re playing on Saturday.
The 41-38 double-overtime loss to Arkansas lowered the Frogs’ profile, and they never elevated it again in going 6-6 and losing their bowl game.
Wouldn’t it be fitting if TCU got the opposite effect this year?
“We don’t really look into all that,” receiver John Diarse said. “We just want to come back 1-0. It’s on the media, on you guys, to talk about where we stand.”
OK. The Frogs stand on the verge of serious contender status, judging from last week alone. Arkansas will be a far stronger test than Jackson State, and it will tell much about the Frogs. It is a test they want.
“If you want to be a Top 25 team, Top 10 team, you’ve got to win big games in non-conference, and we consider Arkansas a big game,” Patterson said.
Patterson especially is eager to see the Frogs in a road environment. Arkansas’ Reynolds Razorback Stadium, now-enclosed and with more seating, is bigger and louder.
“It’s a very, very different atmosphere,” said Diarse, who played at Arkansas in 2014 with LSU. “SEC country is very different. It’s extreme, extreme fan bases, everybody from the top of the stadium to the bottom of the stadium. It’s just a different atmosphere. But the game is still the same.”
Patterson calls this year’s team “more grown up.”
He hasn’t complained much about their approach. Given health and time, he said the Frogs will get better. Whatever Saturday reveals, it probably won’t change his mind about their potential.
“We don’t have very many knuckleheads,” Patterson said. “I think we have a really good group. I think our freshman class is going to make us better, and I think if we can stay healthy as we grow, I think we’re going to keep getting better.
“This is our next step, playing Game 2 in a hostile environment. It’s a great place to play a game, breaking in a new stadium and everything else that’s going on there. For us, we just need to worry about the 11 guys that are on the field and do the things we need to do.”
It might start a conversation.
No. 23 TCU at Arkansas
2:30 p.m. Saturday, KTVT/11
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