For the first time this season, TCU is not the favorite going into a game. The No. 16 Horned Frogs are 12-point underdogs for their Big 12 opener Saturday at No. 6 Oklahoma State.
This will not come as a shock, but coach Gary Patterson is fine with it.
“I hate to tell you this,” he said Tuesday at his weekly press conference, “but maybe except for Jackson State, I haven’t thought I was favored yet.”
Patterson is not a comfortable front-runner. He needs something to chase, things to work on.
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His coaching friends know this.
“Don’t let him fool you,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “He’s working and burning the midnight oil to try to stop us, and he’ll have his team convinced that he will.”
Last week’s victory against SMU provided plenty of material for Patterson to chew on. The Frogs are 3-0, but nobody needs to be thinking they’re a favorite. At least not around him.
“As a whole front, last week, we decided we weren’t going to have conversations, we weren’t going to communicate, and it looked like it,” Patterson said.
SMU blitzed the Frogs with two touchdowns before the first quarter was halfway done and led 19-7 in the second quarter.
From there, TCU outscored SMU 49-17 en route to a 56-36 victory.
But Patterson saw enough to bother him. No one could convince him his team should be favored in Stillwater, even if it was.
“We didn’t get lined up,” he said of his defensive front. “For whatever reason, I guess they decided they didn’t have to do that against SMU. They found out what that looks like. They need to do a lot better job this week.”
But he’s seen it before.
“We’ve always had one ballgame like that,” he said. “Let’s just hope it’s the only one.”
At a minimum, Patterson and the TCU defenders are hoping for a faster start than last week. The 36 points and 463 yards allowed were both season highs by a mile.
“As a defense, you never want to give up that many points,” cornerback Ranthony Texada said. “We kind of started off slow, but as the game went on, we kind of calmed down and settled into the game plan. We definitely look forward to starting off faster this weekend and starting off better.”
The Frogs’ defense will be undermanned for at least a half. Defensive end Mat Boesen has to sit out the first half because of his targeting ejection in the second half last week.
Ty Summers, coming off a high ankle sprain that has limited him since fall camp, is likely to get a lot of action in the meantime at that position, along with Michael Epley, a former SMU signee who spent last season at Tyler Junior College.
“Epley actually played better than we thought initially,” Patterson said. “I think that was a positive for us, for him, that game. We gained another body that can run around, is bigger. You’ve got to be able to rotate guys in this ballgame.”
TCU is 40-14 in road and neutral-site games since 2009, the second-best record in the nation in that time, and 30-14 in true road games, third-best in the nation in that stretch. The Frogs are 14-9 in Big 12 road games.
They’ve collected seven road wins against AP Top 25 teams since 2009.
Patterson said that, on the road, his players don’t face the pressure of performing for friends and family in the stands.
“Yeah, that’s true,” Texada said, asked if the Frogs really do focus better in away games. “I feel like you kind of have to on the road because when you’re on the road, they’re not cheering for you, so you’ve got to go out there and you’ve got to create your own energy and go out there and get the win. Because it’s hard to win games on the road.”
No. 16 TCU at No. 6 Oklahoma State
2:30 Saturday, ESPN