The 2017 TCU football team is starting to spark comparisons to the 2014 TCU football team.
Coach Gary Patterson shrugged.
“Different kids, different people, different time,” he said Tuesday at his midweek press conference. “The only thing I think is the same is I think we were both picked sixth.”
Pretty close. Three years ago, TCU was seventh in the Big 12 preseason media poll. This year, it was fifth.
The similarities, of course, don’t end there.
The 2014 Horned Frogs started 4-0, winning by an average score of 43-14. The 2017 Horned Frogs are 4-0 behind an average score of 48-19.
For both teams, the 4-0 start included an upset.
In 2014, it was TCU defeating No. 3 Oklahoma 37-33 in Fort Worth and moving to No. 9 in the AP Top 25 poll. This year, it was TCU defeating No. 6 Oklahoma State 44-31 on the road, also moving to No. 9 in the AP rankings.
The 2014 team lost its next game, at No. 5 Baylor 61-58, but won out after that, finishing 12-1 with a share of the Big 12 championship and No. 3 in the final AP poll.
After a bye, this year’s now-No. 8 TCU team is host to No. 23 West Virginia on Saturday.
“They both have a toughness to them,” Patterson said of the 2014 team, which started seven seniors, and the 2017, which starts 12. “And I’ve said that. Going into the season, I thought this group did. I thought they were more mature, I thought they liked each other.”
And as in 2014, Patterson wants to squeeze everything out of the 2017 team.
“You want to make sure that you play well on a big stage,” he said. “Like I said, there’s games you’re supposed to win, and then big games take care of themselves. I think this is a big game. They don’t need any added incentive or pressure from me. I just need to get them ready.”
The TCU backfield will be closer to full strength Saturday against West Virginia with the expected return of Kyle Hicks.
The senior running back from Arlington Martin missed the Oklahoma State game with an undisclosed injury and sat out the second half of the previous game, against SMU. He also sat out the season opener against Jackson State after being limited in August practices.
“I hope so, yep,” Patterson said Tuesday when asked if Hicks was expected back in the lineup. “He was out practicing. I think we just have to be smart. I don’t think it needs to be a 20- to 25-carry game with him. I think he just needs to work himself back in, do all of it.”
Hicks led TCU in rushing (1,042 yards), rushing touchdowns (12) and receptions (47) last season, when Patterson called him the team’s best player. He has 23 carries for 128 yards and one touchdown and three catches for 29 yards this season.
Before this season, Hicks had played in all 39 games possible his first three years.
TCU leads the Big 12 in rushing at 232.3 yards per game behind a stable of backs.
Darius Anderson leads the league with six touchdown runs and is fourth with 422 yards. Sewo Olonilua has run for three wildcat-formation touchdowns. Kenedy Snell, KaVontae Turpin and Shaun Nixon have also gotten carries.
Kelsey Patterson is proving to be a recruiter along the lines of her husband, Coach Patterson.
She has enlisted 20 wives of college head football coaches for a fundraising effort to help relief agencies in the Houston area, Florida and Puerto Rico.
“The response was immediate and positive. Everybody wanted to participate,” Mrs. Patterson said. “It was just a matter of being compliant with their universities, and we expect more to join us.”
The project, called “Giving Beyond The Game,” will raise funds through a website and an online auction in November that will include helmets signed by the head coaches of the participating schools, including Auburn, Clemson, Miami, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Stanford, Texas, Washington, West Virginia and TCU.
The online auction opens Nov. 1 and closes Nov. 15.
“We want to make sure the money goes to local charities that are really on the ground doing work,” Mrs. Patterson said.
TCU vs. West Virginia
2:30 p.m. Saturday, FS1