TCU coach Gary Patterson has stuck with a similar message in his career when it comes to preseason rankings – overstate and underplay.
“The easiest saying I can have is, ‘We’re either spending our whole time proving them wrong or proving them right,’” Patterson said after a Fort Worth Chamber luncheon earlier this week.
“If you do that, then you’re going to give yourself a chance to be successful and you’re not going to say things you shouldn’t say.”
So Patterson has tried to downplay outsiders’ lofty expectations for TCU’s this offseason.
Most feel the Horned Frogs are a Top 10 team going into the season, and they are now ranked as the third-best team in the Big 12, according to the preseason poll released Thursday afternoon by the conference voted on by media members who cover the conference regularly.
Oklahoma, the reigning conference champions, is the preseason favorite to repeat. West Virginia, with returning quarterback Will Grier, is picked second, followed by TCU.
Texas is picked to finish fourth followed by Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Baylor and Kansas.
The Sooners received 46 first-place votes, WVU and KSU each picked up 2, and TCU and Texas got 1 each.
Asked how he tempers expectations, Patterson said: “The problem is, you’d like to be real, but you also have recruiting. Kids listen to the unreal stuff, so how do you do a fine line where you’re not too unpositive, too critical of what you need to do and then also you’re not too positive that you’re giving people false expectations?
“So, for me through the years, I’ve always tried to do is overstate/underplay.”
TCU is coming off an 11-3 season in which it defeated Stanford in the Alamo Bowl. The Horned Frogs started last season ranked outside the top-25 before finishing as the No. 9 team in the country.
Patterson feels this year’s team should have similar preseason expectations, but acknowledged it’s difficult with an early-season primetime game against Ohio State.
“This year we’re younger, we probably need to be ranked 65th, but we have potential to move to nine instead of starting there,” Patterson said. “You can’t have a ballgame against a No. 2 ranked team, Ohio State,and be a game of the week if it’s No. 2 against No. 65. So just always remember how the media portrays things.
“It’s my job to either prove them wrong or prove them right.So last year it was my job to prove them wrong because they picked us 65th. This year, because they’re picking us so high, it’s my job to prove them right.”
Patterson paused and then joked: “My wife says I should try to do that at home.”
Even if Patterson is skeptical of the preseason rankings, it is deserved. The Horned Frogs led the Big 12 in scoring defense last year, limiting opponents to 19 points a game and 5.07 yards a play.
They return standout pass rusher Ben Banogu, who had 8.5 sacks, and have other standouts such as linebacker Ty Summers.
Offensively, quarterback Shawn Robinson is expected to take the helm with returning receivers in Jalen Reagor, KaVontae Turpin and Jaelan Austin. The running back corps features Darius Anderson, who rushed for 768 yards and eight rushing TDs last season, as well as Sewo Olonilua and freshman Fabian Franklin.
Oh, and Patterson remains one of the most respected coaches in the country. He was named to the watch list for the 2018 Dodd Trophy, recognizing the nation’s top football coach.
He’s won 22 national coach of the year honors in his career,including the 2009 Dodd Trophy.
Once again, though, Patterson isn’t interested in preseason praise as he told the group Wednesday.
“It seems like when everyone says we’re not any good, it seems like that’s when our guys bow up,” Patterson said. “It’s really not what I tell them, so if I can get the newspapers to write bad things every day, we’ll play a lot better. Don’t say anything good about what we do and how we do it. Just, hey, they need to throw it better, they need to tackle better, they need to do the rest of it better.
“But … it’s been a lot of fun [working with this year’s team]. It’s a great group.”