TCU coach Gary Patterson has a straightforward approach to non-conference play.
“You have to have a good business plan,” Patterson said. “I understand the financial model. I understand everything. Here’s what I do – winning breeds success. Simple.”
That’s why Patterson offers no apologies for scheduling a school such as Southern, a Division I-AA program, to start the season. Hey, Southern is better than, say, the Little Sisters of the Poor.
TCU rolled to an easy 55-7 victory on Saturday. That game generated little buzz on college football’s opening weekend with marquee matchups such as Auburn-Washington and Notre Dame-Michigan taking place on Saturday, and LSU-Miami on Sunday night at AT&T Stadium.
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But Patterson and TCU have a primetime game on the horizon against Ohio State on Sept. 15. That’s the game everybody has been talking about for the Frogs.
Patterson is trying to stay focused on SMU this week, but made it a point to defend his non-conference schedule during his media availability on Tuesday.
Patterson pointed to the number of injuries that occurred in those higher-profile games between ranked teams. Washington lost its left tackle, Trey Adams, for most of the season to a back injury. Adams is considered one of the top left tackles in college.
LSU, meanwhile, will be without edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson (ACL) the rest of the season. LSU also will be without right tackle Adrian Magee (knee) for a few weeks.
“Everybody says you have to play big games and all I’m reading in the newspapers today, fellas, is all the players who played in those big games are out for the season,” Patterson said. “You guys all want these special games to play, but the bottom line is you need to get your team ready to play.
“You go win ballgames, get your team ready, then you go play your conference schedule and get ready to go.”
Patterson has always kept a similar philosophy when it comes to non-conference games. He feels you should schedule a winnable game; a 50-50 game; and a “stretch” game.
For TCU this season, Southern was the winnable game. SMU may fall into the “winnable” category by most measures, but Patterson puts it in the “50-50” since it’s a rivalry game. And then Ohio State is the “stretch” game.
Patterson reminded those gathered that the Ohio State matchup wasn’t his idea.
During the 2010 season, if you recall, Ohio State president Gordon Gee famously said the TCUs and Boise States didn’t deserve a spot in the BCS title game because of its opponents.
“We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor,” Gee said.
Shortly after, TCU beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and TCU alumni posted billboards in Columbus, Ohio that read: “Congratulations to TCU for their BCS Rose Bowl Victory,” with it signed by, “Little Sisters of the Poor.”
Chris Del Conte, the TCU athletics director at the time, negotiated a home and home series with Ohio State afterward.
Patterson said he wasn’t consulted on the matter, but had always wanted to play Ohio State. He thought it made the most sense to do it as a one-off at AT&T Stadium rather than a true home-and-home. After all, each school is making $5 million from the game and Patterson feels it makes sense from a football perspective from preventing a possible early-season loss two straight years.
Patterson reiterated that he’s in favor of playing these “stretch” games. He just doesn’t want to schedule more than one considering the competitiveness within the Big 12.
“I’m not going to play three Ohio States,” Patterson said. “Oklahoma and Ohio State? The loser of that game is basically out of the playoffs. We already play Oklahoma and Texas and everybody else in the Big 12.
“If you play three preseason games like that [against Ohio State], I think you put your team in harm’s way.”
Still, for a school such as TCU, the non-conference schedule could have significant implications in the long run. In 2014, TCU was notoriously snubbed out of the College Football Playoff.
That season, TCU won its “stretch” game against Minnesota on the road. If that would’ve been Ohio State or a higher-profile program, maybe TCU doesn’t get left out.
“Might,” Patterson said, “Not if you got beat then we wouldn’t have had a chance. Lost to them [the higher-profile school] and to Baylor? Then you weren’t even part of the conversation.
“You have to have a good business plan.”
A good business plan starts and ends with winning football games. That is more important than anything else.
Patterson doesn’t know if TCU would be in the position it is had it scheduled three SEC schools, or Pac-12 schools, or Big Ten schools for non-conference games in its non-Power Five days. Instead, the Frogs went the route of scheduling one “stretch” game and putting together winning season after winning season.
It paid off when the Big 12 opened its doors to them six years ago.
“I don’t think we’d be sitting where we’re sitting right now,” Patterson said.