Mac Engel

TCU can beat Oklahoma State, but not with the SMU game version

Bring on The Mullet, Eskimo Joe’s and the orange-painted hell that is T. Boone State.

TCU is through its first three games of 2017 undefeated and now much of its season will be determined next Saturday in Stillwater. Not all of it, but a good chunk.

A close game in Stillwater and TCU can start thinking about the Big 12 conference title game, and a decent bowl bid.

A win in Stillwater and everyone can start thinking bigly, like a spot in the top 10, and dream about a shot at the thing that hates TCU more than Baylor — the College Football Playoff.

“You and I will both know more next week,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said on Saturday afternoon.

Here is what we know right now: As evidenced by what Oklahoma State did on Saturday at Pitt, and what TCU did a few hours later against SMU, the Frogs will have to be the best version of itself to have a chance in Stillwater.

If TCU plays the way it did against SMU on Saturday in Stillwater, forget it.

“Oh, no. We won’t,” Patterson said.

It’s probably worth noting that TCU beat SMU 56-36 under a painful sun at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

“That’s a good thing about good programs — you play terrible and win,” Patterson said.

Patterson was quick to say about his team that it should have scored 80.

“We didn’t play very well on either side,” Patterson said. “We scored 56 and didn’t play very well.”

TCU cannot play well and pummel SMU. It can’t do that against an Oklahoma State team that has outscored its three opponents 162-52. Stillwater and Norman are the only two places TCU has not won as a member of the Big 12.

TCU can do this. The Frogs can play with Oklahoma State. Beating T. Boone Pickens’ toy will require more.

“I expect our guys to play a lot better,” Patterson said of his team against Oklahoma State, which defeated TCU 31-6 last November in Fort Worth. “It was 10-6 at halftime. We are a lot better up front. We didn’t have (defensive end) Ty Summers or (linebacker) Sammy Douglas.”

TCU was manhandled in that game last season. At minimum, TCU/OKST should not be a repeat of last season’s bore fest.

Overall, everyone in Froggieland has to be pleased with a 3-0 nonconference record that includes the road win in Arkansas, and a home W against “rival” SMU. The Frogs know they are better than last season’s blah 6-7 record, and that they are good enough to be a Top 20 team.

They know fifth-year senior quarterback Kenny Hill won’t have to worry about losing his job to true freshman Shawn Robinson any time soon, if at all. Against SMU, Hill threw for 365 yards and had almost as many touchdowns (4) as incompletions (six). He also took three sacks and still fights the tendency to try to make a play when none is there.

“You can’t take sacks. Not every play you can make a miracle play,” Patterson said. “Get out of the pocket and throw it away.”

TCU knows it has some serious toys and playmakers in freshmen Jalen Reagor and Kenedy Snell, and a dramatically improved offensive line. Reagor embarrassed every SMU defensive player with his 38-yard touchdown Hail Mary catch at the end of the first half where he outjumped every defender. Easily. Because no SMU defensive player tried to jump with him.

Even though TCU allowed a lot of early yards and scores to SMU in the first quarter, the Frogs know they have a better defense and athletes in the secondary.

In short, TCU has everything to run with Oklahoma State, a team that looks good enough to sweep the Big 12 and make the playoffs.

TCU just can’t play the way it did against SMU.

It can’t have 11 penalties for 94 yards. It can’t take three sacks. It can’t be fooled on the types of trick plays SMU ran early that helped the Ponies take a 19-7 second-quarter lead. Entering the game, TCU had allowed a total of seven points.

TCU can’t fumble the ball three times, and lose all three.

Mistakes are going to happen. College players are going to screw up.

Against OK State, TCU just can’t afford too many.

“We have to start fast is the main thing,” safety Nick Orr said. “We have to be better than we were today.”

TCU can beat Oklahoma State, it just has to be the best version of itself to do it.

Bring on The Mullet.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram