Mac Engel

TCU thriving again as college football UnderFrogs

TCU running back Darius Anderson, right, ran for 160 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-31 upset of No. 6 Oklahoma State.
TCU running back Darius Anderson, right, ran for 160 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-31 upset of No. 6 Oklahoma State. AP

TCU has one ranked opponent remaining on its schedule and, as of Saturday night, it can have everything it wants, up to and including winning the Big 12.

Or at least appearing in the inaugural Big 12 title game. All the Frogs must do is finish second.

“We’re not even thinking about that,” TCU safety Nick Orr said.

Give TCU football coach Gary Patterson ample credit here; not only does he coach his players to play well on the field, but to lie to the media just as effectively.

This is a coach who before the season draws a pyramid of goals, which includes winning the conference, and making the college football playoff, etc.

And now, somehow, they’re not even thinking about that, yet they see this pyramid of goals in every team meeting.

The TCU football players are human, and after the Frogs’ 44-31 win at No. 6 Oklahoma State, they are going to hear it. Because it’s true.

Because every time any of us, be it in the media or in the stands, bets against TCU and this coach, he proves us wrong. Because TCU is back to what made the Horned Frogs a national brand.

TCU has another good team, bound to be overlooked, that has every single possible scenario within its plausible reach. This team can reach the Big 12 title game, win the Big 12, and go to the College Football Playoff.

It’s possible because TCU’s head coach put OSU’s head coach over his knee and spanked him several times.

On Saturday afternoon, with the director of the College Football Playoff in attendance, 16th-ranked TCU rolled to its most impressive Big 12 win to date, 44-31 at No. 6 Oklahoma State.

Yes, this win was bigger than TCU’s win against then No. 4 Oklahoma in Fort Worth; the Sooners were not that good, and they fell apart immediately after that game.

TCU out-played NFL-bound Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph and his buddies from the start, and are now in an ideal position for a steady crawl up the polls with a 4-0 record that includes road wins at Arkansas and now T. Boone State.

“TCU’s always been the underdog,” quarterback Kenny Hill said. “I guess we get over-looked but we don’t pay attention to it.”

Another lie; all of these players know what is said or written about them. Every word. So does their coach.

Just as they all knew they were double-digit underdogs to Oklahoma State, they knew they were picked to finish fifth, behind Texas (of course) in the Big 12 in the preseason poll. BTW: Okie State was picked to finish second behind Oklahoma.

“We wanted to be relevant,” GP said after the game. “That’s what you want to do. You want to win enough ballgames that people take notice.”

People don’t ignore wins by double digits at the No. 6 team in the nation. Nor should they.

TCU is in this position because the team is solid at virtually every position, and because of a head coach who simply does better when he is convinced, and can convince his players, that no one thinks they are good enough.

And TCU is in this position because the offensive coordinator modified the “Air Raid,” which worked so well under quarterback Trevone Boykin, after finding that it is not the best way to win a game with Kenny Hill.

At least three times after the game, OSU coach Mike Gundy said his team was “out-coached.”

It helped that Oklahoma State was without the starting right side of its offensive line due to injury, but Gundy is right. He got whipped.

TCU’s offensive line is as good as it has ever been under Patterson, the running game is rolling, and the quarterback is not beating his own team. Those are the components that made the Horned Frogs so good for so long.

The whole “Air Raid” shtick in Fort Worth is not dead, but close. As my mother would say, “And that’s a good thing.”

TCU ran the ball 52 times against Oklahoma State, and had the ball for nearly 40 minutes. The Frogs are running the ball more than 44 times per game this season, have converted an absurd 63 percent of their third downs, and are plus-2 in turnover margin.

“It’s nice to have a running game,” said Hill, who had no running game last season.

Handing the ball off to Darius Anderson 26 times may be boring, and it’s also just hard to beat. It’s also who this head coach is in his bones.

As evidenced by the four turnovers TCU forced on Saturday, Patterson has a defensive line that can pressure, secondary players who can cover, and linebackers who can play in space. He has athletes who can play.

He has a good team that, for the next two weeks, is going to read and hear how good they are, and that they are a “surprise” team.

Fair or not, that’s just the way of life for TCU; any time the Frogs are good, it’s “a surprise.”

“If we are stupid enough to listen to everybody tell us how good we are, we’re going to be in trouble,” GP said.

Well, these are college kids. Stupid tends to happen to such animals.

They’re going to hear it, and now the question is how they deal with it.

TCU has road games remaining at Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma. The only way for TCU to reach the College Football Playoff is to go undefeated. We learned that in 2014.

Four games into a season that included road games at Arkansas and Oklahoma State, the Frogs are undefeated. You don’t ignore that.

It’s a quarter of the way through the season, and the Frogs can still have it all.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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