JENNIFER FLOYD ENGEL: For TCU, it’s win or go to the Poinsettia Bowl…

Pick Six BCS College Football


TCU coach Gary Patterson lets others worry about a pity party, while he remains focused on winning.


engelThe news of Utah scoring a golden Pac-10 ticket, the welcoming of proven BcS buster Boise State, the brazen stupidity of BYU, none of it really matters. For coach Gary Patterson and his TCU Horned Frogs, the season always boils down to a simple formula.

Win. Or go to the Poinsettia Bowl.

“For us, you know how it is,” Patterson said a couple of days ago, “you just got to win every year.”

If this sounds like a pity party, you do not know CGP. The dude abhors debates on what is fair and instead focuses on what is. He leaves the feeling sorry for TCU to folks like me, and I do. I feel bad for TCU and Boise State and all of the non-AQ schools told, “Hey, if you are perfect and force our hand, we’ll probably let you go to a lesser BcS bowl and really only then to avoid any legal or congressional interference. Of course, we’ll demean the achievement by talking about your schedule or attendance. And if you lose, we’ll say, ‘I told you so.'” It is what is, and it is anything but fair.

TCU, specifically, has done everything right since not being invited to join the Big 12 — fundraising, facilities, recruiting, winning — and just when it looks as if its conference is on the cusp of AQ status — poof! — Utah gets an offer it can’t refuse and BYU goes stupid, and TCU is back on the outside looking in and wondering what it has to do to change its fate.

Not that Patterson buys that the Mountain West was close to AQ status anyway.

“If they decide to make us an automatic-qualifying conference, it is because they have to, because a lawsuit, antitrust, whatever,” he said. “It’s not because they want to, because it is all about money.”

And so, unlike most of the Top 25 teams who kick off their seasons this weekend, TCU knows it has to go undefeated, starting with beating No. 24 Oregon State tonight at JerryWorld, to have even the tiniest chance of playing for a fake national championship.

It is actually easier this way. The Frogs know exactly what it is going to take to be included, and realize undefeated might not be enough. The change now is nobody is arguing TCU does not belong. They are so legit it hurts.

“For the longest time, we were always trying to prove everyone wrong,” Frogs wide receiver Curtis Clay said. “Now, I think our goal is to prove everyone right, that we do belong with those top-level teams.”

Gone also is TCU’s spot as the lovable little underdog.

This is proven by the fact Oregon State was the fourth Pac-10 school approached about playing TCU, and the only one that said yes. You know you have arrived when UCLA says, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

About the only people rooting for TCU, or Boise State, for that matter, are the proponents of a playoff, us hardy college football fans rooting for chaos as a means to an end. In the big conferences, with the big boys, there is a feeling that TCU or Boise State may infringe on the money the BcS blowhards are convinced is rightfully theirs and not to be shared. It is a sign of respect really.

“I think people are really starting to buy into TCU and really we’ve gotten a lot of national attention,” QB Andy Dalton said. “People are really starting to see us and see how we play football.”

This is obvious nationally, with the Frogs starting the season ranked No. 6. But Patterson said the respect is slower to come right here in Texas.


“I think we have a lot more respect outside the state of Texas than we do in,” Patterson said.

That seems strange, right? It should be the other way.

“It’s because people don’t want TCU to get better,” he said.

It goes back to the haves and have-nots, and really can you blame the big boys? Who among us likes to share? It is why the Mountain West was becoming such a headache. It was starting to crank out undefeated teams like Utah, then TCU, who were making it harder and harder to make the argument that they did not belong.

It all seemed so tantalizingly close as the Big 12 veered toward implosion. But the big blow never happened, just little ones that led to Utah jumping ship and ensuing BYU jealousy leading it down the path of stupid.

The BYUs are touchy on this topic, jumping anybody and everybody who do not sign off on its move for football independence. It is a good program. It also just did something really dumb. It has few scheduling guarantees, no bowl tie-in, absolutely no BcS guarantee and sold this as progress.

BYU’s thinking reminds me of a four-margarita night. It seems like a good idea at the time, “Hey, let’s ditch this rotten Mountain.” It is not going to look so good when the inevitable consequences show up. Because the Mountain, warts and all, was starting to make a dent.

Now TCU starts where it always does. Having to be perfect to have a chance.

It is not fair. It is what is.

“Like everything in life, when you do not start as the favorite, you’ve got to prove yourself to get to the point to get a chance to go to the dance,” Patterson said. “And so, for us and Boise, it is the same.”

Win. Or see each other in the Poinsettia Bowl.

Jennifer Floyd Engel,


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