lblietz@star-telegram.com
lblietz@star-telegram.com

TCU

No. 9 TCU is off to a fast start. But can the Frogs afford to stumble?

By Carlos Mendez

cmendez@star-telegram.com

September 28, 2017 12:34 PM

TCU is out of the gates fast in the Big 12.

Their win last week at Oklahoma State put the Horned Frogs (4-0) in an advantageous position because it was on the road and it was against a contender. In a season with more conference road games (five) than home (four), it was a valuable win.

Now, can the ninth-ranked Frogs afford a stumble?

Sure, figures coach Gary Patterson, thanks to the Big 12 championship game.

“The one thing I didn’t think about, by adding a championship game, you get a mulligan,” he said Tuesday at a bye week press conference. “You get a chance to get in the championships game. You just have to be No. 2.”

That doesn’t mean Patterson wants to be No. 2. Of course, he wants to win every game.

Now every team has a layer of protection — the mulligan — thanks to the championship game.

“Yes, you want to win it outright,” Patterson said. “You want to have the wins you want to have.”

But even for a team carrying a loss, reaching and winning the championship game means a strong shot at the College Football Playoff.

“A lot of you guys talk to me about the playoffs, so I’ll just say this to you,” Patterson said. “It’s easy for a coach to have hindsight, and the hindsight would be, if you have an undefeated team, you wouldn’t want a championship game. If you had teams that each had a loss or something going on, then you need to play the ballgame.”

Patterson was lukewarm on the idea of a championship game when it was proposed, because of the potential of the underdog to knock the favorite out of the CFP picture. But he has always favored the league’s round-robin schedule. He appreciates the difficulty of beating one team twice.

It’s too early to tell what kind of position the Frogs will be in come December. But there’s no doubt TCU — plus Oklahoma and West Virginia, also 1-0 in the Big 12 —already has a leg up in the race for one of the top two spots. Texas or Iowa State will join the 1-0 club after their game Thursday night in Ames. Kansas State and Texas Tech play their conference openers Saturday.

TCU has a 23 percent chance to win the conference and is favored in every matchup the rest of the season except Oklahoma, according to a Washington Post analysis.

Patterson puts it more simply.

“For us, right now, any time you can gain one more in the left column instead of the right column, the better off you are,” he said. “We feel very lucky that we sit where we are. Played two really tough ballgames on the road. I think you’ll find out that SMU, and I’ve said this before, is really, really good on offense and skill positions. I think you’re going to see them win a lot of ballgames.”

The same could be said of the Frogs. And they have a mulligan.

Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez

TCU vs. West Virginia

7:30 p.m. Oct 7, FS1

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