By starting 4-0, TCU gained a spot in the national picture.
The Horned Frogs enter October with a perfect nonconference record, including a home win against a good FBS team and a road win against a Power Five team.
They also own a victory at a top 15 team.
Their 1-0 start in the Big 12 keeps them in the running for a spot in the league championship game, with room for error.
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A path is being cleared to the College Football Playoff.
The Frogs and coach Gary Patterson don’t like to talk about it. They are better served looking at only the game ahead of them. They think six wins first, then winning record, then conference championship, then beyond.
But starting 4-0 rather than 3-1, exceeding Patterson’s goal, puts TCU in the running for the beyond — for the top of the pyramid.
“You guys see this?” Patterson said to reporters Tuesday, pointing to a pyramid of goals on the wall in the team meeting room.
The Horned Frogs thrust themselves into the Big 12 and national scene with a 44-31 victory in Stillwater, where they had not won since 1991.
He pointed to a small shaded area that represented the victory at Oklahoma State.
“See all the rest that’s white? There’s a lot of work to do,” Patterson said. “That’s why I put up the pyramid, to be honest with you. Every Sunday we walk in as a team. Everything we accomplished, we put in purple.”
A fully shaded pyramid is the goal. It would mean winning it all.
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“The bottom of it is the foundation, what you have to accomplish,” Patterson said. “And then you have the things we need to get done. The third level is nonconference opponents. The fourth level is conference opponents at home. The fifth level is conference opponents on the road.”
And so on. Bowl game, Big 12 championship, playoff game, national championship.
“It basically gives you a road map,” Patterson said.
What’s next on the map?
Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. home game against No. 23 West Virginia, complete with a visit from ESPN’s College GameDay, then a game at once-beaten Kansas State.
After that are games against Kansas and Iowa State, teams with a 3-5 combined record.
November brings a home game against surging Texas in a series where TCU has won the past three meetings by a combined score of 129-36, then visits to Oklahoma and Texas Tech in back-to-back weeks.
After all that, the season finale on Black Friday at home against Baylor.
TCU is 15-9 on the road in Big 12 games. Two seasons ago, they won in four of the same six Big 12 stadiums they visit this season.
“Kansas is already better. Baylor is getting better. Texas is getting better,” Patterson said. “Everybody in this league is doing what they’re supposed to do.”
That includes TCU, the Big 12’s best rushing and third-down offense and No. 2 overall defensive team. The Frogs have risen to No. 8 in the AP Top 25 and No. 10 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. They are putting more and more distance between them and last year’s 6-7 record.
Their path is out there.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Patterson said. “There’s a lot of good football teams ahead of us.”
No. 8 TCU vs. No. 23 West Virginia
2:30 p.m. Saturday, FS1