Texas To Face Off With TCU

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Three 11-win seasons the past four years. A five-game winning streak against the Big 12. A perennial Top 25 team.

After all that, No. 19 TCU now has a chance to get everybody's attention and prove the Horned Frogs are legitimate Bowl Championship Series contenders.

The Frogs play at No. 7 Texas on Saturday night, the first meeting between the schools in 12 years and the ultimate measuring-stick game for a TCU program that has become one of the most consistent in the country with little fanfare.

"We know if we play well, or win, that we gain some more ground of where we're trying to get to as a program," coach Gary Patterson said. "But I don't think our kids will be happy if we just play well. I think we're past that point as a program."

The Frogs (1-0) certainly don't have to prove themselves against the league that shunned them when the Southwest Conference disbanded. Starting with TCU's 2005 opener at Oklahoma, five Big 12 opponents have averaged less than nine points per game in losses to the Frogs.

"If we don't win, let that be a surprise," safety David Roach said. "We don't feel like an underdog."

TCU, which has a nine-game winning streak, has four conference titles (in three different leagues) the past eight years. Only Oklahoma, LSU and Boise State can match TCU with three 11-win seasons since 2003, and only Southern California has more.

"TCU is every bit good enough to be in the Big 12," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "They have earned the right to be considered one of the best teams in the country. ... I really feel like college football hasn't been fair to TCU. They have been as successful as Boise State over the last five years."

Except Boise State managed to do what TCU hasn't: go undefeated and get into the BCS.

Boise State became only the second team from outside the automatic qualifying conferences to get play in the big-money games, then beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. The original BCS buster was Utah in 2004, when the Mountain West champion Utes beat Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl to finish a perfect season.

"They have a team that, if everything happens right for them, could be the Utah or Boise State and run the table," Brown said.

TCU had two chances to crash the BCS party before Boise State and Utah.

The Frogs were 10-0 in 2003 before a loss to Southern Miss. With LaDainian Tomlinson at tailback in 2000, they were 7-0 before a loss at San Jose State.

"The past few years, there has always been that one or two games that's kept us from having a really, really good season," standout defensive end Chase Ortiz said. "We've had a couple of slip-ups in the past. We're trying to keep a level head."

The Frogs followed their 17-7 victory over Oklahoma with a loss to rival SMU, then didn't lose again until the next season. That 13-game winning streak included holding the prolific passing offense of Texas Tech, another former SWC rival, without a touchdown.

The last time Texas and TCU played was 1995, the final SWC season when the Longhorns won for the 27th time in 28 meetings to extend their series lead to 60-20-1. There are no future games scheduled.

In the final minutes of the season-opening 27-0 victory Saturday over former SWC rival Baylor, TCU students chanted "We Want Texas!" Many already had "Beat Texas" T-shirts that were being sold on the school's Web site even before the Baylor game.

The aftermath of the Oklahoma game, the biggest upset for the Frogs since beating No. 1 Texas 6-0 in 1961, taught Patterson a hard lesson.

Allowing the fans to share the excitement, the Frogs held a public practice inside the stadium the following day and the box office was open for fans clamoring to buy tickets.

"We turned it into a circus. And guess what, that's exactly the way we played the next Saturday against SMU," Patterson said. "We went 11-1 and possibly cost ourselves a BCS berth."

Win or lose in Austin, Patterson will turn his attention to the MWC opener only five nights later at Air Force. If the Frogs beat Texas, don't expect any extended celebratory outbursts from the coach -- at least publicly.

"Even if I feel that way inside, you will not hear me say that outside," Patterson said. "We all know what it will be like if we win. The key to it is, after the game is over with, how are you going to deal with it."

They hope -- no, expect -- to have that problem again Saturday.


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