LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - TCU has made a habit of beating up on Big 12 teams over the years. It’s one of the reasons that the program was invited to join the league in the first place.
Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Baylor — all of them and more have been bitten by the Horned Frogs.
The only difference now is that those wins will count toward a conference championship.
The No. 16 Horned Frogs are making their league debut on Saturday at Kansas, and most pundits would agree they couldn’t have picked a better opponent. The Jayhawks were chosen to finish last in the Big 12, and seemed to validate those votes with a loss last Saturday to Rice.
The stunning defeat doesn’t make it easy for TCU coach Gary Patterson to preach to his boys about stepping up in competition, but he’s certainly trying that tactic anyway.
“We’ve played Big 12 people in the past, so we understand what we’ve got to play. We understand it’s a higher level of play on a day-to-day basis,” Patterson said. “So for us, it’s the first one of the next 11 we’ve got to play.”
Maybe his math is a bit off — the Big 12 only has 10 members these days — but his point is still made. Kansas is only the first on the docket, and games against fifth-ranked Oklahoma, No. 15 Kansas State and the rest of the league’s bluebloods are still on the horizon.
Perhaps that’s why Patterson admitted that “you don’t worry about Kansas.”
“What we worry about is what TCU has to do,” said Patterson, who passed Dutch Meyer to become the school’s winningest coach with TCU’s season-opening win over Grambling State.
“Kansas plays very well at home,” Patterson said. “There’s a great chance they were looking past Rice, but they won’t be looking past us.”
That’s certainly true.
The better question is whether TCU will be looking past Kansas.
“Let’s be practical. Let’s just sit there and reflect a second,” Kansas coach Charlie Weis said. “We just lost at home to Rice, I got that right? Blew the game in the fourth quarter, up by two scores. So their coaches are going to come in and say we’re much better than that.
“I’ve been there, trying to tell players the exact same thing,” Weis said. “No matter how much those coaches try telling them, we got by South Dakota State and we lost to Rice.”
Doesn’t exactly strike fear in to the hearts of a Big 12 newcomer.
Junior quarterback Casey Pachall, who is on watch lists for just about every national award, certainly isn’t intimidated by the Jayhawks. This is the same guy who threw for 251 yards and four touchdowns in a shootout loss to Robert Griffin III and Baylor to open last season.
In fact, that loss is one of just four over the past 20 games by TCU against teams from BCS conferences. The loss to the Bears ended a stretch of five straight victories.
“It’s just another opponent, just another team that’s going to be on the field, even though we’re excited that it’s going to be our first Big 12 game,” Pachall said. “Nothing’s going to change with our preparation or our focus or intensity whenever we step on the field.”
Pachall will be facing a Kansas defense that has struggled mightily the first two games of the season, though he’ll be hard-pressed to put up the same kind of numbers that he did in the Horned Frogs’ season opener: 9 of 9 for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
“They made their name on defense,” Weis said, “but they’ve got a couple of home run hitters.”
The Jayhawks do, too.
It’s just that so far they’ve been swinging and missing.
Running backs Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox have been bright spots through an otherwise drab start to the year, but Kansas is still waiting for its own quarterback, Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist, to start playing like the high-profile recruit he was coming out of high school.
The senior has thrown more picks than touchdowns, and is barely completing half his passes.
“We’ve got a ton of respect for TCU. They’re a historic program, they’ve got great coaches and great players, and we’re excited for this opportunity,” Crist said. “We’re not listening to the outside stuff and chatter. We’re focusing on what we have to do.”
That’s the same mantra resonating in the TCU locker room.
“We want to show them that every week, no matter who you’re playing, from the top team to the bottom team, it’s going to be a fight,” Kansas wide receiver Daymond Patterson said, “and we are going to be here to welcome you to the Big 12.”
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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