Ho-hum. Another TCU team is back in college football’s Top 10.
The Horned Frogs have been there, done that, and there’s a Rose Bowl trophy in the vestibule to prove it.
The point is, the Top 10’s fickle seas are far from uncharted waters for TCU coach Gary Patterson.
He knows the routine. He knows the practice schedule. He knows where the pirates hide.
But Patterson took my question Tuesday about the challenges of coaching a Top 10 team and answered with a mini-defense of the Frogs’ pre-Big 12 pedigree.
“Every year is different,” he said. “The biggest thing is to manage them. If there’s any difference in this conference and the conferences we were in before, it’s how you practice.”
The mission, he said without naming any specific conference by name, is not to just be good for three weeks of the season, but rather every week.
Having a now-air-conditioned indoor facility — and not being too proud to use it — has helped keep the Frogs fresh, Patterson said.
“The Baylor game, where they had to play 116 snaps, a younger Gary Patterson might not have changed anything at all,” he said. “But we really cut back. Didn’t do any running. Cut out any good-on-good work against the offense. Just got ready for Oklahoma State.”
Patterson, indeed, ought to have a Top 10 routine by now. Since taking over as head coach in December 2000, Patterson has coached 26 games with TCU ranked in The Associated Press Top 10.
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The Frogs are 23-3 in those games and, including the loss to Baylor this season, when TCU has been ranked 10th or better, it is 5-2 against Top 25 opponents.
Who, besides Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, has more experience coaching a Top 10 team?
This rocket ride into the national playoff picture, however, came as a surprise to most. The new neighbors in the Big 12 knew all about Patterson’s defense when the Frogs joined the conference three years ago.
But the TCU offense needed a transplant — or, at minimum, a face-lift.
“Oh, it was bad. There was no in-between,” he said Tuesday.
New coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham have performed what many in college football thought was impossible. Not only have they transformed Patterson’s offense, but they’ve also converted Patterson, the guy whose only previous idea of a good offense was one that didn’t screw things up for his defense.
“I think people are just in shock that I let them do it,” Patterson said. “All I heard, from people behind the scenes, was, ‘There’s no way he’s going to let them do it. He’s been doing it too long.’ ”
The play-calling, however, and the ongoing development of Trevone Boykin, B.J. Catalon, Josh Doctson and all the receivers has translated into a Top 10 makeover.
“When you’re going into a ballgame,” Patterson said, “and you know you’re going to score points, as a head coach and a defensive guy, that’s all you can ask. If you’re having to hold them to 14 in this conference, you’re going to get a lot more white hair.”
The Frogs are averaging 45.2 points a game.
“Knowing you can score 30 or 40 points makes a lot of difference calling the other side of the ball,” Patterson continued. “Less blitzing. You don’t have to make as many things happen. We were able to play our corners different last week to handle the vertical routes.
“Whether people believe it or not, I’m just about winning.”
It was Patterson’s weekly “win-by-one-point” lesson.
Patterson has continued to preach it, even with his team’s new souped-up offense.
He knows, though, that at No. 10 in the nation, the highest ranked team in the Big 12, the season’s stakes just got higher.
But of all coaches in Texas, Gary Patterson knows the routine.