Dalton, TCU Hopes Memories Not Soured by BCS

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    On a recent Sunday in an empty stadium, TCU senior quarterback Andy Dalton stood alone at midfield.

    "Just thought about all the memories that I've had," said Dalton, a four-year starter and the winningest active FBS quarterback. "It's been a lot of fun. It's kind of weird to think it's about to end."

    The fourth-ranked Horned Frogs (11-0, 7-0 Mountain West), first-time BCS busters last year, can clinch their second consecutive undefeated regular season and outright conference title Saturday. They are six-touchdown favorites at New Mexico (1-10, 1-6).

    But even if they win, there could be a bitter ending for Dalton and a senior class that has already tied the school record with 42 wins over four seasons.

    They again could be undefeated without a chance to play for the national championship. And this time, the Frogs could even get left out of the top five bowl games if Boise State (10-0) passes them in the BCS standings.

    "For us to go undefeated and do everything that we can do to get to one of those games and to be left out, that's one of those things obviously we can't control," Dalton said.

    By the time Dalton relayed the story of his solitary reflection this week, there were huge holes in the home grandstands in preparation for a major modernizing renovation of 80-year-old Amon G. Carter Stadium. A wrecking ball was repeatedly bashing against the structure.

    That side of the stadium will be imploded Dec. 5 -- the same day the final BCS standings are released and bowl matchups are announced.

    "We feel we're well-deserving," Dalton said, though he wasn't ready to debate or discuss a system that could wrong the Frogs. "Let us hopefully win this week and let's have this conversation after everything has taken care of itself."

    A lot can change by then, or even before the Frogs play their regular season finale Saturday.

    The other undefeated teams -- Oregon, Auburn and Boise State, the top three teams in the AP poll -- all play Friday, and each has two games left. Oregon and Auburn are also 1-2 in the BCS standings.

    The top-ranked Ducks play No. 20 Arizona on Friday before closing the regular season at Oregon State. Auburn is at No. 9 Alabama, then has the SEC championship game against No. 18 South Carolina.

    Boise State, like the Frogs from a conference without automatic BCS access, is fourth in the BCS standings behind TCU but has narrowed the gap the last two weeks. The Broncos play at 19th-ranked Nevada before hosting Utah State in their finale.

    TCU has won 24 consecutive regular-season games, and 37 of 40 overall. The only losses in that span were to Boise State in last season's Fiesta Bowl, at Oklahoma and at Utah.

    "We're going to try to stay undefeated, try to finish the season on a good note," said TCU senior center Jake Kirkpatrick.

    Dalton goes into his regular-season finale with 40 wins as the starter, four more than Boise State's Kellen Moore for the most among active quarterbacks. That is also 11 more than the previous TCU record "Slingin' Sammy" Baugh had held since the mid-1930s.

    Over his past six games, Dalton has 17 touchdowns with only two interceptions. He is already TCU's career leading passer (61 yards shy of 10,000) and holds the records for touchdowns (67), completions (788) and attempts (1,280).

    Not bad for a player who split time at quarterback as a junior at Katy High School in the Houston area and wasn't heavily recruited by many major schools.

    On his third snap Saturday, Dalton will become the Mountain West career leader for total plays, and needs only 40 yards to become the career total offense leader.

    Yet, the goals that really matter to Dalton are on the well-documented pyramid that hangs prominently in TCU's meeting room.

    With a win over New Mexico, the Frogs can completely color in purple the bottom portion of the pyramid. Then they will have to wait and see if they get a chance to fill in all of the top portion, which includes "Go To BCS Game & WIN" and "No. 1, National Champions" at the peak.

    "If you look up there, before going to a BCS game, before going to a national championship, all that stuff, is to win the conference," Dalton said. "If we can come out and get a win this week, that's what we did, we achieved our goal."

    And they will again have won every regular-season game, quite an accomplishment in itself.

    "A lot of that speaks for itself," Dalton said. "Because a lot of teams haven't been able to do that."