TCU Needs to Keep Last Week's Intensity

TCU is a nearly four-TD fave in game with Mountain West title implications

By STEPHEN HAWKINS
|  Saturday, Nov 13, 2010  |  Updated 12:00 AM CDT
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Iron Skillet Battle 2010

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TCU is a nearly four-touchdown favorite in a game with Mountain West title implications.

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Now comes the real challenge for third-ranked TCU: Match the intensity of the 40-point victory in the big game that has already passed.

A week after the Horned Frogs (10-0, 6-0 Mountain West) won impressively at then-undefeated Utah, they play their home finale Saturday against upstart San Diego State (7-2, 4-1).

"We have to find a way by Saturday to emotionally play at the same peak that we played at last Saturday. There's a lot riding on what can be accomplished," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "They have a lot to prove coming in here, and we have a lot to hold on to."

The Aztecs have their first four-game winning streak since 1998 and have reached seven wins this quickly for the first time since 1977. They had only seven wins their previous 28 games going into this season.

Yet, TCU is still a nearly four-touchdown favorite in a game with Mountain West title implications.

"I've watched them enough to know that if they're not the best, they're one of the best," Aztecs coach Brady Hoke said.

TCU guarantees itself at least a share of the Mountain West title with a win. That would also get the Horned Frogs to 11 victories for the sixth time in eight seasons and keep them in contention for a possible BCS national title shot.

The Frogs solidified their spot at No. 3 in the BCS standings -- behind Oregon and Auburn, and ahead of Boise State -- with that 47-7 victory last weekend at Utah.

With an upset this week, San Diego State would remain in contention for the Mountain West title. The Aztecs are coming off a mistake-filled comeback win over Colorado State.

"It's a new feeling to be upset with yourself after a win," quarterback Ryan Lindley said. "It's a testament to what coach Hoke has done and how he's changed all of our mindsets to make us better."

Both Aztecs losses are by three points, at No. 20 Missouri and at BYU in a three-game span before their current winning streak. They play next at Utah, the only other one-loss MWC team.

"This is probably the biggest game they've played in all of this 2010 football season beside the Missouri game," Patterson said.

"When we go into games and we're down, we know we can still come back and win," linebacker Miles Burris said. "In past years, we might have gotten down and been, `Oh, here it goes again.' It's refreshing and a great feeling to know you can win games."

But that is something the Aztecs have never done against TCU.

The Horned Frogs have a 5-0 series advantage, including 52-0 and 41-7 blowouts the previous two meetings in Fort Worth.

This time, the Aztecs visit for the home finale of quarterback Andy Dalton and 25 other TCU seniors in what will also be the last game at Amon G. Carter Stadium before the 80-year-old campus facility undergoes a major modernizing renovation.

"It is in everybody's mind, especially the seniors, this is going to be our last game in the stadium regardless, and just knowing that this place will never look the same," senior receiver Curtis Clay said. "There is a lot of tradition there. We want to send it out with a bang."

More than 400 former lettermen are expected to be there for the last game at the old home where the Frogs are 50-6 under Patterson. They haven't lost at Amon G. Carter Stadium in more than three years, with 19 consecutive wins since losing to Utah in October 2007.

TCU has won 23 consecutive regular-season games and 36 of 39 games overall.

San Diego State touts the Mountain West's top passer (Lindley), top rusher (Ronnie Hillman) and the top two receivers (Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson).

But they have to go against the nation's top-ranked defense, a position where TCU also finished the last two seasons.

"If you want another thing we have something to play for Saturday, I don't think there's ever been a team in the history of college football that's ever been statistically the No. 1 defense in the nation three times in a row," Patterson said.

"If you want to go down the list, if you just want reasons why you should play this Saturday, there's a lot of reasons why, outside the obvious of getting a chance to be 11-0," he said. "Staying somewhere in the top three in the nation in the polls and the BCS rankings and everything else."

The Horned Frogs have allowed only 216 yards and 8.5 points a game, and the only Mountain West team to break the 200-yard mark against them was Air Force with 231. They have outscored league opponents 236-23.

"They play together with the scheme they run and they run it very well," Lindley said. "They're a fast group and play physical. It's up to us to execute and play our best football."

San Diego State will try to find out if even that is good enough against the Frogs.

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