Andy Dalton #14 of the TCU Horned Frogs drops back to pass against the Clemson Tigers during their game at Memorial Stadium on September 26, 2009 in Clemson, South Carolina.
TCU players were still in the locker room at Clemson last weekend, with barely any time to savor their victory, when they were already being reminded of what happened four years ago -- and who was next.
"Immediately," defensive tackle Cory Grant said. "Which we knew was going to happen because of the events that happened in 2005."
A week after winning at Oklahoma for their biggest upset in more than 40 years, the Horned Frogs four years ago were in turn upset by archrival SMU. The only loss that season kept TCU out of serious consideration for a spot in the Bowl Championship Series.
Coming off another significant road victory, and still trying to become a BCS buster after winning 11 games twice the past three seasons, 11th-ranked TCU (3-0) is back home to renew its Dallas-Fort Worth rivalry against SMU (2-1) on Saturday night.
While the circumstance is eerily similar to four years ago, and the Frogs can't avoid a loss if they want to keep their loftiest goal a possibility, coach Gary Patterson notes a very significant difference.
"We weren't surprised we won (at Clemson)," Patterson said. After the Oklahoma game in 2005, "everybody went into shock. All of a sudden we became godlike for a week. Our kids practiced like that. ... If you listen to all of our kids right now, I think they understand what's in front of us."
That doesn't mean Patterson hasn't reminded them.
"Coach has brought it up a couple of times just to push the urgency about this game," All-American defensive end Jerry Hughes said.
SMU has already doubled its victory total from a year ago only three games into coach June Jones' second season. And the Mustangs had an extra week to prepare for TCU with an off week following their overtime loss at Washington State.
The 2005 win against TCU is the only time SMU has beaten its closest rival the past seven years. Their goal now is for more than one big victory. They want to have a winning record and go to a bowl game.
"It's a little different because we really feel like we're as good as we've been in a couple of years," said sophomore quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who has passed for 326 yards per game this season. "We have that confidence in us. ... When you've got a team like this, you know you don't want to pass it up. You want to take your chances against teams like TCU and Houston that are all highly ranked."
Despite its early success this season, SMU is a four-touchdown underdog against the Frogs.
The Mustangs haven't won in Fort Worth since 1993, when both teams were still in the Southwest Conference. Even though they went to different leagues, there has been only one season since that they didn't play each other.
Jones led Hawaii to a BCS spot in the Sugar Bowl before taking on the rebuilding task at SMU, which has had only one winning record (6-5 in 1997) in 20 seasons since returning from the NCAA death penalty.
While beating the Frogs would be meaningful, Jones avoided the idea of looking for a signature victory. SMU is about to get into Conference USA play, including a trip to 12th-ranked Houston in three weeks.
"I'm involved in where we're headed and the journey to get to what we want to do. You don't turn it around in one game," Jones said. "One game is not better than another. We set a goal. We want six wins. We need four more."
Mustangs center Mitch Enright, a redshirt four years ago, insisted that this "is a big game for us because it's TCU" and that there hasn't been much talk about their last victory in the rivalry.
The game will feature two quarterbacks who took Katy High to Texas state championship games. TCU's Andy Dalton was a runner-up in 2005, when Mitchell was a sophomore. Mitchell won the title two years later as a senior.
Mitchell got a prep championship, but Dalton has the upper hand in the "Iron Skillet" game after TCU won 48-7 last season.
"When you play a team like TCU that you play every year, it's a big thing to come out to really compete against them and try to come out and get that win," Mitchell said. "This town would absolutely turn around if we got that win against TCU."
Obviously, Mitchell was referring to Dallas, not Katy -- which will have something to be proud of regardless of the outcome.