The No. 4 Horned Frogs are 10-0 for only the second time since their undefeated 1938 national championship team led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Davey O'Brien. And they have likely overcome the last significant hurdle to their first perfect regular season since that title seven decades ago by dismantling Utah 55-28.
"We've got a chance to be special," coach Gary Patterson said Sunday, though again reminding everyone that there are two regular season games left. "It's hard to be perfect."
So far, the Frogs (10-0, 6-0 MWC) still are and stayed No. 4 in both the Bowl Championship Series standings and the Associated Press poll Sunday.
"Right now, the same. We're undefeated," Patterson said before getting diplomatic minutes after the Utah game Saturday night. "You're not going to get me in to that one. I may end up playing one, so we'll just leave it how it is. But it's a good question."
While Patterson's tone didn't change the day after the game, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was a bit more blunt in his assessment of TCU.
"That's the best team I've faced," Whittingham said after the Utes (8-2, 5-1) gave up their most points since 1990, then slipped seven spots to 23rd in the AP poll. "They are a solid team from top to bottom. ... They were who we thought they were."
And maybe a lot more.
Even without guaranteed access to the Bowl Championship Series, the Frogs have upped the ante. Instead of wondering if they can make one of the big-money games, now they have a legitimate chance to be the first team from a conference without an automatic BCS bid to play for the national title -- if Texas and/or the SEC teams slip up over the next three weeks.
"I really feel like they could be No. 1," Utah linebacker Stevenson Sylvester said. "They're a train that can't be stopped right now."
TCU, which won 38-7 at No. 19 BYU three weeks ago, already has at least 10 wins for the seventh time in 10 seasons. The Frogs can get No. 11 for the fifth time in seven years and finally clinch at least a share of the Mountain West title next week at Wyoming (5-5). The regular season finale is at home Nov. 28 against winless New Mexico.
While Whittingham has been head coach only five seasons, and led the Utes to the only undefeated record by a BCS team last season after a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama, he has been on Utah's staff since 1994.
He was part of the original BCS buster in 2004, when the Utes beat Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl to finish another undefeated season before Urban Meyer's departure to Florida.
TCU's 12-game winning streak trails only Florida (20) and Texas (14), but for anyone still unsure if the Frogs are for real, look at what they did against Utah. The Utes had won 22 of 23 games in a stretch when they had given TCU its last overall loss and were the last visiting team to win in Fort Worth.
"Hopefully, this really did it," said linebacker Tank Carder who returned an interception 15 yards for a touchdown. "We played a great game."
The Frogs scored three touchdowns in a 2½-minute span early in the second quarter -- sparked by a blocked punt, a 39-yard punt return and Carder's pick-six -- to build a 35-7 lead before a record sellout crowd of 50,307 and representatives from the Orange, Rose and Fiesta bowls.
TCU gained 549 yards, its third consecutive game with more than 500. Ed Wesley had 137 of the Frogs' 342 yards rushing, Andy Dalton completed 17 of 29 passes for 207 yards with a touchdown, and six different players scored TDs.
"I was very humbled by the way our kids played. The biggest thing for us, we need to finish. There are two games left," Patterson said. "I understand how big a win this is. I've been here. I've beaten Oklahoma and gotten beat by SMU. We're going to finish, that's what we need to do."
That win over Oklahoma came in the 2005 season opener, before the Frogs lost to SMU the following week and then won the rest of their games -- left to wonder what might have been. They were 10-0 in 2003 before losing at Southern Miss, and got to 7-0 and in BCS contention in 2000 before losing at San Jose State.