TCU No Sure Bet Yet As BCS Buster

TCU coach Gary Patterson only has to point at the half-shaded pyramid of goals to remind his Horned Frogs how much they still haven't accomplished -- even though they are now in position to be a BCS buster.

"They've already heard everything," Patterson said. "They know if you lose, the top of that pyramid is done."

Each time the eighth-ranked Horned Frogs (7-0, 3-0 Mountain West) accomplish one of their goals, it is shaded in purple on the pyramid prominently posted in the team's meeting room.

The latest was their impressive victory at BYU, but there is still plenty of white space to get to the upper rungs that include "Go To BCS Bowl and Win" and national championship.

"One step at a time, from the bottom to the top," safety Tejay Johnson said.

Next for TCU is homecoming Saturday against UNLV (3-5, 1-3), which is coming off its first conference road victory in five years. The Frogs are five-touchdown favorites against the Rebels, who have lost the last four games in the series by an average margin of 29 points.

After winning 38-7 at BYU last weekend, the Frogs moved up to the sixth in the latest Bowl Championship Series standings. They passed Boise State (7-0), the other undefeated team from a non-BCS conference. The Broncos, No. 7 in the BCS standings, are also big favorites this weekend, against San Jose State.

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TCU and Boise State could flip-flop in those standings several more times this season -- assuming both keep winning.

"One of the good things about seeing us jump, whether we stay there or not, it proves that it can happen," Patterson said. "If it happens once, it has a chance to happen again. No matter if it changes next week, you've got a chance for it to work out."

Still, Patterson and his players insist their focus is solely on UNLV.

"That win last week against BYU, the wins against Clemson and Air Force, none of that matters at all if we don't win this week," center Jake Kirkpatrick said. "That definitely keeps us focused."

While TCU is trying to win the rest of its games and get in one of the major bowl games, UNLV can't lose another game if it just wants to pull out its first winning season since 2000.

With their 34-17 victory at New Mexico last weekend, the Rebels snapped their Mountain West road losing streak at 20 games. They had also lost 16 consecutive October games since 2005.

"People may think I'm crazy, but we're going in there to win a football game," coach Mike Sanford said. "If I think anything less, it wouldn't be right. That's what we expect to do. ... A lot of interest and excitement because of playing TCU. But our deal right now is about ourselves."

UNLV is 4-22 against ranked teams, though the Rebels did win at then-No. 15 Arizona State last season.

The Frogs have an 11-game home winning streak, outscoring opponents by an average margin of 44-9 since their last loss at Amon Carter Stadium in 2007 against Utah, which will be at TCU in two weeks.

This is the deepest TCU has gotten into the season without a loss since 2003, when the Frogs were 10-0 before a loss at Southern Miss knocked them out of BCS contention and kept them from winning Conference USA. Instead of a major bowl, they ended up in the Fort Worth Bowl on their home campus and lost 34-31 to Boise State.

TCU and Boise State met in the Poinsettia Bowl last December and the Frogs won 17-16.

Now the Frogs and Broncos are competing in the polls.

"In no shape or form, nowhere along the line will I do anything that would discredit Boise State if both of us go undefeated," Patterson said. "I don't think that's how you do things."

Instead of campaigning for votes, Patterson wants his team to earn them by how they play. And he knows there can't be any mistakes on the field.

"We've grown up every week," Patterson said. "We've been gaining confidence with how we've played. We can't be overconfident. We can't decide not to play one game. They understand that."

They know there can't be any white space on the lower portions of the pyramid and UNLV is the next spot waiting to be shaded in purple.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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