YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Preseason college football countdown: No. 13 Texas Christian

Horned Frogs, coming off a Rose Bowl victory, are a team in transition in more ways than one.

August 18, 2011|Chris Dufresne
  • Tank Carder celebrates after knocking down a two-point conversion in the Rose Bowl.
Tank Carder celebrates after knocking down a two-point conversion in the… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

They're Hermit Crabs as much as Horned Frogs, picking up and leaving every 10 minutes or so. The school could merge with a packing company and become TCU-Haul.

Next year's move to the Big East will mark Texas Christian's fifth conference affiliation since 1995, the school's last year in the now-defunct Southwest Conference.

The Horned Frogs then joined the Western Athletic, moved to Conference USA in 2001 and to the Mountain West in 2005.

One thing with the football program hasn't changed much, though: This is Gary Patterson's 14th season at TCU, his 11th as head coach.

"I'm about tired of all the moving," he said at his last Mountain West media day.

Nobody's tired of the winning.

TCU has gone 36-3 the last three years, capped by last year's magical 13-0 season that ended with a victory against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

Had Alabama held on to a 24-0 lead against Auburn, TCU probably would have played Oregon for the national title.

You can croak all day about TCU deserving a piece of the championship Auburn won, but it's time to make the great leap forward.

TCU plays one more season in the Mountain West and then joins the Big East, one of six conferences whose champion receives an automatic bid to a major bowl. It's a long way to go for security, but TCU will no longer have to go undefeated to secure a BCS bid. Last year, Big East champion Connecticut's 8-4 record earned the Huskies a Fiesta Bowl berth.

TCU's last year in the Mountain West will be … awkward. The Horned Frogs, in every sense, are in transition. They have to replace 16 starters, nine on offense. Gone is red-headed quarterback Andy Dalton, hero of last year's Rose Bowl run. Only one starter returns on the offensive line.

The defense will have to be retooled and mentored by senior linebacker Tank Carder, who saved the Rose Bowl by batting down a two-point conversation pass that would have tied the score.

What TCU does not lack is talent and know-how. This is a serious program, with replacements ready to fill gaps. It doesn't mean TCU will go 13-0 again. It just means the Horned Frogs deserve all benefit of preseason top-15 doubt.

This year's senior class needs 10 wins to exit with an astounding 45.

There's also an interesting wrinkle to this lame duck campaign, as TCU on Nov. 12 will play Boise State for the third time in four seasons — but the only time as same-conference members.

The schools split previous bowl-game matchups, TCU claiming the Poinsettia in 2008 and Boise State winning a next-year rematch in the Fiesta.

But Patterson didn't get this far by looking that far ahead. TCU starts the season with difficult games at Baylor and Air Force.

"You don't hear me talking about Boise yet," Patterson said.

Or, talking about that big move to the east.

The countdown so far: 25. Texas; 24. Georgia; 23. Arkansas; 22. Arizona State; 21. West Virginia; 20. Auburn; 19. Ohio State; 18. USC; 17. Michigan State; 16. Florida; 15. Virginia Tech; 14. Texas A&M.

Los Angeles Times Articles