Collin Klein is back. Gary Patterson never left.
Keep that in mind when Kansas State travels to TCU for the beginning of the end -- of its schedule. The trip, though, could be much more damaging for the Wildcats. As you may have heard, Patterson is a defensive coach, maybe the best after Nick Saban.
This is the kind of game GP lives for. He's a K-State alum. His defense allows undersized players with speed to make plays against bigger, stronger opponents. Offensively, a corner may have been turned mentally after the loss of Casey Pachall to suspension and rehab. Treyvone Boykin gives TCU an added element with his legs.
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"This is a league where you have to score points to keep up," Patterson said, "but it's also a league where your defense can make a big, big difference."
Understatement meets opportunity. In their first four games the Horned Frogs gave up 29 points, in their past five they have surrendered 188. But the Frogs are coming off perhaps their best defensive performance of the season at West Virginia. Yes, they gave up a lot of points in a 39-38 win, but it was in overtime and TCU held the Mountaineers to only 338 yards on 93 snaps. There are also those 24 takeaways for the Frogs, tied for Kansas State for first in the Big 12.
A TCU upset is good news for Notre Dame, Oregon and the BCS, which would take another step back from Armageddon. We're still on track for four undefeateds competing for two spots, enhancing the potential for the biggest BCS upheaval since 2004. That was when three (undefeated teams) didn't fit into two. Hard to believe, but back then Oklahoma and Southern California trumped SEC champion Auburn.
As for Patterson, there is no question his heart is purple. The former K-State scout teamer, "probably known more for my guitar," is responsible for getting the Frogs to the Big 12 by sheer force of coaching will. A small part of him -- very small -- would regret beating his alma mater, which gets back Klein this week from a reported concussion.
"It's hard because you love seeing that they [K-State] have come so far," Patterson said, "and they are so close to maybe playing for a national championship."
"So close" being the key phrase. With K-State on upset alert, here's a quick look at some of Patterson's best defensive performances.
• 2005: A shock-the-world number, 17-10 over then No. 7 Oklahoma in Norman to start the season.
• 2006: In the middle of Mike Leach's monster offensive run, TCU won 12-3 over Texas Tech.
• 2008: Facing BYU with a long winning streak and Max Hall at quarterback, TCU dismantled the Cougars 32-7.
• 2010: No. 5 Utah was held to 199 yards in Salt Lake City. The Frogs led 40-0 in the fourth quarter before settling for a 47-7 win.
• 2011: The epic Rose Bowl will never be forgotten. A goal-line stand preserved a 21-19 win over Wisconsin and may be the reason TCU is in the Big 12 today. "Today," Patterson said that Jan. 1, "proved we had just as good players as anybody in the country."
The grass is greener ...
Elsewhere in the Final Four
Oregon at Cal: The last time these teams met in Berkeley, a Cal lineman faked an injury to slow down the Ducks' blur offense. Since then, nothing, says Chip Kelly.
"Since that, I haven't seen it," Oregon's coach said. "I think it's been cleaned up in this league."
A Cal assistant admitted to coaching the conduct and is no longer around.
The Bears going European soccer may be the best weapon. Never mind that Oregon has scored 15 and 16 points in the past two trips to Cal. Pay attention more to this year's average of 54.3 points per game, less than two off the season record set by Army in 1944 (56.0).
Notre Dame at Boston College: The Irish have lost to BC the past three times they have been ranked in the top 10. Twice in the past 20 years, the Eagles have ruined an undefeated Notre Dame season.
As bad-out-loud as Boston College has been this season, you don't have to be told Notre Dame plays up or down to its competition.
A wild week in the Pac-12
And USC broke out a promotional video for Marqise Lee and it was good. Really good.
That overshadowed a meddling student manager, didn't it?
Meanwhile, in actual football, at stake is a possible BCS bowl in the Oregon State-Stanford game -- perhaps the Rose if Oregon keeps winning.
Two BCS berths would be a nice finish to a year in which Larry Scott launched the Pac-12 Network, then sat back and watched national championship (Oregon) and Heisman contenders (Lee, Kenjon Barner) emerge.
That's why Saturday in Palo Alto is so important. The winner between the Beavers and Cardinal emerges as a solid BCS -- not to mention Pac-12 -- threat. Both schools have Oregon left on the schedule. Both schools are also operating without the quarterbacks that started the season. Stanford redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan is being given his second start, replacing Josh Nunes. Mike Riley lost Sean Mannion to injury. Backup Cody Vaz has been so effective Mannion will be Mariano Rivera, if needed.
Rocky Mountain low
Colorado should never be this bad. Ever.
There are mitigating circumstances in Jon Embree's second season, but the fact remains: Take one look around that campus and ask yourself: How does CU -- 1-8 heading to Arizona -- not get 85 guys who want to play in that setting?
Pirate vs. 'zombies' in Pullman
If you're going to run off players, isn't it best to do it in the offseason?
That's the question for Leach, who has called his players "zombies" and questioned effort this week. He embarrassed his linemen by perp walking them into a postgame media session as a sort of penance. This from a guy who once limited media access at Texas Tech to one offensive and one defensive player per week. That's the reason the Forth Worth Star-Telegram, at the time, stopped covering those media sessions.
At the root of all this conduct is a handful of seniors who Leach believes are phoning it in. The future, he believes, is optimistic. No matter what you think of the head coach's conduct, AD Bill Moos bought into all this when he hired Leach. For all the winning potential, sometimes Leach's quirks aren't all charming.
All this means nothing, of course, if the Cougars -- 2-7 heading into the UCLA game -- go 8-4 next season.
Other games of interest
• Georgia (at Auburn) can clinch the SEC East. While the War Eagle circles the stadium, the vultures are circling Gene Chizik. Given the angst at both schools, is this a case of who doesn't want it the most?
• A year ago they were debating whether Penn State-Nebraska should be played in the wake of the Sandusky scandal. This week the Huskers can take another step toward the Legends Division title.
• If Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease gets the Kentucky job -- he's not denying interest -- it would continue a fascinating trend.
Since Steve Spurrier left Florida in 2001, every Gators offensive coordinator to follow has become a head coach. The list: Larry Fedora (Southern Miss, North Carolina), Dan Mullen (Mississippi State), Steve Addazio (Temple) and Charlie Weis (Kansas).
The Gators are hosting Louisiana-Lafayette.
• Pease might have to beat out a certain Mr. Petrino, whose name has popped up at both Auburn and Kentucky. There's no shameless moral scandal that can't be forgotten in a matter of seven months as long as the SEC is around.
Quote of the week
"I don't want an open casket. I don't want to be somebody's centerpiece."
Kentucky coach-in-exiting Joker Phillips on his desire to leave immediately after being fired this week. He eventually agreed to stay on to finish the season for the players' sake.
Question: Which non-BCS school is a surprising sixth in touchdowns allowed (15) and fifth in scoring defense (13.5)?
Answer: Utah State, with a schedule that has included Utah and Wisconsin. The surprising Aggies are 8-2 and leading the soon-to-be defunct WAC. The only two losses have come to the Badgers (14-12) and BYU (6-3). New defensive coordinator Dave Aranda inherited a unit that lost five starters and has moved from 50th in total defense to 13th. Aranda spent the past two years in the same job at Hawaii giving up an average of 27 points per game.