Commentary

Computers, not humans, help TCU climb

Updated: October 26, 2009, 12:10 PM ET
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Don't get too excited, TCU fans. Not yet, anyway.

That was the message from BCS analyst Jerry Palm moments after TCU posted its second big victory of the weekend Sunday: leapfrogging Boise State in the BCS standings. But it was machines -- not humans -- that gave the Horned Frogs the edge they needed to jump to No. 6 in the standings. Boise State is right on their tails at No. 7.

"Keep in mind, this probably isn't permanent," said Palm, who owns and operates CollegeBCS.com. "A lot can change. We're showing the computers are fickle. TCU gained a lot in the coaches' poll, but not enough in the Harris poll. The computers mean more now because fewer games have been played. But by the end of the season, they won't have as much of an impact. TCU needs to gain more in the polls. If I'm TCU, I'm disappointed in the Harris voters."

Don't mistake Palm's thoughts for a guy who doesn't believe TCU can be this season's BCS buster. He does think TCU will end up ahead of Boise State if both go undefeated. He just thinks it will be very close and could come down to the final weekend.

"If you made me go to Vegas and bet on it, I'd bet on the Frogs," Palm said. "It's just not a sure thing."

TCU is still behind Boise State in both polls. TCU gained considerable ground in the coaches' rankings, sitting just one spot -- and only 21 points -- behind the Broncos. But the Frogs remain two spots behind Boise State in the Harris poll and are more points behind than there are voters, meaning they have some ground to make up. Palm said what would help TCU's poll numbers is for Iowa or Cincinnati to lose.

"They are taking votes away from TCU," Palm said.

The good news for Frogs fans: TCU has No. 16 Utah left on the schedule. If the Utes keep winning, they likely stay in the top 20. That gives TCU another chance to impress voters on Nov. 14, when the teams meet at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth. That same day, Boise State will play Idaho.

Palm cautions that it takes time for voters to come around, noting that Alabama played better than Texas for many weeks before finally slipping past the Longhorns in the polls. The same thing could happen to TCU.

In the meantime, style points matter.

"TCU has to go out and put up appropriate numbers on opponents," Palm said. "They are a 13-10 win away from losing ground."

[+] EnlargePatterson
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesTCU coach Gary Patterson doesn't want to remind his players too much of past failures. "I'll caution them about it and I'll move on," Patterson said Sunday. "If you harp on it, they get tight."

None of this BCS talk interested Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson on Sunday. Just hours before the standings were released, Patterson sat in his office with the shades closed, poring over statistical spreadsheets of UNLV.

He voiced concern about the Rebels' team speed and offensive numbers less than 24 hours after his team made a statement with a 38-7 win over BYU.

Patterson said he wouldn't go out of his way to look up the BCS standings.

"I'll hear about it," Patterson said, as his team went through meetings and video sessions Sunday afternoon. "Then we'll move on. We've put ourselves in position after the first half of the season to be in the mix. That's good. But that's all we've done. People only remember you in November. For us, we've got to go play now."

So Patterson was already back to work, trying to make sure his team doesn't have a letdown. It's actually happened more than a few times to Patterson and the Frogs.

  • TCU was 9-1 last season and had a BCS bowl in its sights before losing to Utah, 13-10.
  • After not allowing Texas Tech to score a touchdown early in 2006 to get to 3-0, TCU lost to BYU at home the next week.
  • TCU vaulted into the top 25 after a road victory at No. 5 Oklahoma to start the 2005 season, only to have SMU beat the Frogs 21-10 the following Saturday. TCU finished 11-1 that season and missed out on a BCS bowl.
  • In 2003, TCU was 10-0 and No. 10 in the polls when it traveled to Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles won 40-28 to end the Frogs' bid for a perfect season.
  • Patterson reminded his team of those past failures after Saturday's win in an effort to keep the players focused. But that's the only time he'll mention it this week.

    "I've changed on that," Patterson said. "I don't think you dwell on 'What if we slip up?' I'll caution them about it and I'll move on. If you harp on it, they get tight."

    Patterson said his experience -- this is his ninth season as TCU coach -- has helped him better understand his teams. This particular squad is more laid-back, he believes. So Patterson has put away his fire-and-brimstone pregame speeches and instead gives the Frogs three or four points before sending them off to the field.

    "It's an even-keeled team," Patterson said. "That's different than me as a coach. They are more like me in the summer or the spring. I think we play well on the road because they are the same in terms of their emotions on the road and at home. They stay calm and don't get too high or too low."

    Patterson's job is to make sure his team is prepared and hungry for the final five games of the season. Still to come are road trips to Wyoming and San Diego State and home games with UNLV, Utah and New Mexico.

    "We have a lot of the season left," Patterson said. "We did what we needed to in the first seven games. Now you shift your attention to the next five."

    And if they take care of business, maybe the poll voters will join the computers in putting TCU ahead of Boise State.

    Richard Durrett covers colleges for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail richard.durrett@espn3.com.