HOUSTON (AP) -- TCU won 10 games and the Mountain West Conference
championship, then was snubbed by the BCS.
The No. 14 Horned Frogs know a win over the Big 12's Iowa State
in the EV1.net Houston Bowl on Saturday could help their chances for that
coveted invitation next season.
"To possibly beat a team like Iowa State on national television
in a bowl game is just a stepping stone for us next year in the
preseason rankings," said TCU coach Gary Patterson. "Those are
very important for you to get into a BCS game. You've got to be
able to start higher than what we did this year."
Meaning you have to be in the poll. TCU was not ranked in the
preseason after a 5-6 record in 2004.
The Horned Frogs entered the poll after a win over then-No. 7
Oklahoma in the season opener, but were derailed by SMU a week
later. They have since won nine straight, the third-longest streak
in country behind No. 1 USC and No. 2 Texas.
TCU (10-1, 8-0) is the lowest-ranked 10-win team, but has the
best ranking among teams from non-BSC conferences. The Horned Frogs
are making their seventh bowl appearance in eight seasons after
their fourth 10-win season in six years.
Iowa State, making its fifth bowl appearance in six years, is
just 7-4, but three of those losses came in overtime.
TCU quarterback Jeff Ballard has been exceptional since taking
over for injured starter Tye Gunn, passing for 1,526 yards and 12
touchdowns and rushing for eight more. Ballard, a junior, had
thrown one pass at TCU when he replaced Gunn in the third quarter
against BYU and led the Horned Frogs to an overtime win.
He looks to improve his record as a starter to 8-0 in front of a
hometown crowd. Ballard grew up just outside of Houston in
"The Big 12 is always looked at as a powerhouse conference, and
if we are to win this game it would give us a little more pride, a
little more advantage knowing we can play with the best," Ballard
The Cyclones will get a boost from running back Stevie Hicks,
who has struggled with groin and ankle injuries, but said he's the
healthiest he's been all year.
"We've got to establish some running game," said Iowa State
coach Dan McCarney. "We've been real inconsistent with that this
year. But if we can't run the ball at all against TCU, we're in for
a long day."
The Cyclones were 4-0 during the regular season, when Hicks ran
for at least 90 yards. Hicks expects a challenge from TCU's big,
"They're fast and they're physical," he said. "They run
sideline to sideline real well, so we're just going to have to go
right at them."
TCU will employ its rushing duo of Robert Merrill and Mountain
West freshman of the year Aaron Brown. The two have combined for
1,512 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns.
While the running game could be important, both coaches said
defense will be the key.
TCU's defense has the most interceptions in the country with 24,
led by Quincy Butler's five, and its turnover margin is second to
"They're just relentless," said Iowa State quarterback Bret
Meyer. "If there's a ball on the ground, they're going to get it.
If the ball is in the air, they're going to try and make a play on
it. They're just ballhawks."
Meyer has thrown for 2,622 yards, and sophomore receiver Todd
Blythe is second in the nation in yards per catch (19.46), and has
895 yards with seven scores.
The Horned Frogs will have to shake off a little rust -- they
will have gone 49 days since their last game, the longest break in
the country. Patterson said he doesn't think it will be a factor
because TCU had 18 practices in that span.
"I was worried about our offense being a little bit behind, but
actually our offense is ahead of our defense," he said.