TCU Makes Loud Statement to BCS in Blowout Win Over Utah
So did Utah.
"The bottom line is they've put themselves on a different plateau. But they have to finish the season," TCU coach Gary Patterson said of his team after a dominating 47-7 victory over the Utes. "We can only control what we can control, but I thought they made a statement today."
The Horned Frogs, No. 3 in the BCS rankings and No. 4 in the polls, cemented their status as a legitimate championship contender against a No. 6 Utah team that hoped to do the very same thing.
Patterson, refusing to bite on the numerous postgame questions about TCU's championship resumé, still acknowledged what could be a ground-breaking season -- a season that may see the automatic qualifying conference stranglehold on the BCS title game come to an end.
"This game was about beating Utah," Patterson stated. "But ... how many times do you get a chance to make a difference?"
That difference isn't just about getting a school from the Mountain West Conference past the red tape that typically prohibits schools from outside the inner sanctum of automatic-qualifying conferences from playing in the biggest bowl games of the year. The difference made could be from actually landing in the BCS title game.
"We did all we can do today and we have two more games to finish," Patterson said.
Saturday's game in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium was a rare opportunity for the Mountain West -- and all non-AQ conferences -- to show it deserves a seat in the middle of the BCS table and not just on the sidelines. At kickoff, the Utes and Frogs were a combined 17-0 and both were ranked higher than every Big Ten, Big 12, Big East and ACC school.
They, along with 8-0 and BCS No. 4 Boise State, are fighting against the odds and against popular opinion. The system that will allow a three-loss Big East team -- such as the 5-3 conference-leading Pitt Panthers squad that fell to Utah to open the season -- into a BCS bowl while excluding an undefeated or one-loss team from the WAC or MWC is very much the thing TCU (10-0, 6-0 Mountain West) and Utah fight against while also aiming for inclusion.
With the Horned Frogs' win, the wall may be broken down for the second season in a row as TCU builds its program into one of national relevance.
With a smothering defense, TCU prevented Utah (8-1, 5-1) from crossing midfield until the fourth quarter and had complete control of the game from the opening drive.
TCU used an offense that churned out 558 yards while its defense limited Utah -- which entered the game with the third-best offense in the nation at 449.6 yards per game -- to just 199 yards. The Utes, who now are likely looking at a consolation bowl game in Las Vegas, lost at home for the first time since Sept. 8, 2007.
Representatives from the Orange, Rose, Sugar and Fiesta bowls -- as well as Utah's probable Las Vegas Bowl destination -- were on hand to witness TCU's statement-making game.
They saw Frogs quarterback Andy Dalton have a masterful game, completing 21 of 26 passes for 355 yards and three touchdowns before heading to the sidelines midway through the fourth quarter. They witnessed TCU's defense annihilate what was statistically the third-best offense in the country -- on its home field.
"TCU thoroughly outplayed us today and it was not even close," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "The score was not indicative of how lopsided this game was."
Like his coach, Dalton didn't want to discuss TCU's worthiness of being in a BCS title game.
"I'm not going to go there," he said. "But I think we're pretty good."
There will be few arguing that point now.
TCU completed what may be its final challenge of the season and will finish the schedule off with a home game against San Diego State and a trip to dreadful New Mexico.
Then, if the Frogs are still unbeaten, Patterson will talk about where his team belongs in the national debate.
"You guys aren't going to get me to say that we deserve to play for a national championship for another two weeks," he said.
Perhaps not. But the debate, nonetheless, will be loud from all corners of the country until then.
"We'll see," Patterson added. "We'll see if we can win the next two weeks and then we'll have a conversation."