Back in the national rankings this week, the resurgent TCU Horned Frogs shoot for their 23rd consecutive Mountain West Conference win as they entertain the Colorado State Rams at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth.
Ranked 19th in the latest AP poll, the Horned Frogs are shooting for a 6-0 conference start for the fourth straight year this weekend, and also keep their distance in the MWC standings which currently has them at 5-0 and ahead of both Boise State and Wyoming, which each enter the week at 3-1.
Last weekend, the Frogs rose up and pulled off what many thought was impossible, beating the fifth-ranked and previously undefeated Boise State Broncos in Idaho, 36-35. A favorite at home, thanks to a winning streak of 65 straight regular-season bouts, BSU just couldn't get it done against a jacked- up TCU group that had something to prove.
"From our standpoint, we look at it as a measuring-stick game," TCU head coach Gary Patterson said of the win. "Where are we as a program? How high of a level can we play at in big ballgames? It gives me an estimation of where I can push, and where I can go as a program. We have to win two more ballgames for a championship. It would be special for us to come back this season and have another opportunity to win a championship when nobody thought we could beat Boise State."
As for the Rams, they initially looked like a team heading in the right direction when the season opened with back-to-back victories and three wins in four tries. But a closer look reveals that those first two triumphs came against a hapless New Mexico squad and a Northern Colorado program that doesn't even operate in the Football Bowl Subdivision. If not for a double- overtime win against Utah State in late September, this would be a CSU squad on a hefty losing streak. As it stands, the Rams have dropped five in a row after bowing to San Diego State last week, 18-15.
"I thought, just watching it before we get a chance to evaluate the tape, there were some very good performances in all three phases," CSU head coach Steve Fairchild acknowledged after the loss. "Obviously, we came up short. We didn't make enough plays. Give SDSU their due; they're a good football team."
Last year, CSU bowed in a 27-0 decision at Hughes Stadium versus TCU, which means the Rams now trail in the all-time series, 7-1.
For the second game in a row, running back Chris Nwoke set a new personal high in rushing, this time generating a whopping 232 yards and scoring once for the Rams, but his standout performance was overshadowed by the fact that starting quarterback Pete Thomas was lost to a sprained left knee and the team was again left to ponder another losing effort.
After Thomas went out, the Rams turned to Garrett Grayson who converted just 6-of-15 for a mere 26 yards, was sacked once and had a pass intercepted as he faced down a tough San Diego State defense.
"He's a very talented kid," coach Fairchild says of Grayson. "He was one of the top 25 (dual-threat) quarterbacks in the country when he came out. He's got a really nice skill set. I thought he played well out there...It's never a great circumstance when you got to go to your No. 2 quarterback. I thought he did a nice job tonight."
Fairchild and the rest of the Rams will get a better feel for how well Grayson can play seeing as how he is probably going to be in the huddle from the very beginning this weekend. Thomas, who has had to endure countless hits over the last two seasons behind a weak offensive line, is listed as doubtful for the weekend and putting him in against a rabid TCU defense might not be in his best interest from a health standpoint anyway.
Against one of the better defenses in college football, TCU quarterback Casey Pachall picked just the right time to erupt last weekend as he completed 24- of-37 passes for a career-high 473 yards and five touchdowns in the win over Boise State, on the road no less. Pachall���s five touchdown passes tied a TCU single-game record, while his 473 yards marked the second-highest single-game total in school history, all the more reason to be named the MWC Offensive Player of the Week.
The TCU pass defense was somewhat exposed last week, although almost every opponent that tries to slow down Boise State and Kellen Moore tends to come out on the short end of the stick. The Frogs gave up 320 yards and a pair of touchdowns through the air, but in the end they stood tall when Dan Goodale missed what would have been a game-winning 39-yard field goal as time expired.
This year, the Frogs have been a bit more lenient on defense, at least as far as the overall numbers are concerned, giving up 358.4 ypg to rank 43rd in the nation and 23.6 ppg which is 46th in the country. Obviously the two high- scoring losses to Baylor and SMU have contributed heavily to those numbers, but at least the team has been able to compensate by squeezing out wins anyway.
Ranked sixth in the nation in passing efficiency with a ranking of 167.24, Pachall has stepped in for the departed Andy Dalton and the TCU offense has barely missed a beat. Except for the meeting with Wyoming when he was kept out of the end zone, Pachall has thrown at least two TD passes in all but one of the team's other nine games and has established himself as a top-flight signal-caller not just in the MWC but all of college football.