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FORT WORTH, Texas – Trevone Boykin and No. 5 TCU have gotten through what should be the hardest part on the field. At least until bowl season, most likely.
After four victories over ranked teams in six weeks, the latest a 41-20 drubbing of Big 12-leading Kansas State, the Horned Frogs (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) have made a strong case for one of the four spots in college football's new playoff a month from now. Three regular-season games remain, none against teams with a winning record.
TCU coach Gary Patterson kept being asked the same thing in different ways late Saturday night after a win over his alma mater. He kept responding the same way about where the Horned Frogs stand and if his players will be able to handle it.
"If they can't see what's in front of them, what they're going to do and how they got to do it, then I can't help them," Patterson said. "You have everything in front of you. OK? ... We've now put it there where we have more offense and doing some things we need to do, and here you go."
The Frogs were sixth in the College Football Playoff rankings before dual-threat junior quarterback Boykin ran for 123 yards with three touchdowns and passed for 219 yards and another score to end Kansas State's five-game winning streak. That put TCU in a three-way tie atop the Big 12 standings with the Wildcats (7-2, 5-1) and Baylor (8-1, 5-1), the team responsible for the Frogs' only loss.
TCU was up one spot in the new AP poll Sunday, just ahead of Baylor after the Bears' four-spot jump to sixth. Kansas State was down from ninth to 13th.
Auburn slipped from third to ninth in the AP poll after losing at home to Texas A&M. The Tigers will also surely fall from their No. 3 spot and K-State from seventh in the new playoff rankings Tuesday night.
Baylor, 12th in the playoff rankings, won 48-14 Saturday at Oklahoma, which fell from 16th to out of the new AP poll. Four weeks earlier at home, the Bears overcame a 21-point deficit and kicked a field goal on the game's final play to beat TCU 61-58.
"You guys are going to talk about that. All I can talk about is Trevone and (defensive back Chris) Hackett and my guys," Patterson said. "I thought Baylor did a great job. I also know that (Oklahoma leading receiver) Sterling Shepherd didn't play."
TCU plays Saturday at Kansas (3-6) before a weekend off prior to Thanksgiving night at Texas (5-5), where the Frogs ruined the Longhorns' holiday two years ago. The regular-season finale is Dec. 6, nearly a month from now, at home against Iowa State (2-7).
"You don't worry about the records. You just go out there and play because those guys are good," safety Sam Carter said. "I'm not going to look ahead."
Kansas State has an open date before going to West Virginia, where Baylor lost by two touchdowns and TCU won with a field goal as time expired. The Wildcats then play Kansas before their regular-season finale at Baylor.
When the Wildcats won at TCU two years ago, they took over as the No. 1 team in the BCS rankings. They are likely out of playoff contention in the new system, but can still win or share the Big 12 title.
"It's going to be about how we respond to things," K-State coach Bill Snyder told his team. "If there's some pain involved with this, some mental anguish, then that's OK. That just means that you genuinely care about your performance and about the outcome of the ballgame, and I think they are in pain."