FORT WORTH, Texas – TCU coach Gary Patterson has the same approach to another Thanksgiving night game at Texas, no matter how different the circumstances.
When the Horned Frogs spent the holiday there two years ago, they were the Big 12 newcomer that pulled off an upset victory over the No. 18 Longhorns.
This time, No. 6 TCU (9-1, 6-1 Big 12) is a playoff contender trying to win a conference title while Texas (6-5, 5-3) has a three-game winning streak for first-year coach Charlie Strong.
"For me, I don't ever approach it any differently," Patterson said Tuesday. "We've had enough runs of close-to-undefeated seasons to understand that if you don't keep even keel through all of it, then you get yourself in a lot of trouble."
The Frogs are coming off an open date after playing eight consecutive weeks, five of those against top 20 teams. They have won five in a row since that 61-58 loss at Baylor.
Even though TCU is in its third season as part of major conference, there is still the memory of being a two-time BCS buster before then and before the new four-team College Football Playoff. The Horned Frogs won three consecutive Mountain West titles without a conference loss before the switch, with the 20-13 win at Texas a big boost late in their first Big 12 season.
"In order to let people know you are there, you have to keep winning. We still are trying to prove ourselves to the Big 12," senior safety Sam Carter said. "You can win games, but if you don't win the conference you're not on top. People say 'They had a great year, but it was OK.' ... That's the motto. We're still proving ourselves each week."
Carter had the game-clinching interception in the final 2 minutes at Texas two years ago. The Longhorns won 30-7 last year in Fort Worth, a game that included a 3-hour weather delay in the second quarter.
By time they finished their Thanksgiving game two years ago, the Frogs had played an FBS-high 28 freshmen, plus 28 sophomores, that season. There was only one senior starter on defense.
Patterson on Tuesday recalled "being outside looking in" while being in the Mountain West and other conferences when "everything had to line up just exactly right for us to get where we needed to get."
Just like then, Patterson knows there is really only thing his team can do when trying to win a Big 12 title and possibly enough to impress the playoff selection committee. The same committee that had the Frogs ranked No. 4 just two weeks ago before slipping one spot after a 34-30 win at Kansas.
"Like I told my team, let's take care of what we have to take care of and make somebody else make that decision. Let's don't make that decision for them," Patterson said. "We can win the next two and be 11-1, then they've got to make the decision. Don't give them a way out. That's what we're trying to do."