Sunday November 15th, 2009

The question we need to ask in the wake of TCU's 55-28 win Saturday against Utah isn't, "Does TCU deserve to play in a BCS bowl?" It's this one: Of the three presumptive favorites to fill the two spots in the BCS title game, how many would struggle with TCU?

Certainly, TCU might have trouble scoring against Alabama or Florida, but could the Crimson Tide or Gators score on the Horned Frogs? Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley might reach the end zone a few times, but could the Texas defense slow Andy Dalton and the Horned Frogs offense?

TCU and coach Gary Patterson have watched Utah bust the BCS twice, and they are following the same blueprint and building on it. When trying to break into the fat cats' clubhouse, leave no doubt. In two games attended by ESPN's College GameDay, TCU won by a combined score of 93-35.

In fact, since a 20-17 win on a brutally cold day at Air Force, the Horned Frogs have won five games by an average of 36 points. Other than the Air Force win, TCU's only other close call was a 14-10 win at Clemson on Sept. 26. At the time, the win didn't seem so impressive. Clemson had lost at Georgia Tech two weeks earlier and would give away a game to Maryland the following week, but the Tigers have won their last five and probably will win the ACC Atlantic Division. Clemson tailback C.J. Spiller, who has emerged as a Heisman contender, ran for 112 yards and a touchdown that day, but he didn't slice and dice the Horned Frogs the way he has against ACC competition.

The Horned Frogs hit hard. They play fundamentally sound offense. Defensive end Jerry Hughes is virtually unblockable.

But could they beat the Crimson Tide? Or the Gators? Or the Longhorns?

Unfortunately, since BCS leaders shot down SEC commissioner Mike Slive's proposal of a plus-one in 2008, we won't know. If the FBS used a plus-one and every undefeated team stayed undefeated (except, of course, for the SEC title game loser), we'd have semifinal matchups of SEC champ-Cincinnati and Texas-TCU. As it stands, the Horned Frogs will play in a BCS bowl, but they stand little chance of playing for the title unless Auburn, Florida State and Texas A&M rise up and shake up the college football landscape.

But just in case you were wondering how the Las Vegas oddsmakers -- who don't get swept up in the sentimental BCS-buster stuff -- would handicap a game between TCU and one of the Big Three, look no further than a Nov. 3 update from There, the crack handicappers at LVSC envisioned an Alabama-TCU Sugar Bowl.

Alabama was favored by six.

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