FORT WORTH, TEXAS -- Before the 2009 season got underway, BYU and TCU fans had circled October 24 on their calendars- knowing what would be on the line when the Cougars (6-1, 3-0 MWC)and Horned Frogs (6-0, 2-0) met in Provo. Now, more than half of the way through the season, it appears the rest of the conference and the nation are paying attention.
Saturday's showdown pits two top 20 teams against each other in front of a strong BYU fan base and now a national audience. Football fans from around the country will understand what's at stake now that ESPN's GameDay is traveling to Provo.
TCU is ranked seventh, is undefeated and has a realistic shot at a BCS bowl game heading into this matchup. The Cougars were in a similar position in 2008 when they rolled into Fort Worth on a wave of national hype and left with their tails between their legs after a humbling 32-7 defeat.
The Cougars hope to return the favor on Saturday in LaVell Edwards Stadium and TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson understands that well. After the Cougars beat The Horned Frogs in 2007 (27-22), TCU dressed a tackling dummy with a BYU helmet to remind and motivate his players.
"I knew it was going to be tough going to Air Force, going to Virginia, going to Clemson and also going to Provo with the way BYU plays at home and the kind of team that they have," Patterson said. "So, our kids haven't really had a chance to think about, I know they hear it, see it and I'm sure they talk about it, but as far as a staff and a football team, since the beginning of the season we've just tried to keep our nose down and really I've been proud of the way they've done it."
TCU's motto in 2009 is "Don't back down" and Patterson said that stems from their difficult schedule, which also includes a home date with No. 19 Utah.
He said he talked to his players at the beginning of the year when they came up with the motto realizing how difficult it was going to be to open the season at Virginia, play at Clemson during an ‘orange-out,' then go through the conference schedule.
They've made it through the first half of the season unscathed, but the Horned Frogs know their biggest test comes Saturday.
"We understand what kind of football team BYU has. We understand how we do all the rest of it where you have to get ready for a ballgame. You can't win as many ballgames and have the kind of program that you have if you have a very small thin skin," Patterson said while addressing bulletin board fodder. "So, for us, you learn things from people. You understand how they think and what they do and every school, and every team and every newspaper is different."
In a moment of levity, Patterson said everybody looks for some sort of bulletin board material to motivate your team, "You gotta have some fun; we'd all get bored." But he danced around any specifics he may have supplied his players. Patterson, like BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall, probably wants their actions to do the talking on the field.
Kickoff for Saturday's showdown is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. You can hear more from Coach Patterson during the BYU pregame show on KSL Newsradio 102.7FM/1160AM beginning at 3:30 p.m.