STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — No. 12 TCU is playing its third consecutive game against a ranked Big 12 opponent in what coach Gary Patterson has termed a “fun-packed October.”
These are the kind of stretches the Horned Frogs (4-1, 1-1) expected after moving to the Big 12, and they are better prepared to keep up in their third season with a new up-tempo, spread offense.
“Well, it’s exciting and demanding,” Patterson said. “Before the season, I knew what October was about. … We had talked about, you had to find a way to be 3-0 going into this, and you try to find a way, you’re being realistic, try to be 2-2 (in October), hopefully be 4-0.”
Or now 3-1.
The Frogs host No. 15 Oklahoma State (5-1, 3-0) on Saturday, giving them three consecutive top-15 opponents for the first time in school history. They have an October split so far after scoring 95 points and giving up 94, beating then-No. 4 Oklahoma 37-33 in their last home game before that wild 61-58 loss at now-No. 4 Baylor last weekend.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy this week described his offense as “just very average” even though his Cowboys (5-1, 3-0) have averaged nearly 38 1/2 points in a five-game winning streak and join Baylor as the only teams 3-0 in league play.
Then again, since a season-opening 37-31 loss to defending national champion Florida State, the Cowboys have beaten FCS team Missouri State, Texas-San Antonio and the Big 12 trio at the bottom of the standings. Texas Tech, Iowa State and Kansas are all 2-4 overall with 0-3 league marks, and Oklahoma State needed Tyreek Hill’s tiebreaking 99-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter to beat the Jayhawks last Saturday.
“We definitely have our work cut out for us,” Gundy said. “This could very well be the best team we’ve played, give or take.”
Here are a few things to watch when Oklahoma State plays in Fort Worth for the first time since 1992, the 25th game in the series that started 99 years ago:
COWBOY ROADIES: After visiting Fort Worth, Oklahoma State returns home to play West Virginia. But the Cowboys then play three of their last four games on the road — all against the other ranked Big 12 teams, No. 14 Kansas State, No. 4 Baylor and No. 11 Oklahoma.
BOUNCING BACK: After the Frogs blew a 21-point lead with 11 minutes to go at Baylor and lost on a field goal that ended a nearly 4 1/2-hour game, Gary Patterson knew pretty quickly his team would be able to bounce back from that. The TCU coach talked about a good practice Sunday, much better than the day-after session a week earlier after beating Oklahoma. “Yeah, we could have been moping around like maybe the previous few years before or whatever and been like arguing or pointing fingers at everybody,” receiver Kolby Listenbee said. “We just came as a team and we’re looking forward now.” They also got a break with no classes on the TCU campus Monday or Tuesday.
ALL THE WAY: Hill has returned a kickoff for a touchdown in consecutive games, the first Oklahoma State player ever to do that, and the only NCAA player this season. He also had a 97-yard return for a touchdown against Iowa State.
LOOK ALIKE: Oklahoma State fans shouldn’t be surprised if TCU’s new offense looks familiar. Doug Meacham, one of TCU’s new co-offensive coordinators, was the passing game coordinator for Gundy from 2005-12. “He’ll be the next guy that gets a head coaching job if he continues to move forward in the success he’s had,” Gundy said this week of his former Cowboys teammate. “They’re running the same system that we did here three or four years ago.”
RANKED GAMES: TCU plays its first home game matching two top-15 teams since 1984, when the No. 12 Frogs lost 44-23 to No. 10 Texas. More recently, TCU has lost six of its last seven game against Top 25 teams. Oklahoma State has dropped three in a row.