Along with Boise State, the Texas Christian Horned Frogs have become a perennial BCS buster. It's a personal mission of the boys in purple to play spoiler to the old guard's old ways.
They were even invited to their first BCS bowl game in 2009, losing to their partners in college football crime, the Boise State Broncos.
With a handful of starters returning for the 2010 campaign, including quarterback Andy Dalton, the Frogs had only higher expectations. It's BCS bowl or bust. I'm sure some of the Texas Christian faithful (see what I did there?) are even planning their trips to Pasadena now, prematurely or not.
Coming into the season TCU was ranked sixth in the AP preseason poll and seventh in the USA Today poll. It's hard to argue they haven't lived up to that billing.
Let's examine TCU's performance on offense, defense, special teams and coaching, and I'll attempt to prove that the Frogs are as deserving as any team in the nation of their Top Five ranking.
Okay, first, let's put the whole "they play in a weak conference" thing to rest—at least for the remainder of my report card.
It's not their awesomely ugly uniforms that make them good year after year; it's the quality players on the roster. So I'm going to attempt to ignore the competition and look at their statistics and final scores objectively.
The Horned Frogs are seventh in the country in rushing, averaging 278.7 yards per game behind Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker. Wesley, in six games, has amassed 612 yards and seven touchdowns on 87 carries. Tucker has gained 365 yards and five touchdowns on 75 carries.
The passing game hasn't been quite as explosive, averaging just 203 yards per game, good for 74th in the nation. Though Andy Dalton is a returning starter and has been impressive at times, he's averaging just 1.5 touchdowns and two-thirds of a pick per game. Not terribly good. He's also had terrible games against Oregon State and SMU, where the Frogs won in spite of him.
The most important stat, though, is their points per game. TCU averages 41.7 ppg, which is eighth in the NCAA, and in the games you'd expect them to put up gaudy numbers, they have.
Overall TCU's offense has been good, but against a good team, I'm not sure it would be good enough.
I give the offense a B+.
No one expected TCU to have an easy time replacing Jerry Hughes and Daryl Washington coming into the 2010 season, but they've done an admirable job.
Through six games, the Frogs are allowing just 230 yards of total offense per game and are giving up a measly 10.3 points per game. That's second-best in the country.
Through the air, the Frogs are terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, allowing 134.2 yards per game. On the ground they're only slightly less dominant, giving up 96 yards per game.
Recent TCU teams have been known for their defense, and this year is no different. Despite a scare with SMU, the Frogs have posted two shutouts and let up 10 or less in two other games. If they're to make a splash in the BCS, it probably won't be the offense that carries them there—it'll be the defense.
I give this mean group of guys an A-.
The leg of Ross Evans has been fairly sturdy so far. Through six games he's 4-of-4 on field goal attempts. However, he's missed two of his 34 extra point attempts.
Punter Anson Kelton is averaging a fair 41.21 yards per punt, and considering TCU's stout defense, that has to be considered good enough.
Return specialist Jeremy Kerley is averaging 26.92 yards per kickoff return and a very good 15.25 yards per punt return, though he has no touchdowns in either.
None of these stats particularly blow you away, but none are disappointing either (except maybe the two missed XPs).
I give the special teams a B-.
It takes something special to build a below-average program into a perennial BCS buster and maybe even a championship contender, and Gary Patterson certainly has that something.
TCU, like Boise State, has followed the path of Gonzaga in college basketball. At first it was upset after upset until finally someone said, "Wait, TCU vs. Oregon State? Maybe TCU is the favorite."
That said, his coaching hasn't been perfect this year.
TCU averages 47.7 penalty yards per game. While that's not horrifying, a team that will have to face "superior" talent in any BCS game needs to be extremely disciplined. Giving up half the field on accidents every game is no matter to push aside.
His team is completing just 53.73 percent of its third down attempts—again, a number that needs to increase if they expect to win a BCS game. However, the defense is holding opponents to an impressive 22.67 conversion percent.
On fourth down, TCU is a fairly impressive 5-for-6 and has held opponents to under 50 percent.
Patterson did not have his guys ready when they battled SMU, a game they should have won handily, but they have struggled historically against the 'Stangs. Granted, they won, but it won't go down as a quality victory in the eyes of the coaches when it comes time to vote.
What it comes down to, though, is the wins and losses, and TCU is 6-0 and fourth in the polls. It's tough to be too critical.
I give G.P. an A-.
TCU is a Top Five team, like it or not. You can say Alabama this and Oklahoma that, but what it comes down to is each opponent that has been put in front of the Frogs has gone home disappointed.
The offense has been bruising at times, and the defense is as stout as they come. If not exactly mind-blowing, they have quality special teams and a coach who knows how to win big games.
TCU should find itself in another BCS bowl game, and hopefully this time the committee won't screw them by putting them against the Broncos again. I, like everyone else, want to see the purple and black (and a little bit of red) battle some of the traditional powers.
I give the first half of TCU's 2010 campaign an A-.