For TCU, it all could have fallen apart with a tough road game at Utah on Saturday.
The Mountain West Conference championship, along with an outside shot of playing for the BCS Championship, would have evaporated with one poor performance against the Utes.
So how did the Horned Frogs respond? With a dominating, eye-opening performance that has many haters of non-Automatic Qualifiers thinking twice about TCU's ability to compete at the highest level. That's right: TCU rolled Utah 47-7.
It was the type of performance that you'd expect from a team that believes it can beat anyone.
TCU still needs some help — mainly someone to take down either No. 1 Oregon or No. 2 Auburn — as it is entrenched at No. 3 in the BCS Rankings.
One of the biggest reasons for the success at TCU is head coach Gary Patterson and his staff. You could argue that the Horned Frogs are the best coached team in the nation.
Here are the top 10 reasons why:
When your peers at other institutions recognize your hard work, then you have to be doing something right.
Before the season opener, Oregon State coach Mike Riley was quoted in a Portland Tribune article as saying, "They're good. They are a program like Boise State that has been in place for a long time. They recruit tremendously well and have continuity of teaching. Combine the right talent with good coaching and it's a winning formula."
TCU coach Gary Patterson is known for having one of the game's biggest egos.
But is that really that bad? Not when you're winning.
He believes in his ability to coach and his players and assistants buy into it also.
Most people are going to look at Saturday's thrashing of Utah as this watershed moment for the TCU program.
In reality, the Frogs have been playing elite football since 2005.
It's also a big reason why the Big East has extended an invitation to TCU,. It's clear the Horned Frogs would easily win that conference right now and get the automatic bid in the BCS.
It would probably be tougher to skip over them for the national championship game.
Gary Patterson is all about every detail in his program.
If he tells his players to meet at the team bus at 7:30 a.m., he means it. He probably plans the pregame meal and picks out the laundry detergent that is used on the uniforms.
One detail that's real impressive: Patterson is 93-28 since he took over for Dennis Franchione for the Mobile Alabama Bowl in 2000.
TCU's coaching staff has every reason to complain about the lack of respect the Horned Frogs get from the mainstream media (we're talking to you Craig James and Mark May).
Instead the coaches focus on the team and on getting ready for the next game. The philosophy may not get them into the championship game. But as long as the Frogs keep winning, it's going to be hard to keep overlooking them.
If TCU decides to jump to the Big East, the Frogs could get their shot. Let's face it, TCU easily wins the Big East right now.
Gary Patterson is a defensive-minded coach and his 4-2-5 scheme is the Horned Frogs' calling card. Patterson likes this alignment because it allows TCU to get more speed and athletes on the field.
While the TCU offense has been very impressive this year, led by senior quarter Andy Dalton, the defense has recorded two shutouts this season and has allowed just 23 points over the last six games.
Tough to beat a team that doesn't let you score.
Gary Patterson is a fortunate coach.
He has proven his ability as a leader, but it helps that nine of his assistants have been on his staff for at least six years.
Leading the way is co-offensive coordinator Jarrett Anderson, who has been in Fort Worth for 13 seasons.
He's also had Chad Glasgow (safeties), Dan Sharp (tight ends/special teams), Eddie Williamson (assistant head coach), Mike Sinquefield (director of football operations) and Don Sommer (strength and conditioning) on his staff for the past decade.
Patterson has had opportunities to leave for BCS programs, but he has stayed behind and so has his staff. That loyalty has paid off.
You don't hear of many four and five-star recruits signing with TCU each February.
What the Horned Frogs coaching staff does is evaluate talent well and recruit well. And when the players arrive on campus, they coach them up.
Currently TCU has 12 former players in the NFL, including LaDainian Tomlinson and Jerry Hughes. Tomlinson was recruited by a lot of colleges, but many programs were not sure how highly to rank him because he only played one season at running back in high school. Hughes was a two-star running back recruit who was converted to defensive end by Gary Patterson.
However, rumor has it that TCU is starting to beat the big boys in Texas for some top recruits.
It's one thing to be the underdog and sneak up on teams. But TCU entered 2010 with astronomical expectations, especially for a non-AQ program.
But Gary Patterson and his coaching staff have kept the Horned Frogs grounded while also playing at a high level.
In two of TCU's first three games, the Horned Frogs took on two quality opponents from BCS conferences.
TCU outplayed Oregon State of the Pac-10 and held on for a 30-21 victory in the season opener. After a cupcake with Tennessee Tech, the Frogs made quick work of Baylor (45-10), which was ranked last week.
Ask any coach and they'll tell you how difficult it is to win every game.
You could argue that TCU's schedule helps as the Frogs don't play the week-in and week-out slate of, say, Alabama.
Still, TCU went 12-0 last season before losing to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl and Gary Patterson has the Frogs at 10-0 this year.