FORT WORTH, Texas — The big problem for TCU after its most impressive victory is now there are really no more chances for the third-ranked Horned Frogs to help themselves.
A 40-point win victory at then-No. 6 and undefeated Utah strengthened TCU's hold on the third spot in the BCS standings — behind Oregon and Auburn, and ahead of Boise State.
"To me, all you have to prove is what was your highest level of play. To me, Saturday was our highest level of play," TCU coach Gary Patterson said Tuesday. "Very few teams that are really good go to somebody else's house that are really good and win, let alone win like TCU did."
As long as the Horned Frogs (10-0, 6-0 Mountain West) win their home finale Saturday against San Diego State (7-2, 4-1) and then win at New Mexico two weeks later, Patterson believes they should remain in the conversation for a possible BCS national championship berth.
"No matter how we play the last two games, as long as we win, it shouldn't matter," Patterson said.
Unfortunately, it might for TCU a year after finally becoming a BCS buster.
While either Oregon or Auburn will have to lose for TCU to get a chance to move up in the BCS standings, the Frogs also have to hold off Boise State (8-0).
The Broncos have four games left, including at 21st-ranked Nevada, and will be playing on two weekends when TCU won't have a game.
Computer rankings that are part of the BCS formula might not be altered by how many games a team has played at a certain point, but human voters in the polls that do could be influenced by the Frogs not playing.
"Two off weeks while Boise is playing, and if Boise is putting up big numbers and TCU is on the couch eating cheeseburgers and pizza, it's like a week (for TCU) not being able to defend yourself," BCS analyst Jerry Palm said.
Boise State plays the next three Friday nights — at Idaho, home against Fresno State and then at Nevada — before its regular-season finale at home Dec. 4 against Utah State. That is the day before the final BCS standings are released.
After playing their home finale Saturday, the Horned Frogs have a week off before going to New Mexico after Thanksgiving and a week before the Broncos play their last game.
Unless TCU and Boise State finish 1-2 in the BCS standings, only the highest-ranked of those non-automatic qualifying teams that played each other in the Fiesta Bowl last season is guaranteed a spot in one of the BCS games this time.
The Frogs and Broncos could be playing for a spot in the Rose Bowl, unless one of them makes it to the national title game.
Patterson is focusing on San Diego State, knowing none of the BCS scenarios matter if the Frogs don't win.
"If I get beat Saturday, you won't be asking me any of those questions and you won't care that I'm playing New Mexico," Patterson said.
Last weekend in Utah, where a sellout crowd was decked out in black like two years earlier when the Utes beat TCU 13-10, the Horned Frogs led 20-0 in the first quarter and went on to a 47-7 victory over the original BCS buster.
"We've proven that we can play at that kind of level in that kind of environment against that kind of football team," Patterson said. "If we play like that on any given day, like we did against Utah last Saturday, then we can play with a lot of people."
TCU outgained the Utes 558 total yards to 199, and ended their 21-game home winning streak. The Frogs have won 23 consecutive regular-season games.
Patterson repeated Tuesday what he has said before, though, that no coach wants to get to a national championship game if they don't have a team that can compete that way.
Based on how they played against Utah, and having allowed no more than a touchdown in six consecutive games, it seems as if the Frogs could be ready for a championship chance.
"I'm not going to put my team at risk of going out there on the limb so that I can make myself sound good at the risk of my team losing a football game," Patterson said. "They understand that I think they can play. ... We better come play with our A-game this Saturday."