Most football coaches act as if point spreads don’t exist, but Utah’s Kyle Whittingham acknowledged being a big underdog Saturday at Texas Christian got his players’ attention.
And that was when the Utes were merely 17-point underdogs. Imagine what the reaction must be now that the line has jumped to 20 points.
There’s a good reason that No. 4 TCU is such a huge favorite. The Horned Frogs are blowing out opponents, they will be at home, and this Utah team — though ranked No. 16 — isn’t as potent as the Utes squad that pounded Alabama in last season’s Sugar Bowl.
Plus, there’s the motivation factor. TCU outgained the Utes 416 yards to 275 last season, but lost 13-10.
Patterson, however, insisted revenge is not on the Frogs’ minds. He said that defeat served as a lesson — a lesson that the Frogs since have applied to victories over Boise State in last season’s Poinsettia Bowl and this year in wins at Clemson and Brigham Young.
“It helped us grow up, it helped us mature,” he said.
Patterson said he also did his own share of growing up, saying he had to adjust his style in how he approaches game weeks and game days.
“This team is a little bit more laid back of how you talk to them, how you approach big ballgames,” he said. “It’s been a very close team since back in January. What I’ve tried to do is stay out of the way. Usually, if they’ve struggled or been a little bit tense, it’s because I screwed them up.”
* ESPN IS SOLD — Even at No. 4 in the Bowl Championship Series standings, not many observers give TCU much of a chance to play for the national championship.
One of the current top three teams will lose because No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Alabama meet in the Southeastern Conference championship game. The Frogs must hope Texas, No. 3 in the standings, loses at some point, but even that might not be enough.
Some college football experts believe a one-loss team from a power conference would jump ahead of TCU.
But count ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit as being aboard the TCU bandwagon, saying Tuesday he would favor seeing the Frogs earn their way into the big game.
Herbstreit and the rest of ESPN’s “College GameDay” crew will be at TCU on Saturday before its game against Utah. This is the third time this season the show will originate from a Mountain West site. It had never happened more than once.
“You like playing in big ballgames,” Patterson said. “That’s really what you play for — national attention and to get a chance to prove what kind of player you are and what kind of team you have.”
* COMING UP SHORT? — If there would be a downside to the Frogs making a BCS game, it would be the likelihood the Mountain West wouldn’t fill its five bowl slots.
Four teams are bowl eligible. Wyoming and San Diego State need to win two of their final three games, and they play each other Saturday. Wyoming leading tackler Brian Hendricks is doubtful because of an ankle injury.
UNLV, a 17-point underdog at Air Force, must win its final two games.
“All we can do is create bowl opportunities and five seems to be our magic number based upon the past few years,” MWC commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Read the latest UNLV football updates at lvrj.com/blogs/unlv_sports.