TCU came in at No. 4 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings after getting past yet another tough opponent last weekend.
The Horned Frogs could be in for a much easier time down the stretch.
Heavily favored and fifth-ranked TCU goes for a fifth straight win and third in a row against Kansas as these Big 12 rivals square off Saturday in Lawrence.
TCU (8-1, 5-1) has faced five ranked teams in its last six games, with its only loss coming 61-58 on a last-second field goal at then-No. 5 Baylor on Oct. 11. The Horned Frogs shouldn’t face nearly as much trouble in their final three regular-season matchups, none of which come against teams with winning records. They face Texas and last-place Iowa State after this game.
"If they can’t see what we have in front of us, I can’t help them," coach Gary Patterson said. "Bottom line is, there it is. It’s laid out. Here’s what you’ve got to do. They’re smart kids. They’re mature. They understand what we’ve got to do."
TCU is coming off last Saturday’s 41-20 win over then-No. 9 Kansas State. Quarterback Trevone Boykin ran for 123 yards and three touchdowns as the Horned Frogs outgained the Wildcats 334-34 on the ground.
"A win is a win, and that’s pretty much how it goes," said Boykin, who also threw for 219 yards and a score. "We have to grind, and we can’t look past anybody or take anything for granted. We have to come out with everybody. It’s nothing new for us."
While TCU is hoping to get a shot to play for the national championship, it knows it still has a long way to go.
"One of the things we wanted to become is relevant again. I’m proud of my kids, the university and the city," Patterson said. "Right now, we’re just trying to get to 9-1. I can plead a lot better case if we win the next three games. I just need to find a way to beat Kansas and do the things we need to do."
The Horned Frogs had some difficulty with Kansas on Oct. 12, 2013, before pulling out a 27-17 victory. B.J. Catalon and Boykin combined for 162 rushing yards and two TDs as TCU outscored the Jayhawks 17-7 in the second half.
"It’s a lot easier to be the hunter than the hunted," Patterson said. "You always get everybody’s best shot. You can make Kansas’ season. It’s just part of what you deal with. That’s why you don’t worry about it. I can only worry that the team I put on the field on Saturday plays the best it can."
Kansas (3-6, 1-5) had been outscored by an average of 21.6 points during a five-game losing streak before beating Iowa State 34-14 last Saturday. Corey Avery and Tony Pierson ran for a combined 204 yards and two touchdowns as the Jayhawks improved to 3-45 in their last 48 conference games.
"We talked about going out and playing the game and doing special things, and our players did special things today," coach Clint Bowen said. "We are starting to develop a good little system in the way we operate, and I think it just gives the guys some belief that what we’re doing is putting us on the right path."
Michael Cummings threw for 278 yards and a touchdown, giving him five and a 143.9 passer rating in the last three games.
"He continues to demonstrate it over and over again," Bowen said. "He’s a leader in the huddle. He’s a guy that has a presence about him that gives you confidence."
The Jayhawks haven’t posted back-to-back conference wins in the same season since Oct. 4 and 11, 2008. They have dropped 16 in a row against Top 25 opponents by an average of 30.1 points.
Kansas hung tough in a 27-20 home loss to then-No. 16 Oklahoma State on Oct. 11 before getting blown out 60-14 at then-No. 12 Baylor on Nov. 1.
TCU has won each of its four games against unranked foes by an average of 42.0 points, including an 82-27 drubbing against Texas Tech on Oct. 25.