More Overtime (Cont.)
This was supposed to be a celebratory year for TCU with its move to the Big 12 and the unveiling the newly renovated Amon G. Carter Stadium. The first damper came in February when a campus drug bust resulted in the arrests and dismissal of four players, including star linebacker Tanner Brock. It was reported at the time that several other players failed an ensuing drug test.
Coach Gary Patterson's program managed to weather that storm, as well as the unrelated offseason departure of top running back Ed Wesley and a season-ending injury to replacement Waymon James, to start 4-0 and begin its familiar climb up the polls. But last week, the dam finally broke.
At 1 a.m. last Thursday, police arrested star Horned Frogs quarterback Casey Pachall for DWI. Pachall, the nation's fourth-rated passer, had previously admitted to using marijuana and failing the February drug test (he was Brock's roommate). But he received no discernible punishment despite Patterson's insistence at the time that "drugs and drug use by TCU's student-athletes will not be tolerated by me. ... Period."
This time, Patterson suspended Pachall indefinitely, and the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported Sunday that Patterson is facing "intense pressure from the top [of the university]" to make it a season-long suspension.
It was not entirely surprising, then, that in their first game without Pachall, the No. 15 Horned Frogs (4-1) suffered a 37-23 home loss to Iowa State (4-1). Pachall's replacement, redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin, threw three interceptions, and TCU lost two fumbles.
"You're talking about [going from] a guy that was a veteran who won 15 games to a redshirt freshman," Patterson said afterward.
Patterson was already coaching one of the youngest teams in the country (15 true freshmen have played). Pachall was the glue. But the coach is now dealing with bigger problems than how to beat Baylor next week. A program less than two years removed from a 13-0 season and bubbly Cinderella status is in a major conference now -- and dealing with some major disciplinary issues.
"I'm disappointed because of everything we've gone through," Patterson said last week. "Whether it's the situation that happened [Thursday] or something else ... I picked up the paper this morning and bad things were happening everywhere. So how do you focus and keep doing what I'm supposed to be doing, which is lead a team and be one of the faces of this university and handle things in the right way?"
Good question. We're eager to find out.
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup (as necessary) based on the latest week's games. Here's my current edition:
Title game: Alabama vs. Oregon
Rose: [Vacated] vs. USC
Fiesta: Kansas State vs. Notre Dame
Sugar: South Carolina vs. West Virginia
Orange: Florida State vs. Louisville
For the first time in the history of the Coaches' Poll, the Big Ten does not have a single ranked team this week. (Ohio State is ineligible.) Until that changes, I will not dignify the conference by anointing any of its teams as Rose Bowl worthy.
Actually, this is just an excuse to avoid having to make a wild guess on a Big Ten team for at least another week.
To refresh, this is a real-time top three Heisman ballot in which the only consideration is the players' performances to date. Neither preseason buzz nor the likelihood of a player actually winning will come into play, but the quality of competition so far will.
1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. The numbers (81.4 percent completion percentage, 1,996 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, no interceptions) speak for themselves, and now he's come through on the road against a top-15 team.
2. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame. Tack on another 10 tackles (vs. Miami) for the heart and soul of a defense that's now gone nearly a month without allowing a touchdown.
3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State. He's a top-10 passer and recorded his first 100-yard rushing day of the season in a 56-16 rout of rival Kansas.
A note on Braxton Miller: The Ohio State quarterback turned in his most electrifying rushing effort to date (16 carries, 186 yards) in the Buckeyes' 63-38 beat down of Nebraska. But a Heisman quarterback should, in theory, be a premier passer. Miller, the nation's 38th-rated passer, is not quite there yet.