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Before finally making it to a BCS game, there had been some near-misses for TCU under Patterson.

There was a 10-0 start in 2003 and the one-loss team two years later, when the Frogs’ only loss was at SMU the week after upsetting Oklahoma in the season opener. TCU has won 11 games four of the past six seasons.

Last year was the Frogs’ first undefeated regular season since 1938, their only AP national championship. They won their last seven games by at least 27 points, including against Utah and BYU.

Patterson says he changed his approach “a little bit” last year with a message that also applies again this season with a lot of returning players and big expectations.

“Coaches are really bad about telling you if you don’t do this, you’re never going to live up to that expectation,” Patterson said. “Well last year, I didn’t do that. I just finally decided at some point in time you get tired of talking negatives because pretty soon (players) listen to you and they follow suit. That’s what they hear.”

The adjusted message?

“I just told them, here’s what we have in front of us, here’s the level of talent that we have,” he said. “You live up to it, you’ve got a chance to do this.”

That doesn’t mean TCU has abandoned the underdog, chip-on-its-shoulder mentality.

Senior center Jake Kirkpatrick said the Frogs went through one of their toughest summers ever because the coaches aren’t going to let them “just be mediocre.”

The Frogs’ season opener is Sept. 4 in a nationally televised game against 24th-ranked Oregon State at Cowboys Stadium, the $1.2 billion NFL palace only about 20 miles from the TCU campus.

That provides a quick opportunity for TCU to prove it is indeed one of the nation’s best teams.

“For the longest time, we were saying we deserve to mentioned with those top-tier teams,” Clay said. “I think now that we are being mentioned, it’s very important this season to show that we deserve to be here.

“We were always trying to prove everyone wrong, and now I think our goal is to prove everyone right.”