- Associated Press - Thursday, September 23, 2010

DALLAS (AP) - SMU coach June Jones is sending mixed messages about the significance of the Mustangs’ home game against fourth-ranked TCU.

He is probably doing that on purpose.

Jones, in his third season trying to return SMU to prominence, talks about “hoping one day we can be in that class with them” while also saying the underdog Mustangs (2-1) can’t worry about TCU more than they do any other team.

But with a Friday night game against the Horned Frogs (3-0) at home, where SMU has won five straight for the first time since 1985-86, Jones isn’t ignoring reality.

“You’ve got a chance to make a statement on national TV,” Jones said.

TCU, which has won 17 consecutive regular season games, is favored by more than two touchdowns in the Dallas-Fort Worth rivalry. The Frogs have won nine of the last 10 meetings.

“I guess it comes with having a ranking to you, it’s a statement game for those people,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “June has done a good job with words. I don’t quite understand it. … It’s not a big game, or is it a big game? What exactly is it?”

For the Frogs, this is the fourth step toward in what they hope is another undefeated regular season and a chance to be a BCS buster again.

SMU last year went to a bowl for the first time since 1984, before the so-called “death penalty” from the NCAA for rampant violations that included paying players and led to two years without fielding a team. Until last year, the Mustangs had posted only one winning record since the program was reinstated in 1989.

After going 1-11 in Jones‘ first season, SMU improved to 8-5 last year and went to the Hawaii Bowl. The seven-win improvement was the largest for any Division I team last season.

It’s a turnaround TCU can relate to: The program was coming off a one-win season when Patterson arrived as the defensive coordinator for Dennis Franchione in 1998. After several near misses, the Frogs finally became a BCS buster last season.

Jones is just getting started at SMU, where he arrived in 2008 after his rebuilding effort at Hawaii included an undefeated regular season and a BCS game.

“He’s using patience and I think he’s getting support from the administration that you need that maybe past coaches before him weren’t given,” said Patterson, who became the Frogs’ head coach when Franchione left for Alabama at the end of the 2000 regular season.

Patterson considers Jones a good friend, so the success of the Mustangs is all well and good with the TCU coach. Except this week.

The Frogs have kept the “Iron Skillet” trophy for most of the past decade, with the only SMU victory in that stretch coming in 2005. That was pre-Jones and a week after TCU’s season-opening victory at Oklahoma. That 21-10 shocker was the only loss that season for the Frogs.

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