TCU coach Gary Patterson preaches winning by one. In theory, that's great. But this is the unapologetic BCS, and now the third-ranked Frogs must wait anxiously to see if a five-point win over the unranked San Diego State Aztecs -- 40-35 after leading 34-14 at halftime -- will be enough to stay ahead of No. 4 Boise State when the BCS rankings are released Sunday.
The stakes are incredibly high as TCU (11-0, 7-0 Mountain West Conference) heads into a bye week with one regular-season game remaining at woeful New Mexico after Thanksgiving. Boise State on Friday throttled Idaho, 52-14, and if the Broncos only close the gap on TCU, they still have three games remaining (vs. Fresno State, at No. 21 Nevada, vs. Utah State) to thrust their high-powered offense and stingy defense upon the voters.
The question now is if the polls will punish the Frogs -- who fell behind the juiced Aztecs (7-3, 4-2) 14-0 in the opening six minutes only to score 34 unanswered points -- for winning at home by a slim margin when the line was set at four touchdowns. TCU mostly dominated the stats and had possession twice as long. But, if the polls follow similar logic, TCU could be in trouble.
Remember back when TCU beat SMU by 17, but didn't show great and fell a spot in the AP Top 25 poll (which is not part of the BCS formula). Two weeks ago, riding a wave of impressive conference blowouts, the Frogs jumped Boise despite the Broncos routing their WAC opponents.
TCU widened the gap on Boise and were widely hailed as title-game worthy after their 47-7 road demolition of then-No. 5 Utah.
But, the Utes did the Frogs no favors Saturday, getting blasted at hapless Notre Dame and perhaps cementing the belief that Utah was overrated, as well as denting the MWC's credibility as a menacing conference.
What does it mean if TCU drops behind Boise? Everything. The highest-ranked non-automatic qualifier is first in line for an automatic BCS berth -- this year into the Rose Bowl -- and remains on the doorstep of a possible national championship game appearance if, seemingly, No. 1 Oregon, slim winners over California Saturday night, or controvery-ridden No. 2 Auburn, big winners earlier in the day over Georgia, lose in their final games.
If TCU were to fall behind Boise, there is little time now to make another move.
The second-highest ranked non-AQ might find itself out of the BCS mix entirely, needing an at-large bid to get in, but knowing that the major conference's non-champions could fill the three precious spots remaining.
Yes, it will be a nervous 24 hours for the Frogs, who will find out if they were truly victorious on Saturday.