TCU-Oregon State opener looms large

TCU knows how to win season openers against BCS opponents. Another big challenge looms in the kickoff to 2010 when the Horned Frogs play Oregon State in the Cowboys Classic on Sept 4.

The Horned Frogs are undefeated in their past five season openers. Four of those came against BCS teams. One came in a huge upset over No. 7 Oklahoma, 17-10 in 2005.

But this season has the most riding on it. TCU figures to enter the game ranked in the preseason Top 10 after returning 16 starters from a 12-1 team that made the Fiesta Bowl. Expectations are sky high, and a loss to start off the year would kill any slim chance they have of busting into the BCS national title game.

“The thing that I would say is the team that does win ends up with a great jump start,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said on a joint conference call with Oregon State coach Mike Riley on Tuesday.

Still, Patterson likes to tamp down expectations, saying the results of 2009 are wiped out regardless of how many players they have returning. The players “know in our pyramid you have to start at the bottom and work your way up,” Patterson said.

For Oregon State, there are risks, too, especially since the non-conference schedule already featured a game at Boise State before the school was approached in the spring about playing TCU at Cowboys Stadium in a primetime game on ESPN.

“You learn more about yourself in a game like this than other games you might play,” Riley said. “For us, it’s really important for the development of the identity of this team. That’s why for me, it’s daunting, but it’s great for the Beavers to be involved in a game like this.”