That's what's on stake again this week for Gary Patterson and his TCU Horned Frogs as they travel to Manhattan to battle Kansas State. The Frogs are coming off a hard fought win over Iowa State while the Wildcats are winners of three consecutive games including last week's big 49-26 win over Texas Tech in Lubbock.
The Frogs' backs remain against the wall until they reach win number six on the year as they hope to reach their ninth consecutive bowl game. Win number five won't be easy, but the Frogs have shown Patterson in practice that they're nowhere close to throwing in the towel.
"This week's been good," Patterson said of his team's practice. "They understand how difficult every week is. We've got to go close. It's hard to win on the road and Manhattan, KS is a tough place to play no matter how they're playing."
Kansas State is favored at home, but Patterson knows with the parity of the Big 12, anything can happen. He notes Oklahoma State losing to West Virginia and the Mountaineers nearly upsetting Texas last week as examples of why you have to be prepared every week.
"You've got to go play every week, it's difficult," he said of playing in the Big 12. "That's why four, five or six players make a difference. That's what's so amazing about this group; last week you play without (B.J.) Catalon, (Jason) Verrett, Elisha (Olabode); just go down the list of people."
On Tuesday Patterson said that do-everything player Trevone Boykin could see some time at punt return against Kansas State. He worked alongside Brandon Carter and Cameron Echols-Luper at Wednesday's practice. Patterson called Boykin a natural at catching the ball.
Does that mean the sophomore could return kicks as well?
"He's got a lot on his plate," he said of Boykin. "Kickoff return is a little bit more of a play; punt return you go right, left and middle. But, he's a natural at it; it's amazing how easy he catches the ball. I shouldn't be surprised; he does everything else pretty naturally."
Patterson says there aren't many positions on the field Boykin couldn't play.
"If we had 100 Trevone Boykin's we would be an awfully good football team," he said. "He could play three out of the five secondary positions; he could play both linebackers, both tailbacks and play wide receiver."
With Boykin taking over as a slash type player on offense, senior Casey Pachall has taken over the reins under center. Pachall has responded well the last two games against West Virginia and Iowa State. Against the Mountaineers Pachall completed 13-of-16 passes on the Frogs' final two drives to send the game into overtime.
But, at the end of the day it comes down to wins and losses when judging a quarterback. Patterson does admit that he's seen an improvement in the offense in recent weeks with Pachall back under center.
"We should've won one, he led us to overtime and he's won a ball game," he said. "Again, judge them by what's the end result. He's thrown for a lot of yards and the offense has picked up and gotten ready to go. One of the reasons is Brandon Carter is back, runningbacks ran well and didn't turn the ball over; Trevone gives you an added dimension."
Some of the improvement from Pachall can be attributed to him watching from the sidelines according to Patterson. The coach has seen a big transformation from his quarterback compared to where he started the season.
"He is a different quarterback coming back from even the start of the season," Patterson said of Pachall. "I thought he was still in the same rut and I think getting a chance to step back and be around the coaches more watching from the outside going in I think he's taken a whole different perspective even from what he did at the start of the season."
Sophomore receiver Ladarius Brown is another player who has seen his game improve with the return of Pachall. Brown leads the Frogs with 32 receptions on the year and he's hauled in 16 catches the last three games.
"He should have been that way earlier in the year," Patterson said of Brown. "LaDarius and Trevone both were guys that were in my office about different things. I think their off the field stuff is cleaned up. You've got to make this stuff important. There are a lot of good players that play college football; very fine line between being great, good and bad."
CARTER GOOD FOR NOW
Junior receiver Brandon Carter is playing on a week-to-week basis the last few weeks. He missed the game against West Virginia and last week despite questions on whether or not he would play, he suited up against Iowa State. He responded with his best game of the year by catching 6 passes for 93 yards; both season highs.
Patterson said Carter has to complete some things academically by Thursday, but for now he'll be making the trip to Kansas State.
"Right now he's on the bus but it's still only Wednesday," Patterson said of Carter.