The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Wisconsin has been a successful Big Ten program over the last two decades, something TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson has noticed. So when the numbers and statistics between TCU and Wisconsin, opponents in the 97th Rose Bowl on January 1, appear similar, there's a distinct reason for it.

MADISON - Although he can't pronounce Coach Bret Bielema's last name properly, TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson is an admitted admirer of the Wisconsin program and its fans that travel coast-to-coast and pack an 80,000 seat stadium without breaking a sweat.

Since being named head coach at TCU prior to the Mobile Alabama Bowl in December 2000, Patterson has tried to emulate the Badgers with how his program operates and how passionate their fan base is. So when broached with the notion that the non-Automatic Qualifier school may be viewed as the underdog against the power running, big-bodied, blue-collared, physical Big Ten champions, Patterson was happy to embrace it.

"It's always easier to play David," Patterson joked, "but I would rather try to be Sampson over the next 30 days, grow hair and get stronger."

Early returns suggest the opposite for when Texas Christian (12-0) faces Wisconsin in the 97th Rose Bowl January 1 in Pasadena, Calif. TCU, along with Boise State, have been at the front of the class when it comes to non-automatic qualifying conferences trying to crash the BCS party.

The Horned Frogs are quite the party crashers, considering they are one of three undefeated teams in the FBS and are ranked third in the final Bowl Championship Series rankings, two spots ahead of UW. So for the third time in the past four Rose Bowl trips, the Badgers find themselves as underdogs, with early betting lines favoring the Horned Frogs by three.

"It's a great challenge, and that's what it's all about it," senior quarterback Scott Tolzien said. "That's how life works. Life gives you challenges, and this is another one."

Patterson, who became the first head coach of a non-BCS conference team to win the AP Coach of the Year in 2009, is 97-28 (.776 winning percentage) in his 10 seasons, but is 35-3 (92.1) the last three years and has the nation's second-longest current winning streak at 12 games.

"You have a tremendous amount of respect for anybody that's gone undefeated, no matter how it happens or whether they got lucky in a game or whatever it was," Bielema said. "Bottom line, TCU has handled their business all the way through."

Because of a provision in the BCS rulebook requiring the Rose Bowl to invite the highest-ranking non-AQ school if one of those two leagues has a representative in the championship game, the Horned Frogs will become the fifth team outside if the Big Ten and Pacific-10 Conference to play in the historic bowl game since 1946.

Although TCU needed that rule to play with the big boys, the Horned Frogs certainly look like a BCS school. The Horned Frogs are the No. 1 team in the nation in total defense and scoring defense, has held seven foes to single digits in points, the best mark in the nation and are tied with Wisconsin as fourth in scoring offense.

TCU is 15-3 in its last 18 games versus teams from conferences with automatic BCS bids, something the Horned Frogs can hang their hat on when they move to the Big East Conference starting in 2012.

"Every team is different, but what can I about the nucleus of this team, the chemistry and the attitude to play together is there," Patterson said. "We've lost some great players, especially on defense, and every year they seem to come back and play together."

Although the Frogs had a chance to move up into the BCS title game with a loss last weekend by either Oregon or Auburn, Patterson and his staff took advantage of the week off by starting the process of breaking down Wisconsin game film. Just like the Frogs running multiple formations and featuring a balanced attack, Patterson saw the same with Wisconsin, except the Badgers do it with an oversized offensive line.

"Everybody talks about the three running backs, but if you look at their offensive line and how they move and their tight ends with how they get in the pass game and their wide receivers with how they block down field … they find a weakness and come after you," Patterson said. "They are very relentless.

"They've got all-conference players, All-American players up and down the line (but) I think (our) guys came to TCU to play against these kinds of teams … We have to find a way to slow them down."

Patterson wouldn't come out and say it, but it's almost certain that he's noticed that in Wisconsin's three games against top 25 opponents, the Badgers were held to an average of 163.7 yards, far off the 247.3-yard average of the 12th-ranked rushing offense.

If Patterson can continue that trend, he can take satisfaction that the impression Wisconsin has left on him helped contributed to his victory in the ‘Granddaddy of them all.'

"For us to keep climbing the mountain, we need to (win)," Patterson said. "That's what we're going there for. We're not going there just to play well. It says a lot for us to be in this ball game."

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