Young Frogs prove they can compete in Big 12

Young Frogs prove they can compete in Big 12

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) The biggest question when two-time BCS buster TCU made the move to the Big 12 was whether the Horned Frogs could handle the week-to-week grind of playing in a major conference.

Well, coach Gary Patterson and his young, bowl-bound Frogs (7-4, 4-4 Big 12) have done just fine in their inaugural Big 12 season, even though they won't win at least 11 games for the fifth year in a row, claim their fourth consecutive conference title or be part of the Bowl Championship Series.

They can finish in the upper half of the only league sending 90 percent of its teams to bowl games (nine of 10) and have won four Big 12 road games, including Thanksgiving night at Texas. All while playing an FBS-high 28 freshmen, plus 20 sophomores, having to make an unplanned quarterback switch a month into the season and with only one senior starter on defense.

``Very, very proud of this group of kids the way they've fought, the way they've played, how they've done things, found ways to win,'' said Patterson, TCU's winningest coach at 116-34 in his 12th season. ``Now you're looking at having a chance to be 8-4 and get to a bowl game and do the things you need to do and kind of get a jump start for next season.''

TCU plays its regular-season finale Saturday at home against 12th-ranked Oklahoma (9-2, 7-1). The Sooners can clinch at least a share of the Big 12 title with a win, and then would be headed to a BCS game if seventh-ranked Kansas State loses later that night at home against No. 23 Texas.

The Sooners were already set to play at TCU this season in one of the first games at the Frogs' completely redone stadium. That instead became the regular-season finale for both teams when they became conference foes.

``Gary's done a great job for a long, long time. They've been a good football team,'' Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. ``What was it, just two or three years ago they win the Rose Bowl, beating Wisconsin over there? Gary is an excellent coach. His guys play, you can see, with great technique, discipline, all of that. He's been building that program for quite a while and done it in a great way.''

That Rose Bowl victory came two seasons ago, when the Horned Frogs finished 13-0 and No. 2 in the final AP poll.

The Frogs won their 2005 opener at Oklahoma, a year after their only losing season under Patterson. The Sooners won four years ago in their only other game against TCU under Stoops.

Patterson's name, as has been the case around this time of the season the past few years, is at least being mentioned for pretty much every major coaching vacancy.

``My actions show that I love this job, and right now I'm trying to beat Oklahoma,'' Patterson said. ``I can't control what other people do. It's pretty simple.''

TCU entered the Big 12 as the only FBS team with six 11-win seasons the past seven years. They had won 16 of their last 20 games against teams from leagues like the Big 12 with automatic bids into the Bowl Championship Series.

The Frogs won their four September games, including the Big 12 debut at Kansas for their 25th conference victory in a row. Then second-year starting quarterback Casey Pachall was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and withdrew from school to enter a rehabilitation program.

Redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin, the dual-threat quarterback who was practicing at running back to fill in for injuries there, was suddenly thrust into the role as starting quarterback only two days before the Big 12 home debut against Iowa State.

That 37-23 loss to the Cyclones ended the FBS' longest winning streak at 12 games and was the Frogs' first conference loss since November 2008, a span when they won three consecutive Mountain West titles.

They bounced back to win at Baylor before a triple-overtime loss to Texas Tech. After blowing a halftime lead at Oklahoma State, the Frogs won the meeting of Big 12 newcomers with a 39-38 double-overtime victory at West Virginia. Before going to Texas, they lost 23-10 at Kansas State, which then briefly took over the No. 1 spot in the BCS standings.

``We knew what it was going to be like at the end of the season. ... The last four (games), we're 2-2,'' Patterson said. ``Probably if everybody here was a betting person, they probably wouldn't bet we were 2-2. Because I listened to (media) talk at the beginning of the season about, `Well, you had a chance to be 7-0, but I don't think those last five, you win any of them.' ... We've gotten better, we've still got a long way to go.''

TCU will end its first Big 12 season playing in a bowl for the eighth consecutive season, and the 14th time in 15 seasons - since Patterson arrived as defensive coordinator with coach Dennis Franchione's staff in 1998. The Frogs will open the 2013 season at Cowboys Stadium against LSU.

``We have so many young guys, so many freshman playing,'' senior tight end Corey Fuller said. ``It's going to be amazing the next couple of years watching them grow up, and they've been doing a phenomenal job with that they've accomplished this year.''

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These hidden factors could make Brandon Scherff less interested in an extension with the Redskins

These hidden factors could make Brandon Scherff less interested in an extension with the Redskins

In Brandon Scherff, the Redskins have a 27-year-old guard who has delivered on his first-round status, a lineman who has become one of the best in the league at his position and should have many more years of production and defender-mauling left.

Therefore, it's in the Redskins' best interest to extend Scherff this offseason, and the veteran confirmed on Monday there have been talks about getting that done

But during a discussion on the Redskins Talk podcast, J.I. Halsell, a salary cap expert and former agent, laid out something that could force those negotiations to stall.

"There are some things you have to take into consideration because 2020 is the final year of the collective bargaining agreement, so there are some things you have to work around when structuring the deal," Halsell said.

Not only is that deadline approaching, but another one is, too. In 2021 and 2022, the NFL's TV deals with Monday Night Football, FOX, CBS and NBC expire as well.

So, there's a very real possibility the league's salary cap could look much, much different in a few seasons. And that, according to Halsell, may make Scherff much less willing to accept an extension now.

"If you're Brandon Scherff, in 2021, with a new collective bargaining agreement, the salary cap might be $250 million or something crazy like that, with all the new revenue coming into the league," he explained. "And so why would I take a deal today and preclude myself of taking advantage of a very lucrative and larger revenue pie?"

Essentially, it comes down to whether Scherff wants to take a present risk that could pay off down the line (kind of like how Kirk Cousins did a few years back with the Burgundy and Gold). He could probably lock something in over the next few months — Halsell's projection was an agreement for five years, including $45 million guaranteed and a $14.5 million average per year — or step away from talks now and try to cash in later.

Haslell told Redskins Talk he'd probably advise the lineman to take the second route.

"You would say, 'Look, you're a former first-round pick. You've made a decent amount of money in your career thus far,'" he said. "You have the financial wherewithal to not take the bird in hand today that may not be as lucrative as what is out there in 2021. So, bet on yourself and play out the last year of your rookie deal, force them to tag you in 2020 and then see what this new NFL salary cap world looks like in 2021."

Now, who knows truly how much these factors will play into Scherff's back-and-forth with the 'Skins. Nevertheless, you can see why the Pro Bowler's next contract may not be as much of a no-brainer as previously thought.

"If the kid is willing to bet on himself," Haslell said, "then it could be very lucrative on the back end."


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Seven reasons you need to root for the Blues in the Stanley Cup Final

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Seven reasons you need to root for the Blues in the Stanley Cup Final

The St. Louis Blues defeated the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night to advance to the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final. The champions of the Western Conference will take on the Boston Bruins, the champions of the Eastern Conference, having swept the Carolina Hurricanes in four games.

With the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins squaring off in a rematch of the 1970 Stanley Cup Final, we've dug up the seven reasons why Capitals fans, and -- well -- all NHL fans should be rooting for the Blues to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup.

1: The Blues are like the Capitals of the West

A lot of fans think that the San Jose Sharks hold that title, but the Blues present an even stronger case.

The Blues Stanley Cup drought is currently at 51 seasons. And although they made the Stanley Cup Final three consecutive seasons from 1968-1970, they have yet to win a game in the Stanley Cup Final.

That should sound familiar to Caps fans. Before they won it all in 2018, Washington's Cup drought was 42 years, and when they made the Cup Final in 1998 they were swept by the dominant Detroit Red Wings.

The similarities don't stop there. Each team has a Russian sniper, a crop of promising rookies on offense and defense, and acquired depth pieces in free agency to build a consistent contender.

In the Blues case before this season, they couldn't make it past the Conference Finals, similar to how the Caps couldn't make it out of the second round.

Call it coincidence or fate, but the Blues are looking eerily similar to the Caps that won the Stanley Cup last year.

2: No More Boston Championships

The New England Patriots just won the Super Bowl. The Red Sox just won another World Series. The city of Boston has celebrated six major professional championships since 2010 and 12 since 2000, with each parade more frustrating to watch than the last.

Does Boston really need another championship after a drought since February?

3: Brad Marchand is the worst

A lot of people will complain about Tom Wilson's play. But Brad Marchand is the king of the subtle and overtly dirty play, especially in the playoffs where the rules relax.

In last year's playoffs, Marchand was told by the league to stop licking players after he brushed his tongue across Leo Komarov's face.

This postseason, he's punched players in the back of the head after a play's been blown dead.

He also baited Justin Williams into penalty minutes when he high-sticked him across the face. No penalty was given to Marchand on the play.

Marchand's put up 18 points through three rounds in addition to his antics.

4: TJ Oshie's old stomping grounds

The Caps acquired Oshie from the Blues in 2015 in exchange for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley and Washington's third-round pick in 2016, and he's now a mainstay in the Caps top six. 

Oshie played over 400 games for the Blues, recording over 300 points for the organization that drafted him. Not only did he put up stellar numbers, but he was an alternate captain for the Blues and was beloved by fans in the area.

Who better to root for than for Oshbabe's old team?

5: Vladimir Tarasenko is tearing it up

If you've got Alex Ovechkin's endorsement as a game-changer, that's a good place to start.

Ovechkin took note of Tarasenko's skill in a 2014 game the Blues played against the Rangers and told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch "He just make great jump in his career and he’s carrying the team right now.”

In these playoffs, the Russian sniper has eight goals and five assists, including points in every game of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks.

6: Pam and Jim are facing off in an Office matchup

Actor John Krasinski, who played Jim Halpert in The Office,  is a Bruins fan. 

Jenna Fischer, who played Pam Beesly, Jim's love interest, is a Blues fan.

We have a house divided.

We tend to lean to Team Pam because if you take a closer look, Jim was a pretty awful colleague and despite his charm and boyish looks, he was kinda a bad person.

7: Washington helped St. Louis ascend the standings

On Jan. 2 the Blues were last in the league and posted a 15-18-4 record with 34 points.

But their fortunes started to turn on Jan. 3, when they faced the Caps at Enterprise Center in St. Louis. They beat the Caps 5-2, and turned their season around from that game going forward, including an 11 game winning streak.

So really, St. Louis has Washington to thank for transforming their season from one marred by losses to one where they made the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1970.