<
>

TCU, UCF show they belong in Big East

I'm not breaking any news here by telling you TCU is good.

I had the chance to cover the Horned Frogs in their Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio victory over Wisconsin. If there was ever any doubt that TCU was an excellent addition to the Big East, that game erased it. Gary Patterson's team played mistake-free, disciplined football the entire game against an outstanding Badgers team that I think could have torn apart any team in this year's Big East.

One thing that struck me throughout the week in Los Angeles is how small most of the TCU players looked up close. They may have Texas athletes, but their guys would have seemed undersized lined up against a lot of current Big East squads (except 6-6, 350-pound left tackle Marcus Cannon, who's a mountain). Yet they have an awful lot of speed and are impressively well-schooled in the fundamentals. I knew the defense would be sound; I wasn't aware that the offensive side of the ball would be similarly precise, full of all kinds of different formations and a boatload of playmakers.

Don't bother learning the names of too many current TCU stars, because they will all be gone by the time the team enters the Big East in 2012. This is a senior-laden squad. But Patterson has also built an enduring program, and as long as he sticks around in Fort Worth, the Horned Frogs will have staying power.

"I don't know if we'll be different as a football team whether we're AQ or not," Patterson said on Thursday. "Recruiting, I think, will change a little bit, but we'll still recruit the same kind of kids. Our game plan will still be the same.

"We've got one more year in the Mountain West Conference, and we're going to try to make sure that we keep them happy by playing at a high level and going from there. Then we'll move forward and see what that plan has to be to be successful."

TCU is already on board. Another team perhaps should be.

Central Florida beat Georgia in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl to wrap up an 11-3 season. While no one would confuse this Georgia team as a vintage Bulldogs edition or even a good one, the Knights still registered a victory over an SEC team in a bowl. They showed they have arrived.

The Big East surely took notice, and UCF is becoming a more attractive option all the time. Even the school's basketball team is on fire, starting this season 13-0 and ranked in the Top 20. It's a university with brand new facilities in an attractive market. There are few reasons right now why Villanova would be a better choice, except that the Wildcats are a safer sell among league presidents who don't want an 18th member.

The Big East shouldn't add Central Florida just because of one good season, but there is something to be said about striking while the iron is hot. And both TCU and UCF are hot commodities.