Patterson uses AP poll as motivation

FORT WORTH, Texas -- TCU coach Gary Patterson had a simple message for his team after Texas squeaked into the national title game: "You can still win the AP."

Since the Associated Press poll is no longer a part of the BCS, it can name a separate national champion. The precedent is there. The AP crowned USC No. 1 in 2003 even though LSU won the BCS national championship.

"That's what I told them," Patterson said. "I said our whole deal is we're going to have to show the nation in this next bowl game that we belong ... that we're one of the top two teams in the nation. 'You can still win the AP.'

"So that's what our whole goal is within the next month, to try to get ourself against a very good opponent."

TCU enters the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl ranked No. 4 in the BCS, but No. 3 in the AP behind Alabama (58 first-place votes) and Texas (two). TCU did not receive any first-place votes.

For TCU to have any chance of swaying AP voters to be No. 1, the Horned Frogs would have to rout Boise State, hope Texas beats Alabama in a real sleeper and also keep an eye on undefeated Cincinnati (4th in AP, 3rd in BCS) vs. Florida.

"I don't want to put a negative spin at all on it," Patterson said of the team's matchup vs. Boise State. "This is the first time we've been to one of these games. ... I'm just excited to be here."

Jeff Caplan covers colleges for ESPNDallas.com.