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TCU has flaws but shows it still has something special

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Green: Win vs. Texas Tech going to give team spark (1:46)

TCU RB Aaron Green joins SportsCenter to discuss his game-winning TD vs. Texas Tech and what the win means for the Horned Frogs moving forward. (1:46)

The night before TCU’s game at Texas Tech, coach Gary Patterson had predicted that the team that had the ball last would prevail.

Patterson proved prescient. Well, almost.

The Red Raiders very nearly pulled off a miraculous play of their own following the improbable game-winning touchdown grab of TCU running back Aaron Green off a fourth-down tip in the end zone. But Tech’s series of desperation laterals came up a few yards short, giving the Horned Frogs the hard-fought 55-52 win in Lubbock.

The victory revealed two facts about TCU.

Due mostly to a series of debilitating injuries, the Horned Frogs have become a flawed team. TCU, after all, surrendered more than 600 yards of offense and 32 first downs, and escaped Lubbock only under the most dramatic of circumstances.

But the win — and the final drive specifically — also demonstrated that TCU possesses championship-mettle.

And in a season in which playoff contenders across the country have already shown vulnerabilities of their own, championship mettle could be what trumps all.

“Any time you have a special year,” Patterson said, “people make special plays.”

The Horned Frogs had several such players pull off such special plays.

Quarterback Trevone Boykin doused the doubters suggesting he would regress this year, throwing for 485 yards and four touchdowns. Boykin also extended his arms to haul in a two-point conversion off a trick play that gave TCU a three-point lead with 8:22 left in the fourth quarter.

With wideout wingman Kolby Listenbee out with an injury, Josh Doctson also was incredible. He tied a Big 12 record with 18 receptions and finished with 267 yards and three touchdowns. His 16-yard catch on the final drive gave the Horned Frogs first-and-goal to set up the final score.

Green was fabulous, too. He rushed for 162 yards and ultimately saved TCU’s season by ending up in the right spot at the right time on the game-winning grab, even though that wasn’t where he even was supposed to be.

“Thank goodness,” Patterson said. “I don’t know where he came from, but thank goodness.”

This weekend, the mettle of other Big 12 title hopefuls will be put to the test.

Fifth-ranked Baylor, which itself has looked susceptible at times despite finishing off another cupcake nonconference slate unscathed, will take on the same Red Raiders in Arlington, Texas. Starting with quarterback Seth Russell, the Bears looked much sharper Saturday in the 70-17 demolition of Rice. But Tech, which has played Baylor tough in Cowboys Stadium the last two seasons, will provide the Bears with their first real opposition of the season.

To the north, surging West Virginia will attempt to prove it is indeed the real deal when it heads to Oklahoma to begin a brutal four-game stretch that also includes Oklahoma State and road trips to Baylor and TCU. The Mountaineers hammered Maryland 45-6 over the weekend, and cthey ontinue to look like they might own the top defense in the Big 12. But they also have yet to face a quarterback the caliber of Baker Mayfield, who showed at Tennessee that, like Boykin, when the game is on the line he can be at his best.

“We know what’s ahead of us,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “It’s time to refocus.”

On the other side, the West Virginia showdown is an opportunity for the Sooners to prove that the fourth quarter and overtime finish at Tennessee wasn’t a fluke. A win over the Mountaineers also could vault Oklahoma from the fringe of playoff discussions to the thick of them.

"It's way too early,” Bob Stoops told The Sporting News in New York City over the weekend. “[The playoff race definition] will all start happening in the next few weeks.”

Around the country, it’s actually begun.

Popular preseason playoff picks Alabama and USC already have a loss. Auburn and Oregon have been exposed as pretenders. Sixth-ranked Notre Dame has lost quarterback Malik Zaire for the year. Seventh-ranked UCLA has lost three starting defenders, including linebacker Myles Jack. Even No. 1 defending national champ Ohio State has looked mortal, barely escaping Northern Illinois two weeks ago.

For those reasons, the playoff race appears to be wide open. And with no team looking unbeatable at the moment, championship mettle could be what sorts them out.

"Obviously I'd rather not have given up [52] points," Patterson said. "But all we care about is every week we move forward and we win a ballgame."on

TCU’s several shortcomings were on full display Saturday. But so was their mettle.

This weekend, we begin to find out what others in the Big 12 are really made of, too.