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TCU tunes out BCS for big game

By The Associated Press

HATTIESBURG — While others debate whether unbeaten Texas Christian is worthy of a spot in the Bowl Championship Series, the Horned Frogs have more immediate concerns.

Specifically, a nationally-televised showdown tonight (ESPN) with Southern Mississippi that will decide the Conference USA championship.

No. 10 TCU can clinch its first outright C-USA title by beating the second-place Golden Eagles (7-3, 6-0), who have won four straight games.

Still, it seems all most people want to talk to the Horned Frogs (10-0, 7-0) about is the Bowl Championship Series standings.

"Yeah, it gets tiring sometimes," said TCU quarterback Brandon Hassell, who is 6-0 since replacing injured starter Tye Gunn. "Most of the time talking to some people, that's all they want to talk about it, and we're really focused on Southern Miss and the game we have coming up that week. Sometimes you just really don't want to talk about it after talking about it so much and hearing about it so much."

TCU dropped two spots in the BCS standings this week to eighth. The top six teams are guaranteed spots in the four big-ticket bowl games - Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange.

Staying undefeated keeps the Horned Frogs in the mix, even if it gives them only an outside shot. If win the conference and don't make it to one of the big bowls, they will return to the Liberty Bowl.

"The only thing that matters to me is beating Southern Miss," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "We know it's not going to make any difference at all unless we go 2-0 the last week-and-a-half."

If TCU beats Southern Mississippi, only winless SMU stands in the way of the Horned Frogs' first unbeaten season since 1938, when quarterback Davey O'Brien led TCU to its only national championship.

A loss to the Golden Eagles not only ends the BCS debate, it very well could relegate TCU to second-place in its own league.

Southern Miss finishes the season against C-USA rival East Carolina, which has won just once this season.

"I don't think it matters what they have riding on this game," Southern Miss center Jim Hicks said. "They have a lot riding on it, more so than just the conference championship. They have been high up in the rankings all year long, and we didn't pay to much attention to that because we have our goals."

Southern Miss won three C-USA titles in the league's first four seasons, but none since 1999.

"This football team is really hungry and this is the position they wanted to be in," Golden Eagles coach Jeff Bower said.

It has taken just three seasons in C-USA for TCU and Southern Miss to create a spirited rivalry.

"It has turned into a big rivalry, not a rivalry of hatred," said TCU defensive end Bo Schobel, who leads the conference with 11½ sacks. "We respect them as being a good football team and I think they respect us the same."

The year before TCU moved into the league, Southern Miss beat the LaDanian Tomlinson-led Frogs in the Mobile Bowl on a last-minute touchdown. The next year, with a bowl bid on the line, TCU beat Southern Miss 14-12 in Hattiesburg.

Last season, TCU handed Southern Miss its most lopsided C-USA loss ever, 37-7, in Fort Worth, Texas.

"They embarrassed us on TV," said Southern Miss linebacker Rod Davis, who leads the No. 1 scoring and pass defense in C-USA.

Now, the Golden Eagles get a chance to ruin TCU's dream season.

"We know they have to come through Hattiesburg before they get to the BCS or the conference championship," defensive end Terrell Paul said.

©2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

02.23.07 10:48 AM

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