MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- TCU began the season ranked No. 20 and picked third in the Big 12 preseason coaches' poll. The Horned Frogs play host to West Virginia Saturday and end the season with a vision very different than the one they had when it started.
"We've turned the games into one-game seasons," TCU Coach Gary Patterson said. "We've got four left. We've got to win three. If we don't to that, we go home for Christmas."
The Mountaineers began the 2013 season with restrained optimism and none of the reverence given to TCU across the country or within the conference. They're nevertheless saying the same things at the end.
TCU has had a winning record and played in a bowl game in eight straight seasons. WVU has done both in 11 seasons. Both programs know a seventh loss will end their streaks.
"That number's sneaking up on us," WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Based on the fact that number is sneaking up on us, I feel like we've got a lot go play for, the kids feel like they've got a lot to play for. What we do still matters."
WVU and TCU are both 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the Big 12 and it's seemingly appropriate. They entered the Big 12 together last season and each went 7-6 with a bowl loss in their first season in the conference.
They're still very much at the mercy of their new conference and understanding, if not accepting, of that reality.
"The transition from the Big East to the Big 12 we knew was going to be challenging," Holgorsen said. "The Big 12 has some of the best ball that's going to be played across the country with top teams with facilities, with recruiting, with players. All that stuff needs to improve on our end, but you can only do so much."
The Mountaineers won or shared the Big East title six times in their final 10 years in the league. TCU won five championships in Conference USA and the Mountain West in Patterson's first 11 years.
The Horned Frogs have battled the schedule, going 3-4 in Big 12 road games and not playing back-to-back home games since 2011 until this week. TCU played Texas last week and hosts WVU on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Amon G. Carter Stadium (ESPNU).
WVU is 2-5 on the road in the conference and has played back-to-back road games in both of its Big 12 seasons, which is common in the conference, but a bigger task for the Mountaineers because their travel is longer than any other teams.
TCU has also played many of the Big 12 teams in non-conference games in the past, frequently as the visitor. WVU had played no recent regular-season games against a current Big 12 team when it entered the conference.
"I've been pretty vocal on this," Holgorsen said. "I think it's going to take a couple of years for everyone to truly understand the magnitude of the Big 12, coaches and players included. There is some familiarity that needs to exist. This will be the first time our program plays at TCU. There are going to be some unknowns that need to be talked about and some unknowns that need to be experienced."