FORT WORTH, Texas -- No. 5 TCU and West Virginia came into the Big 12 the same season, and under similar circumstances. They have certainly been close ever since.
Their three conference meetings have been decided by a combined five points, with overtime games the first two seasons when they also had identical records. The Horned Frogs won last year with a game-ending field goal.
"That shows how close we are," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "With that said, we are not finishing close games as well as they are right now."The Mountaineers (3-3, 0-3 Big 12) go into Thursday night's game at TCU still looking for their first conference victory. Defending Big 12 co-champion TCU (7-0, 4-0) gets a last chance to impress the panel before the first College Football Playoff rankings of this season come out next week.
After an open date, the Frogs are home for the first time in four weeks after playing three of their first four Big 12 games on the road. They won 55-52 at Texas Tech on a deflected fourth-down touchdown pass in the final minute, overcame an 18-point halftime deficit to win 52-45 at Kansas State, and won 45-21 at Iowa State in their last game.
"We have a lot more bounce in our step," coach Gary Patterson said.
The Frogs' 15-game winning streak is a school record, and second only to top-ranked Ohio State's 21 in a row.
TCU and West Virginia were coming off multiple conference championships in other leagues — the Mountaineers in the Big East and the Frogs in the Mountain West — when they became Big 12 members in 2012. Both had 7-6 debuts, and were 4-8 in 2013.
West Virginia is also playing three of its first four Big 12 games on the road. The Mountaineers have already gone to 14th-ranked Oklahoma and second-ranked Baylor, and lost in overtime at home to 12th-ranked Oklahoma State.
Tomorrow night we head to Fort Worth for a showdown with TCU. https://t.co/xX7DXq9FRT— WVU Football (@WVUfootball) October 28, 2015
While TCU still has to play those other ranked Big 12 teams in November, Patterson isn't overlooking WVU.
"Always been a war, and they're a lot better football team than 3-3," Patterson said. "They've played all three of those teams that have only one loss between them."
Some things to watch in TCU's first Thursday night home game since 2008:
HOWARD AT HOME: West Virginia junior quarterback Skyler Howard went to high school about 15 miles from the TCU campus. But he's not really concerned with a homecoming. "It's just another game. It's a business trip," Howard said. He saw family members two weeks ago, when the Mountaineers stayed in Fort Worth before their game at Baylor.
DIFFERENT FRONTS: While both teams use five defensive backs, West Virginia and TCU have different fronts. The Mountaineers go with three linemen and three linebackers, while the Frogs use four linemen and two linebackers. The results have been similar — both teams give up about 27 points and 400 total yards a game.
COMEBACK KICKS: Jaden Oberkrom kicked a 37-yard field goal on the final play last year to give TCU a 31-30 win after trailing by 14 points in the second half. In Fort Worth two years ago, the Mountaineers turned an early 14-point deficit into a 10-point lead before Oberkrom's tying 45-yard field goal with 19 seconds left in regulation. Josh Lambert's third field goal was a 34-yarder in overtime for a 30-27 WVU victory.
SAFETY IN LINEBACKERS: TCU's leading tacklers are converted safeties playing linebacker — neither of them a starter when the season began. Sophomore Travin Howard has 50 tackles and two forced fumbles, while freshman Montrel Wilson has 46 tackles.
STREAKS: West Virginia has at least 350 total yards in 27 games in a row, the nation's longest such streak. ... TCU has won 11 consecutive Big 12 games, and has won its last 21 games overall when ranked top five in the AP poll.
This article was written by Stephen Hawkins from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.