Gary Patterson went on a premeditated rant before TCU played its Mountain West Conference opener last season.

The Horned Frogs had just held Texas Tech without a touchdown to extend the nation’s longest Division I-A winning streak to 13 games when the coach seethed about how “people have been underselling our kids for years.” He griped about lack of respect and his team being “treated like a stepchild” in Texas.

The only problem was that his team didn’t back up the talk.

“I don’t know if it hurt us any, except that we lost two games in conference,” Patterson said. “It did serve its purpose by getting attention, but we didn’t follow it up. … If it works for you, it’s unbelievable.”

Five days later, the Horned Frogs — who had been told by the coach what he was going to do after the Tech game — lost at home to BYU. Then they lost at Utah the following week.

“If we beat those two teams, then we could have run the table,” Patterson said.

TCU recovered to win its last eight games, including a 37-7 bowl romp over Northern Illinois, and still finished with its third 11-win season in four years.

Now the Horned Frogs, with nine starters back on a dominating defense, are heavily favored to win the MWC.

“We were last year too,” Patterson quipped. “If it proves anything, it doesn’t matter what people say about you in August. It’s what they say in December.”

The main obstacles for the Frogs again will be defending champ BYU and Utah. The Cougars went undefeated in the league like TCU did in its inaugural 2005 season and the Utes capped last season with their sixth straight bowl victory.

The Cougars still have a 10-game winning streak, but must replace their top offensive weapons after averaging 37 points a game last season.

Gone are quarterback John Beck, the MWC offensive player of the year who threw for 3,885 yards and 32 touchdowns, running back Curtis Brown (1,010 yards rushing, team-high 62 catches) and top receiver Jonny Harline (935 yards receiving, 12 TDs).

Utah gets back a top-notch quarterback with the return of Brian Johnson after he sat out last season because of knee surgery.

Johnson threw for 2,892 yards (with 18 TDs) and ran for 478 yards in 2005, when he led the MWC and was fourth nationally in total offense. Plus, he has plenty of proven receivers — all six who started games last season are back.

All-MWC defensive ends Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz lead the TCU defense that ranked among the top three nationally last season in rushing defense (61 yards per game), total defense (235 yards a game) and scoring defense (12.3 points per game).

As good as his defenders are, Patterson — the Frogs’ former defensive coordinator — believes the best way to play defense is by standing on the sideline watching the offense move the ball.

TCU should be able to do that with Aaron Brown, who ran for 801 yards and caught 34 passes for 455 yards last season. The junior tailback has been tabbed the league’s preseason offensive player of the year.

“It won’t matter if I don’t do what I have to do,” Brown said. “Everyone’s going off last year’s stats and I haven’t even played. We’ll see once December hits.”