TCU has an image problem. Sonny Dykes should know.

It wasn't until recently the TCU coach was recognized at a local Starbucks while fetching coffee for himself and his wife.

"I told her, 'Well, it's the very first time everybody in the place kind of knew who I was,'" Dykes recalled in a conversation with CBS Sports. "I was a little disappointed."

But in a good way. Dykes has always wanted to be in a metropolitan area, able to blend in, even if that now means coaching at a private school with an undergraduate enrollment of about 10,000. The TCU campus is not only small but subdued, tucked away in the western fringe of the Metroplex in Fort Worth, the slower-paced neighbor of Dallas.

It is totally understandable TCU could be a place that offers a bit of anonymity. However, football has intervened. Eleven months into the gig, Dykes has made No. 7 TCU a national story.

The Horned Frogs (8-0) are one of six undefeated teams this week of the first College Football Playoff Rankings. They are the only undefeated team left in the Big 12, a conference they now have to be favored to win. They at one point had four consecutive wins over ranked teams, though the last three victories have been of the come-from-behind variety.

Now, about that image problem. It is real considering the company TCU keeps in those CFP Rankings. Compared to the likes of Tennessee, Ohio State, Georgia, Clemson, Michigan and Alabama, TCU doesn't have the same tradition or name recognition. No surprise it is behind all of them in the rankings, including the one-loss Crimson Tide.

Armed one of the best resumes in the country, the question remains: Will TCU get proper consideration from the CFP Selection Committee?

"In college football today, people have a hard time seeing past the brands," Dykes said last week before TCU's win over West Virginia. "But this has a chance. It really has been a really good place."

Dykes then gets past the visibility thing by noting former coach Gary Patterson's Frogs finished in the top 11 of the AP Top 25 seven times from 2005-17.

"It's obviously been done," Dykes said.

It's also the reason he's at TCU after moving across town from SMU last November. It was a tough choice ... and it wasn't. In 2019, Dykes became the first SMU coach to win 10 games in a season since 1984. Still, SMU is not in a Power Five conference like TCU. Unlike Cal, the program from which he was fired in 2016, TCU invests emotionally, financially and fanatically in football.

Patterson is largely responsible for that, too. He's also a considerable reason Dykes took that crosstown drive to TCU. After that Cal firing, Patterson hired Dykes as analyst. Not to say the son of a coaching legend (Spike Dykes) couldn't find work, but at that point in his career, he was fragile. Dykes had never been fired before.

"If it hadn't been for Gary, I don't know what I'd be doing right now," Dykes said. "He was great to me. He gave me a job. I learned about how passionate he was about what he did. It was good for me. That flame burned hot. I had been at Cal for four years, and man, I was worn out."

The SMU run got the native Texan back home. His dad coached for 14 years at Texas Tech. Spike's roots run so deep that a six-year-old Sonny can remember being in the Texas locker room when Darrell Royal announced his retirement. Spike Dykes was a Texas assistant from 1972-76.

On Sundays after games, little Sonny and his neighborhood friends would play on the same Memorial Stadium turf where Earl Campbell had run.

"I remember kind of wondering what the heck was going on," Sonny recalled. "I was perceptive to know I'm the locker room and I'm not usually in the locker room. I can remember like it was yesterday."

Now Sonny Dykes, at least for the moment, is the best coach of the best program in the state. That should go a long way to getting into the CFP if the Frogs keep winning. In the history of CFP, no undefeated major-conference champion has been left out. So, in that sense, the ground rules are set. Win out, and TCU should be in.

Where TCU gets into trouble is if it loses along the way and is compared to a second team from the Big Ten or SEC. The committee might a favor a conference champion in that situation ... but it might not.

The "brand" thing seemingly went away last year when Cincinnati became the first program from the Group of Five to get in. That was an uphill climb for a program that went 22-1 over two seasons to break through.

TCU, though is not battling through the Group of Five. In fact, its excellence is a huge reason the Big 12 cashed in with its new media rights deal. Rightsholders essentially decided there was enough football depth in the Big 12 to invest in the league even without Texas and Oklahoma.

Dykes is rolling at this moment despite being one of a handful of coaches who never played college football. He gravitated toward baseball growing up in West Texas. The reasoning was simple.

"West Texas football, we practiced for three hours every day," he said. "It was blood and guts every day. Baseball, it's batting practice and pretty girls."

His dad didn't much mind. Sonny's coaching career started 28 years ago at a small West Texas high school. Transitioning later to high school football in suburban Dallas, he thought that's all there was to life.

"You have this illusion of what your life is going to look like," Dykes said. "To me, it was coaching high school football, getting on a boat and going fishing. That hasn't happened once in my life. It's not the way my life is. It's not the way of a college football coach. It's a different world now."

Dykes became part of the Mike Leach/Hal Mumme coaching tree in 1997 by joining the Kentucky staff. That's where the roots of the TCU offense you see today were planted. For a while, TCU quarterback Max Duggan led the country in pass efficiency. After a slow start, Quinten Johnston might now be the Big 12's best wide receiver. Senior WR Derius Davis has five career return touchdowns from kickoffs and punts.

"You've just got to go out there and say screw it," said Davis of the perils of standing in against punt return coverage. "A lot of guys are scared to go back there. I was scared at one point. You really just got to be patient and take a deep breath. Really, it's about confidence."

When Davis fumbled while returning a punt against Oklahoma State, Dykes' subtle touch showed itself.

"He walked up to me and told me I was fine," Davis recalled. "'Go back out there and just be you. It helped a lot.'"

Davis returned the next punt 27 yards into Oklahoma State territory. The Frogs scored, beginning a comeback from a 24-7 hole.

There is a bit of serendipity this week. To stay undefeated, Dykes has to beat his dad's old school. This Fort Worth Cinderella was picked seventh in the 10-team Big 12. Several players transferred. Dykes filled in. Duggan might not be in this position had a heart condition not been discovered during the COVID-19 year. The only reason he is playing now is starter Chandler Morris went down with an injury in the opener.

Then momentum has just … rolled. During a four week stretch in October, TCU beat four those consecutive ranked teams: Oklahoma, Kansas, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. There were three straight sellouts. More than half the student body -- about 6,550 students -- clogged Amon Carter Stadium.

At a time when athletic directors are losing students' attention spans, that is a marketing home run. Dykes has made football fun again in Fort Worth. "Futurama" character Hypnotoad has become the unofficial mascot of that fun. 

There was a decision to be made when both the Texas Tech and TCU jobs came open at the same time last year. Same conference, difference impacts on Dykes' career. He could have chased his dad's legacy, but that didn't fit the narrative the coach had created for himself.

"I like a little bit of an adventure," he said.

"Gary Patterson made me realize how good a job it was, how good you could recruit," Dykes added. "Growing up, I didn't know how good this place was. Man, football is really important to the university and the city."

Now, it's Patterson who is trying to remake himself as an analyst at Texas. As fate would have it, a Nov. 12 meeting with the Longhorns might be the Frogs' biggest remaining challenge toward an undefeated regular season.

The best coach of the best program in Texas hopes to keep the committee's attention.

"Texas has great facilities and a great reputation. So does Texas A&M," Dykes said. "But we feel we have a lot to offer here. You've got to do what Coach Patterson did. At some point, you have to have so much success that people can't help but notice you."