Heading into the dead of summer, we will be taking a look at each team's schedule in the Big 12 and start talking about some early predictions. Today's first installment: TCU.
There's little question TCU is in for sizeable leap in competition when they open their first season in the Big 12 on September 8th.
The Horned Frogs have proven they can play with the big boys on an individual game basis. They beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl to cap an undefeated 2010 season. Over the past four seasons they also sport wins over Baylor, Oregon State, Virginia, and Clemson from the BCS leagues and that's not to forget Boise State, who they beat 36-35 last season when the Broncos missed a last second field goal.
But those games were often preceded and followed by a teams, well, that usually weren't very good. And teams that aren't very good usually aren't capable of exploiting whatever weaknesses the Horned Frogs had at the time.
That changes this year.
Heading into 2012, we may not know exactly how the new uptick in competition affects TCU until the second half of the year. In fact, they'll probably will look every bit like the TCU we've grown accustomed too over the season's first month.
About the only thing we know for sure is the Big 12 isn't the Mountain West.
Here's a look at TCU's 2011 versus what they'll face in 2012.
|Sept. 2nd||@ Baylor||L 48-50||Sept. 8||Grambling State|
|Sept. 10||@ Air Force||W 35-19||Sept. 15||@ Kansas|
|Sept. 17||Louisiana-Monroe||W 38-17||Sept. 22||Virginia|
|Sept. 24||Portland State||W 55-13||Sept. 29||@ SMU|
|Oct. 1||SMU||L 33-40||Oct. 6||Iowa State|
|Oct. 8||@ San Diego St.||W 27-14||Oct. 13||@ Baylor|
|Oct. 22nd||New Mexico||W 69-0||Oct. 20||Texas Tech|
|Oct. 28||BYU||W 38-28||Oct. 27||@ Oklahoma State|
|Nov. 5th||@ Wyoming||W 31-20||Nov. 3||@ West Virginia|
|Nov. 12th||@ Boise State||W 36-35||Nov. 10||Kansas State|
|Nov. 19||Colorado State||W 34-10||Nov. 24||@Texas|
|Dec. 3||UNLV||W 56-9||Dec. 1||Oklahoma|
|Dec. 21||Louisiana Tech (Poinsettia Bowl)||W 31-24||Bowl?|
The good news in 2012 for TCU is they have three winnable nonconference games and play arguably the two weakest teams in the Big 12 in their first two conference games and very well could open the season with a 5-0 mark.
On the other side of the coin, the bad news is their final five games are absolutely brutal. Road games at Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and Texas are mixed in with two home games against Kansas State and Oklahoma.
Colorado State and UNLV, who the Horned Frogs finished with in '11, are nowhere to be found.
TCU is also going to be tackling their new conference foes while returning the fewest starters in the league. That's not to say their isn't talent there, however.
Casey Pachall is an experienced and very solid quarterback. TCU will also feature one of the better running games in the league with Waymon James and Matthew Tucker splitting the workload. That in itself should pay huge dividends by helping to keep the some of the potent Big 12 offenses they'll be facing standing on the sidelines, at least that should be the plan.
But the difference between good teams and really good teams is depth. Does TCU have it? Maybe in the MWC, yes. In the Big 12, maybe not.
That's why the final month is going to such a huge uphill climb for TCU in year number one. Teams like West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma will make you pay when your back up cornerback is in for a series or when you're giving your starting defensive tackle a quick breather.
Every team is going to be hit by the injury bug at some point, as well. The good teams overcome them. Other teams are forced to make do with what they have on their roster. What category TCU falls into will likely play a big part in how TCU performs in their first season in the Big 12.
So what's going to be the final outcome? Well, the predictions come later this summer, but on the very low end, 3-6 (in Big 12 play) isn't exactly out of the question, but neither is 7-2 on the upper end. That probably means it'll be somewhere in the middle. If TCU finishes with a 5-4 record in conference play, that's probably not a bad start for Gary Patterson's crew in year number one.
Recruiting has already started to pick up with their inclusion in the Big 12 and only figures to get better. Competing for a conference championships won't happen overnight, but the foundation is already in place and it likely won't be long before Big 12 has a new team that will be every bit as good as the ones they replaced, if they aren't already.