There's no question TCU is taking a big step up in competition as the begin their first year in the Big 12. If you're somehow still not convinced of that, just take a look at the second half of TCU's upcoming schedule.
The jury is obviously still out on how the Horned Frogs will fare in year number one as a member of the Big 12, but one thing that doesn't figure to help their cause is the number of freshmen they may be forced to rely upon in 2012.
According to the Fort Worth Telegram, there could be as many as four true freshmen starters and maybe more depending on how fast several injured players hurt in fall camp bounce back.
"I think this will be the youngest two-deep that I've put out on the field since I've been here (15 years)," he said. "This will be the youngest team I've ever had. We have 31/2 weeks to be the kind of team we need to be," head coach Gary Patterson said. "I'm excited about playing because there's a whole bunch of these young guys that want to be good. So we just have to keep pushing. Right now, we're tired."
Among the potential freshmen starter are offensive lineman are Aviante Collins and Halapoulivaati Vaitai who were both three star recruits in the 2012 class.
On the other side of the ball, safety Derrick Kindred and cornerback Deante Gray could also be starters and even if they're not, they still figure to see significant playing time.
And they likely won't be the only freshmen to see the field in 2012. When the two-deep depth chart comes out prior to TCU's opener with Grambling State, it figures to be littered with first-year players.
On top of that, TCU returns the fewest starters of any team in the Big 12 (13) so even among the guys who have been around a year or two, many will be seeing their first significant playing time of their careers.
"They (freshmen) had an unbelievable summer in the classroom and football-wise as far as lifting. Now, we're not ready for game day, but I'm really excited. Nobody wants to play freshmen. We're not saying they're all-Americans. All we're saying is if they're [practicing] in a starting role, then they're better than the guys we had here before," Patterson added.
The good news for TCU is their schedule sets up perfectly for a young team looking to gain experience. The Horned Frogs play Grambling State, Virginia, and SMU as part of their nonconference schedule and their first two Big 12 games are against arguably the two weakest opponents in the conference, Kansas and Iowa State.
By the time TCU's schedule takes a turn for the worse at the end of October, all the freshmen and first-time starters will have seven games already under their belts.
The coaches who vote in the USA Today Coaches' Poll don't seemed fazed by the step-up and competition and seemingly inexperienced roster. The Horned Frogs debuted at #17 in the preseason poll.
Whether or not they stay in the top 25 will largely be determined by how fast TCU the newcomers replace guys that were part of 36 wins over the past three seasons.
That won't be easy in the least. But if there's one guy that knows change, it's Patterson. He led TCU into Conference USA and then into the Mountain West.
The move to the Big 12 figures to be the toughest of the three, but whether they're young or not, you can bet they won't roll over for anyone, even if they get knocked down a few times along the way.