TCU schedule analysis: Frogs ready for proving ground in Big 12

TCU’s first season in the Big 12 was never going to be easy, but Horned Frog fans have to be relieved with the team’s inaugural schedule in the conference.

The Frogs’ Big 12 schedule starts soft but finishes hard against longtime powers Texas and Oklahoma. TCU’s first five opponents were a combined 32-31 in 2011. TCU’s last five opponents were 50-15.

The entire Big 12 schedule, released Tuesday, opens with TCU at Kansas Sept. 15. TCU’s first Big 12 home game is against Iowa State Oct. 6. The Jayhawks finished 2-10 while the Cyclones finished 6-7 in 2011.

Also adventagous for TCU entering a new conference is an open date Sept. 1. That gives the Frogs an extra week (just like the 2009 season) of practice before hosting Grambling State Sept. 8 in the grand opening of the renovated Amon G. Carter Stadium.

The schedule starts to toughen with an Oct. 13 rematch at Baylor, followed by an Oct. 20 home game vs. Texas Tech.

TCU’s final five opponents, beginning with back to back road games at Oklahoma State and West Virginia Oct. 20 and 27, will be the toughest stretch for the Frogs. They host Frogs’ coach Gary Patterson’s alma mater Kansas State Nov. 10, followed by a Thanksgiving week game at Texas, tentatively schedule for Saturday, Nov. 24, but numerous sources say the game is destined for Thanksgiving Day, once television schedules are finalized. Both TCU and Texas have off weeks before the game, another plus for the Frogs.

The regular season concludes with Oklahoma coming to town Dec. 1. The Big 12 has four games scheduled that day, including Oklahoma State at Baylor, Kansas at West Virginia, and Texas at Kansas State.

Other nonconference games include a home date against Virginia Sept 22, and at SMU Sept. 29.Game times and TV schedules will be released at a later date.

Here’s a closer look at TCU’s 2012 schedule:

Sept. 8 vs. Grambling State: The season opener against this historic school will likely be an afterthought compared to being the first game at the $164 million renovated Amon G. Carter Stadium.

Sept. 15 at Kansas: TCU is 16-8-4 all-time against the Jayhawks but lost the last three in the series in 1995, ’96 and ’97. Kansas will be under new head coach Charlie Weis and former Cowboys coach Dave Campo (defensive coordinator). Weis was hired in December after Fort Worth Arlington Heights alum Turner Gill was fired after going 5-19 in two seasons.

Sept. 22 vs. Virginia: The Cavaliers are in a better place than when TCU beat them handily in the ’09 opener 30-14. Virginia finished 3-9 that year and fired coach Al Groh. Under Mike London, Virginia went 8-5 last year and earned a bowl berth.

Sept. 29 at SMU: The battle for the Iron Skillet will be red hot after the Mustangs upset the Horned Frogs in overtime at Amon G. Carter Stadium in ‘11. Two year ago SMU played the Frogs tight in University Park. With transfer quarterback Garrett Gilbert potentially under center, the game could sizzle.

Oct. 6 vs. Iowa State: TCU is 3-0 all-time against the Cyclones, including a 27-24 win in the 2005 Houston Bowl. Iowa State’s only previous trip to Fort Worth was a 27-10 loss in 1995. The Cyclones finished 6-7 in ’11 but upset then 2nd-ranked Oklahoma State in overtime, walloped Texas Tech in Lubbock 41-7 and played No. 11 Kansas State close on the road.

Oct. 13 at Baylor: A year after losing in the final minute of a back and forth classic in Waco, the Frogs must return to Floyd Casey Stadium for rematch with much more than bragging rights on the line. This time Baylor will be without key offensive components, including Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, receivers Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams, and running back Terrance Ganaway. The winner takes the edge in the all-time series which stands at 50-50-7.

Oct. 20 vs. Texas Tech: After the Red Raiders backed out of a scheduled date in Fort Worth in 2011, leaving TCU scrambling to fill its schedule, there may be more than bad blood between the players on the field. Word is that unfulfilled contract has yet to be resolved.

Oct. 27 at Oklahoma State: TCU has played the Cowboys just 22 times and not since 1993, which capped off a four-year series between the teams. The Frogs won the first three of that series but the Cowboys won 27-22 in Stillwater in ’93. OSU has the series edge 9-11-2, which includes a 34-0 Cowboys’ Cotton Bowl win after the 1944 season.

Nov. 3 at West Virginia: TCU has played the Mountaineers once before, a 31-14 loss in the 1984 Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston. The trip to Morgantown will be the longest of the regular season for the Frogs at about 1,250 miles.

Nov. 10 vs. Kansas State: Gary Patterson’s alma mater (1983) visits for the first time since 1986, the last of the five meetings between the schools. Legendary Wildcat coach Bill Snyder, who is in his 22nd year at the helm, led Kansas State to a 10-3 season and Cotton Bowl berth in ’11.

Nov. 22 at Texas: Since 1968, Texas has beaten TCU 27 of 28 times, the last coming in Austin in Andy Dalton’s second game in 2007.The lone TCU win in that stretch came in 1992, when the 1-6-1 Frogs upset the No. 20 Longhorns 23-14 on Nov. 7 in Fort Worth. Although the initial schedule has the game tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 24, sources from both Texas and TCU have said that it will be played on Thanksgiving Day.

Dec. 1 vs. Oklahoma: The Sooners were already scheduled to play at TCU in a nonconference game when the Frogs joined the league. So the Sooners' first appearance in Fort Worth since 1998 was already a highlight of the coming season. Add the tension of a conference game with as many members of Sooner Nation that can cram into Amon G. Carter Stadium and you have the mixings for one of TCU’s biggest games of the year.

Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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