TCU football officially enters a new era in 2012 as the team will be playing its inaugural season in the Big 12 conference.
For the last twelve years, TCU has been one of the most successful programs in college football. Since 2000, they've finished nine seasons in the top-25 and won 10 or more games each time.
Keeping that success rolling with a consistently tough Big 12 schedule will be no easy task and 2012 will offer fans the first look at how TCU fits in with the new conference. Here's a game-by-game look at what to expect from each of the team's games this season, including win-loss projections and players to keep an eye on.
2011 Record: 8-4 (6-3)
Last Meeting: N/A
The move to the Big 12 means a tougher schedule, but the Frogs' season opener against Grambling State isn't a great example of that. This game is nothing more than a tune-up.
The Tigers of Grambling State are coming off a season in which they won seven games straight to capture a SWAC championship, but the gap in talent between the Frogs and the Division I-FCS Tigers should be too great for the Tigers to keep this game competitive.
Grambling State Player to Watch: D.J. Williams, QB
D.J. Williams took the starting quarterback job in 2011 for the Tigers as a freshman and proved to be a potential superstar in the SWAC. He's a dual-threat quarterback with good size and should be able to challenge the TCU secondary at times.
Prediction: TCU 56 Grambling State 10
The Frogs have generally taken care of business in these FCS games under Gary Patterson and they should have no issues in finding a comfortable lead against the Tigers and getting backups plenty of in-game experience as the game winds down.
2011 Record: 2-10 (0-9)
Last Meeting: Kansas 17 TCU 10, 1997
TCU kicks off the conference slate with Kansas and they couldn't have asked for a better matchup to introduce themselves to the conference. The Jayhawks didn't win a single conference game last season and appear to still be a program in flux.
The team hired Charlie Weis as head coach in light of the general ineptitude of the Turner Gill era and will be looking to make an impression against a top-25 ranked Horned Frog team. TCU will also be looking to make an impression and should be able to light up the scoreboard as the Jayhawks ranked 120th in the nation in scoring defense last season.
Kansas Player to Watch: Dayne Crist, QB
Charlie Weis figures to overhaul the Kansas offense and he'll have a familiar face to help him with the transition. Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist comes to Lawrence with a wealth of experience in Weis' offense and will be relied upon heavily to make sure the offense gets off to a good start.
With running back James Sims suspended for the first three games, the Jayhawks could find themselves passing a lot in this game. It'll be up to Crist to keep the Jayhawks in the game as they try to keep up with TCU's scoring.
Prediction: TCU 38 Kansas 13
Kansas hardly represents how hard-fought most of the Frogs' games will be in the Big 12 as they should come away with this one rather easily.
The Jayhawk defense was awful last season and it's hard to envision them improving substantially in just one season. With Casey Pachall and Co. potentially spearheading TCU's most dynamic offense in the Gary Patterson era, look for TCU to jump ahead early and win this one comfortably.
2011 Record: 8-5 (5-3)
Last Meeting: TCU 30 Virginia 14, 2009
When Virginia rolls into Ft. Worth, the Frogs will be receiving their first real test of the season after the relative tune-up games against Grambling State and Kansas.
The Cavaliers are coming off an 8-5 season and have been a program on the rise since head coach Mike London took over. Under London's watch, the team has built a reputation as a team that plays solid defense and doesn't hurt itself on offense.
The Cavaliers are a great non-conference opponent for the Frogs as it will take a focused Frogs team to ensure victory.
Virginia Player to Watch: Phillip Sims, QB
The Cavaliers quarterback competition still rages on, but Phillip Sims should be considered the favorite to get the nod eventually.
Sims is a transfer from Alabama and former five-star prospect. After losing out to A.J. McCarron at Alabama for the starting quarterback position, Sims comes to Virginia with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove, which makes him a dangerous player.
Given the Frogs' shaky play at times in the secondary last season, Sims should be the first quarterback the Frogs see that can really challenge the defense consistently.
Prediction: TCU 28 Virginia 17
The TCU-Virginia matchup in 2009 provided the Frogs with a much better challenge than the 30-14 score would indicate.
This is a Virginia team that is capable of hanging with the Frogs and really making it a game. Look for TCU to need a late touchdown to seal the deal and continue through the non-conference slate.
2011 Record: 8-5 (5-3)
Last Meeting: SMU 40 TCU 33, 2011
While the entire nation saw TCU's first defeat of the season—a heartbreaking last second loss to Baylor, it was the overtime loss to SMU that really ruined TCU's season.
In 2012 the Frogs will be out for revenge in the "Battle for the Iron Skillet" as these rivals will meet for the 92nd time. The series has been close throughout history as TCU leads 44-40-7. Since June Jones took over the SMU program this rivalry has been hard fought, but with last season's loss fresh in their minds, expect TCU to come out ready to play.
It may not be a conference game, but this one will be big for momentum and confidence. Now that the Frogs are one of the "big boys," they really need to show they can take care of business against the "little guys."
SMU Player to Watch: Zach Line, RB
Last season, SMU had immense success through the air against the Frogs. Quarterback J.J. McDermott threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns in the offensive shootout, however, it was running back Zach Line that really made the difference.
Line gouged the normally stout TCU run defense for 120 yards on 21 carries and returns to the Mustangs after his second consecutive season of 1,000 yards or more and 17 touchdowns. Jones' passing scheme is bound to rack up the passing yards, but when the passing game sets up the run, the offense is nearly unstoppable.
Texas transfer Garret Gilbert will be more than capable of putting up good numbers through the air, but stopping Line will be the real key to winning this game.
Prediction: TCU 35 SMU 24
Regardless of score, this is always a hard fought game. The rivalry is intense and you can certainly throw the records out whenever these two teams get together.
That being said, the Mustangs caught the Frogs off-guard last season and that shouldn't happen again. With a much tougher schedule this season, TCU can't afford to drop games to the likes of SMU and Gary Patterson will have his team ready to play.
Look for the Frogs' potent offense to outgun SMU's run and shoot attack and bring the Iron Skillet back to Ft. Worth.
2011 Record: 6-7 (3-6)
Last Meeting: TCU 27 Iowa State 24, 2005
TCU welcomes Iowa State to Amon G. Carter Stadium as the schedule shifts to full-on Big 12 mode and TCU's season really starts.
Iowa State isn't the most imposing team in the conference, but they showed that they are capable of playing with anyone on any given night when they shocked Oklahoma State in double overtime last season. It's also important to remember that the Cyclones followed that up with three straight losses—including a 27-13 loss to Rutgers in their bowl game.
TCU should be heavily favored in this game, but it will be important to establishing themselves as a favorite in the conference. Paul Rhoads is already one of the most successful coaches in Iowa State history and has them consistently playing .500 football so the Frogs can't take this team lightly.
Iowa State Player to Watch: Jared Barnett, QB
Under Paul Rhoads the Cyclones have prided themselves on their defense, but Barnett has brought an electricity to the offense that Iowa State hasn't had.
Barnett is a dual-threat quarterback that took over as the team's starter in the latter half of last season. Barnett now enters his sophomore year as the starter and should benefit from having an offseason as the starter to prepare.
Barnett was big during the Cyclones' most impressive stretch of the 2011 season—Barnett led the team to three straight wins against Texas Tech, Kansas and Oklahoma State. In that stretch Barnett had rushing totals of 92, 125 and 84 yards, so containing him will be a key for the Frogs to come out victorious in this one.
Prediction: TCU 23 Iowa State 13
Iowa State is certainly a step up from the Air Force and San Diego State's of the world, but the Frogs have historically done a good job of beating the teams that they should under Gary Patterson's watch.
A great game by Barnett could make this game interesting and the Iowa State defense has enough talent to slow TCU's offense at times, but in the end, the Frogs should be able to earn the win at home.
2011 Record: 10-3 (6-3)
Last Meeting: Baylor 50 TCU 48, 2011
TCU's 2012 redemption tour makes it's second stop when the Frogs roll into Waco, Texas to avenge last season's opening loss to the Baylor Bears.
The game will have huge implications in the long-standing rivalry between the two schools as the 108th meeting between the two will break a 50-50-7 tie in the all-time record.
Baylor should look like an entirely different team after losing Heisman trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III, leading receiver Kendall Wright and leading rusher Terrance Ganaway. Despite all of the losses on the offensive side of the ball, the Bears are still expected to compete for a bowl game and will be looking to beat TCU in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1994 & 1995.
Baylor Player to Watch: Nick Florence, QB
The Baylor Bears will go as far as Nick Florence can take them this season.
The Bears were a dynamic threat on offense with Griffin running the show, but Florence isn't nearly the athlete that Griffin is. Florence has the experience as the starter as he started his freshman year while Griffin recovered from injuries.
Florence looked less than stellar as a freshman, he had nine interceptions to six touchdowns as the Bears offense struggled, but that was four years ago and Florence has had plenty of time to develop biding his time behind Griffin.
Prediction: TCU 35 Baylor 14
Art Briles has done a great job with the Baylor program, but last season was an anomaly. Baylor had an incredible amount of talent on the offensive side of the ball that allowed them to jump out to a huge lead in 2011's rendition of the game.
This year, the Baylor offense should be far less explosive while TCU brings back just as many weapons on offense as they did last season. Expect revenge from the Frogs in this one as they should have a sizable advantage on paper.
2011 Record: 5-7 (2-7)
Last Meeting: TCU 12 Texas Tech 3, 2006
The move to the Big 12 reignites a mini-rivalry between the Horned Frogs and the Red Raiders as the two schools swapped victories in 2004 and 2006 and have met 54 times since 1926.
Tech is looking to bounce back from a season that couldn't have gone worse. The team went 1-7 to close out the season after a 4-0 start. A win against Oklahoma and close games against Kansas State and Texas A&M showed the team's potential, but by the end of the season they were a complete mess—losing 66-6 to Oklahoma State, 52-20 against Texas and 66-42 against Baylor.
Tech always brings a potent passing game to the table so this game has all the makings of a shootout. The Frogs should be able to score early and often, but will be challenged by the Tech offense.
Texas Tech Player to Watch: Seth Doege, QB
Senior quarterback Seth Doege returns at the helm for the Red Raiders after throwing for 4,000 yards last season.
Doege follows the long line of quarterbacks that have been successful in the Air Raid offense in Lubbock and should put up even better numbers as a senior. The Frogs will need to find a way to bring pressure and throw off the timing necessary for the Air Raid to function properly, but the veteran Doege will be hard to rattle.
With the porous Raider defense, the pressure will be on Doege to match Casey Pachall touchdown for touchdown to keep his team in the game.
Prediction: TCU 38 Texas Tech 24
In the 2006 matchup between these two schools, TCU held the Raiders to their lowest point total in a game in more than a decade.
Obviously that doesn't have too much bearing on this matchup as the players involved are completely different this time around. What it does tell us, however, is that Gary Patterson knows how to defend the Air Raid.
Tech has the ability to provide a stern challenge for the defense and is the perfect opponent to see before taking on the much more dangerous Air Raid teams of the conference in Oklahoma State and West Virginia, but their complete lack of a defense should be enough to give TCU the edge.
Expect a close first half before the Frogs pull away in the second.
2011 Record: 12-1 (8-1)
Last Meeting: Oklahoma State 27 TCU 22, 1993
TCU should be favored in each of their first seven games of 2012 but it will be the final five games that really define the season.
The schedule figures to get much more difficult as each of their last five opponents could very well be in the top-25 by the time their matchup rolls around.
Oklahoma State is coming off one of the best seasons in school history. Even though the likes of Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper are gone, Mike Gundy has built a nice program in Stillwater and the Cowboys should still be dangerous in 2012.
Oklahoma State Player to Watch: Joseph Randle, RB
With Weeden, Blackmon and Cooper all gone, the offensive burden now lies directly on running back Joseph Randle.
Randle was an underrated piece of the Cowboys offense last season—he accounted for 24 touchdowns on the ground and racked up over 1,200 yards rushing. Freshman quarterback Wes Lunt is talented and has the know-how and moxie to run this offense, but he will rely heavily on a great season from Randle in his debut season.
The Cowboys are known for their Air Raid attack, but they have always had a running dimension to their offense and will need it more than ever this season.
If the Frogs can use their speed to keep Randle from finding seams in the defense, getting stops will be a much easier task.
Prediction: TCU 35 Oklahoma State 31
The Cowboys will definitely be the toughest challenge to-date when they square off in Stillwater, but the Frogs should ultimately have enough experience to pull off the victory on the road.
Building a lead early will be crucial as Coach Gundy's offense is much easier to stop when it's one-dimensional. The sooner they can take Randle out of the game the better and the Frogs offense should be dynamic enough to put the pressure on.
2011 Record: 10-3 (5-3)
Last Meeting: West Virginia 31 TCU 14, 1984
The next stop on the "Air Raid" portion of the schedule will be fellow Big 12 newcomer West Virginia and their pass-heavy offense.
The Mountaineers come into the season with a ton of momentum as their 70-33 Orange Bowl victory over Clemson had the entire nation buzzing about Dana Holgorsen's squad and the 2012 season. With a slew of returning starters on both sides of the ball, the Mountaineers have big expectations this year and have the firepower to live up to them.
This is a huge game for the Frogs and is one of the true swing games on the schedule.
West Virginia Player to Watch: Tavon Austin, WR
When most think of West Virginia, they immediately think of Geno Smith returning at quarterback or deep threat Steadman Bailey at wide receiver. Both players are coming off huge seasons last year and figure to be household names this season, but the real player to watch is wide receiver Tavon Austin.
Austin was all over the field last season, playing the Wes Welker role in the slot. Austin may have been second on the team in yardage and touchdowns, but it is his ability to get open underneath the coverage that allows Bailey to get open deep.
Austin had 10 or more catches in a game four times last season and the Frogs will have to make sure that he doesn't have one of those games against them if they want to slow down this Mountaineer passing attack.
Prediction: TCU 28 West Virginia 24
For all the hype placed on West Virginia's offense, the Frogs actually averaged more points per game last season.
West Virginia brings a great team to the conference, but it's important to remember that they didn't exactly dominate the Big East in 2011. West Virginia won their final three regular-season games against Pitt, South Florida and Cincinnati by a combined seven points.
Obviously there's something to be said for them winning those games, but the notion that they were a dominant team in 2011 isn't exactly accurate. This should be a great game that could go either way and the team that has the ball last could wind up the winner.
2011 Record: 10-3 (7-2)
Last Meeting: TCU 35 Kansas State 22, 1986
After three games straight of worrying about explosive passing attacks, the Frogs will feel like they've boarded a time machine to play the smash-mouth Kansas State Wildcats.
K-State is coming off a surprise 10-win season in which they pulled off eight wins by seven points or less. Whether they can win that many close games in 2011 remains to be seen, but there's little doubt that they will be a strong competitor again in the Big 12 as their formidable rushing attack should keep them in most games.
The Frogs have traditionally been stout against the run under Gary Patterson but it will be interesting to see how they fare against these teams after facing spread teams through most of the season.
Kansas State Player to Watch: Collin Klein, QB
Few players personify their team quite like Collin Klein personified Kansas State football last season. The gritty, tough quarterback didn't light up the stat sheet with impressive passing numbers, but he may have been the most accomplished runner in the conference.
The 6'5", 226-pound quarterback was a monster on the goal line last season and punched in 26 touchdowns on the ground to go with his 13 passing touchdowns. Klein is definitely one of the most unique players the Frogs will see all season.
Finding a way to contain Klein on the ground and forcing him to beat them through the air will be key if the Frogs want to get the win at home.
Prediction: TCU 27 Kansas State 20
Of all the tough games that TCU faces to close out the season, this one should be the most winnable. K-State won 10 games last season, but as pointed out earlier, many of those wins were extremely close. The law of averages would tell us that there is no way they can duplicate that success in close games once again.
TCU will come into this game really needing the win leading up to the Texas and Oklahoma game so expect them to come out and play some of their best football against the Wildcats.
2011 Record: 8-5 (4-5)
Last Meeting: Texas 34 TCU 13, 2007
The final road game of the season comes against a Texas Longhorns team that is on its way back up after a year or two of under-performing by Texas standards.
Texas boasts one of the most talented defenses in the country and played at a high level on defense last season. Poor quarterback play plagued the Longhorns last season as neither Case McCoy nor David Ash got the job done.
However, this season Texas should be much improved. The defense returns enough stars to be in the conversation with LSU and Alabama for the best defense in the country while quarterback David Ash should benefit from a full offseason of working with the offense after Garrett Gilbert took the brunt of the snaps last offseason.
Texas Player to Watch: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE
If you've never heard of Jeffcoat, you probably will have heard of him by the time TCU rolls into Austin. The 6'5", 245-pound defensive end is an athletic freak and has the tools to be a top-10 draft pick in next year's NFL Draft if he elects to leave after his junior season.
Jeffcoat's bookend defensive end Alex Okafor can also cause headaches so the Frogs will be forced to account for both on every play.
Gary Patterson has done a great job neutralizing great defensive ends in the past—the Frogs used a steady diet of read option plays against Wisconsin's J.J. Watt in the 2010 Rose Bowl, but going against this tandem will be another animal.
The Texas defense has playmakers all over the field, but finding a way to slow down Jeffcoat and Okafor will be step No. 1 to figuring out this defense.
Prediction: Texas 17 TCU 13
If the Frogs are undefeated to this point in the season, that will be an admirable first season in the Big 12, but Texas' defense will be the best unit the Frogs see all season.
Given that this game is so late in the season, depth could play a factor and the advantage in terms of depth has to go to the Longhorns. With a stable of three capable running backs (Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and freshman Jonathan Gray) and improved quarterback play, Texas should be one of the elite teams in the Big 12.
TCU has the talent to stay in this game, but points will be hard to come by and the Longhorns have enough offense to pull out the win.
2011 Record: 10-3 (6-3)
Last Meeting: Oklahoma 35 TCU 10, 2008
As usual, the Oklahoma Sooners enter the season as one of the favorites in the Big 12 conference to contend for a National Championship.
Whether or not they deserve that hype has always been the question. TCU could enter their final game of the season as the final challenger to their undefeated season or as the final stanza in another disappointing season for the Sooners.
Oklahoma came into last season as the overwhelming favorite in the conference, but wound up losing three games in Big 12 play and struggled to reach their potential. Bob Stoops will be trying his hardest keep that from happening again as the Sooners bring back plenty of talent to fuel a run at a BCS bowl.
Oklahoma Player to Watch: Landry Jones, QB
Were you expecting anyone else?
Jones enters his fourth season as the Sooner signal caller and is one of the most well-known names in college football. Entering the 2011 season, many thought that Jones would declare for the NFL draft after his junior season, but he enters 2012 with something to prove after throwing 15 interceptions last year.
Despite all of the interceptions, Jones is capable of putting up huge numbers in his final season with the Sooners and should be one of the nation's top quarterbacks.
The Frogs will need as many turnovers as they can get in this one as Oklahoma is the most complete team they will play all season on paper.
Prediction: Oklahoma 35 TCU 24
TCU has what it takes to come into the Big 12 right away and make an impact. However, it may take a few years to develop the kind of depth that it takes to win the Big 12 championship.
This game will be the most difficult test to find out where TCU is in terms of true Big 12 contenders as it will be interesting to see how the roster holds up after playing a full conference schedule. TCU has the tools to pull off the upset here, but Oklahoma's offense will be among the best in the nation and it would take a true upset to get the win.
Overall Record: 10-2 (7-2 Big 12)
Bowl Prediction: Alamo Bowl vs. Washington
TCU has been among the most successful programs in college football in the last ten years. The jump to the Big 12 will be challenging, but don't expect the Frogs to completely fall off the map.
Looking at the schedule, there is no reason that the Frogs shouldn't be 7-0 going into the brutal five game stretch against Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma. Taking on five quality opponents in a row like that is something that TCU has never done in the Gary Patterson era and will define what fans can expect from this program going forward.
With all of the offensive weapons that TCU returns and the experience at quarterback in Casey Pachall, the Frogs should be able to score with just about anyone. How the restructured Frogs defense holds up against Big 12 offenses every week will be the determining factor of their success this season.
Going 3-2 in the final five games to give the Frogs another 10-win season under Patterson would give them a high-profile bowl game and at least a third place finish in the conference—not bad for their inaugural season in the Big 12.