Expectations for TCU were not especially high headed into last season, when the Horned Frogs were coming off a 6-7 campaign in 2016.
With veterans on both sides of the ball, however, Gary Patterson’s team was outstanding defensively and efficient on offense behind Kenny Hill and a top notch offensive line. After upsetting Oklahoma State in Stillwater, the Horned Frogs started out 7-0 and went from unranked to No. 4 in the nation.
After making an appearance in the Big 12 championship last season, TCU hopes to maintain that level of success. With many of their more experienced players gone, however, it might be more difficult for the Horned Frogs to make it back to Arlington.
How will their schedule affect TCU’s chances of having another nine or ten win season? To get a better sense of the slate before them, we look at the Horned Frogs’ 2018 schedule and project what’s probable for them next season.
Here wins and losses are broken down into “Highly Likely” Wins/Losses – games in which the projected winner should be favored by more than two possessions – and “Likely” Wins/Losses – games in which the projected winner will probably be favored by about two possessions. A “Toss Up” is any game that has a good chance of being decided by one possession.
2018 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
SEP 1 – Southern
SEP 7 – at SMU
SEP 15 – Ohio State*
SEP 22 – at Texas
SEP 29 – Iowa State
OCT 11 – Texas Tech
OCT 20 – Oklahoma
OCT 27 – at Kansas
NOV 3 – Kansas State
NOV 10 – at West Virginia
NOV 17 – at Baylor
NOV 23 – Oklahoma State
*Neutral Site Game
Highly Likely Wins: Southern, Kansas
There are two games on the Horned Frogs’ schedule that project to be comfortable wins for them. Their home opener is against FCS opponent Southern, a team that lost 51-17 to UTSA last season. It’s safe to say that TCU will be favored to win that game by more than 20 points.
The Horned Frogs’ other game that will likely see them as heavy favorites is their late season road trip to Kansas. The Jayhawks might be better than the one-win team they were a year ago, but will be very heavy underdogs to TCU, who shut them out last year in Forth Worth.
Likely Wins: Baylor, Iowa State, Texas Tech, SMU
Of these games, only Baylor and SMU require TCU to travel. In spite of being rivalry games, however, both of those contests will likely see the Horned Frogs favored to win by more than a score. The Mustangs will be looking to improve under new head coach Sonny Dykes, but these two programs are at two different places right now.
Baylor may also be improved under Matt Rhule, but it’s unlikely that they will have improved to justify a less than two score margin.
When they meet the Cyclones in Fort Worth in late September, the Horned Frogs will take on a team on the upswing in Matt Campbell’s third year. Even though Iowa State upset TCU in Ames last season, this will still be seen as a two score game, especially early on in the season.
Last time the Red Raiders played at TCU, the game was closer than expected, so it’s not impossible for this one to be a tight Thursday night game. Given the continued rumors about Kliff Kingsbury’s job security, however, the Horned Frogs are the likely favorite.
Toss Ups: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas State, West Virginia, Oklahoma State
The toughest true road games for TCU this season will probably be their games against Texas and West Virginia. Even though Gary Patterson’s squad has been absolutely dominant against the Longhorns the past few years, this will probably be seen as a close game in Austin.
Morgantown might be the toughest road atmosphere for the Horned Frogs to play in, though. If both West Virginia and TCU are still in the conference championship hunt, that late season game should get plenty of hype.
TCU’s late season slate won’t be an easy one, though. They play both Kansas State and Oklahoma State in November. Even though the contest against the Wildcats will be in Amon G. Carter Stadium, it will still probably be seen as a potentially close defensive battle. Even though not a lot is known about Oklahoma State, there’s no reason to think that game won’t come down to the wire.
Last season Gary Patterson played Lincoln Riley’s Sooners twice away from Fort Worth, making this year’s home game against Oklahoma worthy of some hype. In five of the last six regular season games that the Horned Frogs played against the Sooners, the game was decided by a possession or less. Given the offensive losses for Oklahoma, that game will probably be seen as a single score contest once again.
Likely Losses: Ohio State
The Buckeyes are currently a 12-point favorite against TCU, which appropriately makes this game a likely loss for the Horned Frogs. TCU has found themselves in the national title conversation every so often under Gary Patterson, so it’s not like the Horned Frogs are heavy underdogs here simply because they’re playing a blue blood.
Under Urban Meyer, however, Ohio State has consistently been a 10-win team and made the CFP twice. Every preseason ranking will have the Buckeyes slated for a spot there again next season, a level of success that TCU has yet to achieve. Since the Horned Frogs have to replaces some pieces on both sides of the ball, including a quarterback, it’s not surprising that this is seen as about a two touchdown game.
Highly Likely Losses: None
Even if TCU takes a step back this season, it’s hard to imagine them being significant underdogs against any team they play this season. Since joining the Big 12, moreover, Gary Patterson has overseen a step up in recruiting for the Horned Frogs. TCU is in a position where they should not be more than a two possession underdog to anybody.
Predicted Wins: 8-9
Even though TCU had significant losses at positions across the offense and defense, betting on Gary Patterson – who very well could be the best coach in the conference – to have some developed veterans on the defensive side of the ball seems safe. Since Patterson’s staff has upped their recruiting efforts in recent years, moreover, there should not be a huge drop off from last season.
Yet, in spite of offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie’s Air Raid acumen, we’ve seen TCU struggle to break in new quarterbacks when the offensive line has also suffered losses. Even though Shawn Robinson could eventually be an elite signal caller, could this year be a bit of a rough one for the TCU offense?
Nine wins seems possible for the Horned Frogs, but eight seems about right for a Gary Patterson staff that is having to break in so many new faces along the offensive line. The defense will almost certainly be disciplined and tough, but that and talent at some of the skill positions might not be enough for TCU to win ten regular season games again.