Schedule analysis: TCU Horned Frogs

Since last week, we’ve been previewing the upcoming schedules for each Big 12 team.

The series continues with TCU:

Nonconference opponents (with 2016 record)

Sept. 2: Jackson State (3-8)

Sept. 9: at Arkansas (7-6)

Sept. 16: SMU (5-7)

Big 12 home games

Oct. 7: West Virginia (10-3)

Oct. 21: Kansas (2-10)

Nov. 4: Texas (5-7)

Nov. 24: Baylor (7-6)

Big 12 road games

Sept. 23: at Oklahoma State (10-3)

Oct. 14: at Kansas State (9-4)

Oct. 28: at Iowa State (3-9)

Nov. 11: at Oklahoma (11-2)

Nov. 18: at Texas Tech (5-7)

Gut-check time: It comes early. TCU can set the tone for its Big 12 performance with a win in Week 4 at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys figure to enter this game with high hopes -- and deservedly so; they’re a real contender for the College Football Playoff. It wasn’t long ago that we talked about the Horned Frogs in the same way. But after a slide to 6-7 last year in which a 31-6 home thumping at the hands of Oklahoma State served as a low point, TCU needs a landmark win to launch its turnaround.

Trap game: The Week 12 trip to Lubbock snaps a comfortable, home-away pattern in the Horned Frogs’ schedule. It comes on the heels of a visit to Oklahoma and six days before a Senior Day clash at home with Baylor. Could the Horned Frogs overlook Texas Tech? They shouldn’t. Games in this series often are unpredictable, whether it's TCU hanging 82 points on the Red Raiders in 2014 or Tech winning a pillow fight, 27-24, in the second overtime last season.

Snoozer: The Horned Frogs face the two northernmost Big 12 teams in a three-week stretch from Oct. 14 to 28, visiting Kansas State in Week 7 and Iowa State in Week 9. So yeah, Kansas plays at TCU in Week 8. The Jayhawks haven’t won a league road since 2008 at Iowa State. The five Big 12 games in this series -- all TCU wins -- have been decided by an average of 7 points. This game also marks the return to Fort Worth of KU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham, who held the same job under TCU coach Gary Patterson for the past three seasons. Is that enough to raise the excitement meter? Didn’t think so.

Final analysis: The Horned Frogs’ schedule, as mentioned, features something of a cadence, starting with a difficult September. The opening month, in fact, with trips to Arkansas and Oklahoma State, will serve as a bellwether for this season at TCU. Three wins in four games, including a date with SMU that’s no gimme, would put the Horned Frogs on a path to reverse the disappointment of last year and gain steam in a manageable month of October. And if things go well, Texas and Oklahoma back to back in November could be fun.