Time to start analyzing each team's schedule across the Big 12. Next up, those Frogs in Fort Worth.
Nonconference (with 2011 records):
Sept. 8: Grambling State (8-4)
Sept. 22: Virginia (8-5)
Sept. 29: at SMU (8-5)
Home Big 12 games:
Oct. 6: Iowa State (6-7)
Oct. 20: Texas Tech (5-7)
Nov. 10: Kansas State (10-3)
Dec. 1: Oklahoma (10-3)
Away Big 12 games:
Sept. 15: at Kansas (2-10)
Oct. 13: at Baylor (10-3)
Oct. 27: at Oklahoma State (12-1)
Nov. 3: at West Virginia (10-3)
Nov. 24: at Texas (8-5)
Non-con challenge: at SMU. Bad, bad memories in the Battle for the Iron Skillet from last year for the Frogs. They fell behind early and lost in overtime to the Ponies. The old Southwest Conference rivalry will live on even as TCU enters the Big 12, but if the ball bounces the other way a couple times in that game, and TCU holds on against Baylor last year, the Frogs would have played for a national title. Believe it. Instead, they beat Louisiana Tech in the Poinsettia Bowl. Making matters even more interesting? Former Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert may be the man behind center for June Jones' offense in Dallas.
Gut-check game: at Oklahoma State. If TCU wants us to take it seriously as a Big 12 title contender (and I'm wavering on that idea with all the offseason distractions and defections), it needs to prove that it's better than Oklahoma State. If it can't those doubts will remain. This game will set the stage for the late-season run, and if TCU can go into Stillwater and come away with a win, especially a convincing one, it'll be time to start taking the Frogs seriously as a challenger to Oklahoma and West Virginia in the title race.
Weird return trip: at Baylor. Baylor and TCU are quite familiar with one another. This will be the third consecutive season the two teams have played, and a second consecutive trip to Waco for the Frogs. There's no RG3 this time after the Heisman winner torched TCU in a thrilling season-opening Friday nighter last year. TCU has no Andy Dalton, who embarrassed Baylor back in 2010 in Fort Worth. This should be a fun one, though.
Snoozer: Grambling State. Texas is the Big 12's only team that didn't schedule an FCS team this year. Grambling isn't a bad team, but still ... To borrow a phrase from Charles Barkley in NBATV's recent Dream Team documentary: "I don't know nothin' about Grambling State, but Grambling State is in trouble."
Chance to impress: at Texas. TCU will play the part of Texas A&M this Thanksgiving, filling the Aggies' spot in that traditional holiday showcase. Eyes will be on the Frogs as they walk into the Big 12's biggest pigskin cathedral against what should be an improving Texas team. Will the Horned Frogs walk out of Darrell K. Royal Stadium as winners, with a shot at the Big 12 title heading into the season's final weekend? It's very possible.
Final analysis: The Frogs are the unfortunate recipients of a four-game Big 12 home schedule this year, and play five away games in the nine-game Big 12 conference schedule. No home game is bigger than the last, though. TCU has a lot to prove, but it gets to host Oklahoma on Championship Saturday, which could very well have serious Big 12 title implications. If I was betting, I'd think very seriously about giving the Frogs a shot to win a share of the Big 12 title with a win over Oklahoma on the season's final weekend. Other than that, it's a pretty balanced schedule, and a solid nonconference schedule for the Frogs, at least by Big 12 standards in a weak year of scheduling outside the league. A decent FCS team, plus two eight-win teams? Not bad, Frogs.