Schedule analysis: TCU

We are a month away from the beginning of fall camps, and two months from the start of the season. With the 2014 season arriving in the not-too-distant future, it's time for us to break down every Big 12 team’s complete schedule.

Starting in reverse alphabetical order, we continue this series off with the TCU Horned Frogs:

Nonconference opponents (with 2013 record)

Aug. 30: Samford (8-5 in FCS)

Sept. 13: Minnesota (8-5)

Sept. 27: SMU (5-7)

Big 12 home games

Oct. 4: Oklahoma

Oct. 18: Oklahoma State

Oct. 25: Texas Tech

Nov. 8: Kansas State

Dec. 6: Iowa State

Big 12 road games

Oct. 11: at Baylor

Nov. 1: at West Virginia

Nov. 15: at Kansas

Nov. 27: at Texas

Gut-check time: Oklahoma’s early October visit to Amon G. Carter Stadium will have a major implications on the Horned Frogs' season. Gary Patterson’s squad can send a message to the entire conference with a win, while an early setback could create a snowball effect with Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech rounding out the schedule in October. TCU’s offense, in particular, will have to be ready for this battle against one of the Big 12’s top defenses with only three games to find some type of rhythm beforehand.

Trap game: The Horned Frogs’ mid-November trip to Kansas could be harder than expected. TCU will be coming off six straight weeks of tough conference contests with an eye on a Thanksgiving tilt with Texas. It would be easy for TCU to overlook the Jayhawks. Can KU make it pay if they do? That’s the bigger question.

Snoozer: Even though it is the debut of Doug Meachem and Sonny Cumbie’s offense, the season opener against Samford should be a snoozefest. Even if the new offense scores zero points, TCU’s defense is so talented they have the potential to outscore their FCS foe by themselves. It remains a game to watch just to see how the new offense will look, but if you’re still watching after the first quarter TCU could have a problem.

Telltale stretch: Oklahoma, at Baylor, Oklahoma State. Three of the four teams that finished atop the Big 12 standings in 2013 will battle the Horned Frogs during the first three weeks of October. The Sooners and Bears provide different tests, with OU’s strong defense and Baylor’s explosive offense followed by young Cowboys squad with enough talent to make TCU pay if it is beaten up from the previous two weeks. A 2-1 record during this stretch would make it clear that TCU will be a difficult challenge for any conference team with title hopes. Better yet, an undefeated run through this stretch could make the Horned Frogs the Big 12 favorite.

Final analysis: If TCU returns to a bowl game or battles for a Big 12 title, the Horned Frogs would have earned it. Patterson’s squad has three games to get ready for conference play, including an underrated test from Minnesota, then its conference slate begins with back-to-back games against Big 12 favorites OU and Baylor. The Horned Frogs defense is likely to keep them in any game and the home stretch of the 2014 conference schedule is much kinder than the beginning. It’s very likely we will know everything we need to know about TCU and its new offense by mid-October.