Predicting college football games isn’t an easy business. As the saying often goes, the entire landscape of the sport can be rocked any given Saturday.
TCU head coach Gary Patterson is no stranger to that, having been through both the ups and downs of the sport — though far more of the former than the latter — since arriving to Fort Worth as an assistant in the late 1990s. Per usual, there’s no shortage of unpredictability entering the Horned Frogs’ 2018 campaign.
Make no mistake about it — TCU has both the size on defense and the potential firepower on offense to make a serious run at the Big 12 title this fall. But potential is the keyword, particularly on offense. The Horned Frogs will have plenty to figure out up front after losing the majority of its o-line starters to graduation this offseason. That’s not exactly the most comforting news considering TCU will have a new starting quarterback — likely sophomore Shawn Robinson.
Alas, it technically is still the offseason, so we can dream a little bit over the next few weeks. Let’s say everything does come together exceptionally well — from a talent and developmental standpoint — for the Horned Frogs in 2018. Within reason, what could be the absolute best possible result for TCU?
If history has taught us anything, it’s near impossible to go undefeated in the Big 12 with the parity that is present. Even for the best teams, there’s always that one trap game that turns out to be way too close for comfort. So with that in mind, here’s what we could see from TCU this fall if everyone on the depth chart reaches their full potential.
Southern — W
Robinson and the offensive line are flawless as TCU opens up the season versus an FCS opponent. The Horned Frogs defense makes life miserable for Southern, leading to a lopsided victory in Week 1.
@ SMU — W
Excitement abounds as the Horned Frogs head to Dallas for a Friday night contest with the Mustangs, who are now coached by former TCU offensive analyst Sonny Dykes. But when the teams take the field, the talent mismatch is all too evident. The Horned Frogs dominate and move to 2-0.
Ohio State — L
Patterson has his team as prepared as possible for this one, and they show up by keeping the contest close from start to finish at AT&T Stadium. The TCU defense limits Ohio State’s production on offense, but at the end of the day, the Buckeyes’ ferocious defensive line is too much for the Horned Frogs’ revamped offensive line to handle — making things far more difficult on Shawn Robinson than needed. He bails out his team with extraordinary athleticism at times, but TCU falls short by a touchdown.
@ Texas — W
TCU has its critics following the Ohio State loss as the Horned Frogs head to Austin, but the doubters are quickly silenced. Continuing the theme of recent meetings, the Texas offense simply has no answer for the TCU defense. It’s not the most prolific outing from the Horned Frogs offense, who are still feeling the bumps and bruises from the week before, but it’s enough to send TCU to a confidence-boosting victory in Austin. A win here makes five straight over the Longhorns.
Iowa State — W
With a chip on their shoulders stemming from the events in Ames, Iowa last October, Ben Banogu and the TCU defense pounce on the Cyclones and completely prevent quarterback Kyle Kempt and running back David Montgomery from making any noise. Fueled by the home crowd, the Horned Frogs record a double-digit victory and move to 4-1.
Texas Tech — W
The Thursday night atmosphere at Amon G. Carter Stadium is absolutely electric, and Robinson is determined to make up for any mistakes he made a year ago when he made his lone start versus Texas Tech. Motivation in hand, Robinson and the running-back duo of Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua take off against the Red Raiders’ continually sub-par defense. With quarterback Nic Shimonek and star receiver Keke Coutee gone, Texas Tech is unable to make much noise on the scoreboard as this one turns into a blowout quickly.
Oklahoma — W
Bye-bye, Baker Mayfield. With the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner now out of Norman, the Horned Frogs finally snap their skid versus the Sooners. It’s a high flying affair as Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray and running back Rodney Anderson put up big numbers, but the Sooners’ defense has just as much trouble containing a TCU offense that has settled into a groove by this point in the season. The game goes down to the wire, but the Horned Frogs come out on top and record a crucial top-10 win.
@ Kansas — W
The Jayhawks have given the Horned Frogs an odd amount of trouble in the past, but this one is a repeat of 2017. Come the 4th quarter, folks are wondering if Kansas will even have positive yardage on the day.
Kansas State — W
This is an unexpectedly close one that gets a lot of fans nervous. Kansas State, unsuspectingly, jumps out to an early lead with a strong showing from the dual-threat quarterback combo of Alex Delton and Skylar Thompson. The performances from the two puts TCU on its toes early on both sides of the football, but eventually, the Horned Frogs defense calms down and contains the pair of K-State quarterbacks. A considerable comeback is needed, but it’s no task too tall for Robinson now that he’s had two months to establish his confidence. Just like the 2015 meeting in Manhattan, TCU rallies back and beats the Wildcats by a touchdown, improving to 8-1 on the year.
@ West Virginia — W
The Horned Frogs travel to Morgantown for a top-25 matchup with West Virginia as the underdogs, but the TCU defense is unlike anything Will Grier and the Mountaineers’ offense has experienced up to this point. Amid sloppy November conditions, there are plenty of turnovers, but the Horned Frogs put on a gritty performance and outlast West Virginia by a field-goal, providing yet another thrilling finish in this series.
@ Baylor — W
There’s talk of this rivalry contest on the road being a trap game for TCU, but that conversation is quickly laid to rest once the team hits the field. Knowing what’s at stake, the Horned Frogs strike first and never look back, rolling past a Baylor team that is still attempting to find its identity under second-year head coach Matt Rhule. TCU is now 10-1 entering the final week of the regular season.
Oklahoma State — W
The Horned Frogs exploit a Cowboys team that no longer has the coveted quarterback-receiver connection of Mason Rudolph and James Washington to work with. Oklahoma State makes some some noise on the ground with running back Justice Hill, but the unit is no match for a TCU defense that has established itself as both the best in the Big 12 and one of the most fearsome in all of college football. Robinson and the o-line, calm as can be, lead the Horned Frogs to yet another comfortable win and TCU heads off to the Big 12 title game at 11-1.
The final result: TCU, 11-1, walks into the Big 12 Championship Game versus either Oklahoma or West Virginia as a top-10 team with a College Football Playoff bid on the line. The Horned Frogs, having learned their lessons from a year ago, emerge victorious at AT&T Stadium and walk into the playoff as the No. 4 seed.