If there’s anything that TCU football coach Gary Patterson has a knack for, it’s overcoming adversity on the gridiron.
He’ll need to demonstrate that perhaps more than ever during the 2018 campaign. Even with the Horned Frogs coming off another 11-win campaign from 2017, the team enters this fall with a revamped roster and will be tasked with several early-season tests, including a marquee non-conference match up with Ohio State in week three. By the end of September, it should already be clear whether TCU is a contender or a pretender.
TCU’s season-opener vs. Southern University is still more than two months away, but the 11 a.m. kickoff on Sept. 1 in Fort Worth, Texas will be here before any of us know it. As the script flips to a new chapter of Horned Frog football, one that is expected to see quarterback Shawn Robinson take center stage, here is our best prediction of how the 2018 campaign will pan out for TCU.
Game 1: TCU vs. Southern – Sept. 1, 2018
The Horned Frogs have a tendency to open up the season against an FCS opponent from the Southwestern Athletic Conference, and that’s the case once again in 2018 as Southern University rolls into Amon G Carter Stadium to kick things off. The 2017 campaign saw TCU post a 63-0 rout of Jackson State in week one, and this “warm-up game” should have a similar feel – nothing more than a chance for Robinson and a virtually brand-new offensive line to get some reps against a team that can’t keep up before the Division I opponents arrive.
Prediction: TCU 56, Southern 3
Game 2: TCU at SMU – Sept. 6, 2018
For the second straight instance, TCU’s road trip to Dallas comes under the Friday night lights. The last time, it resulted in a 33-3 victory for the Horned Frogs after a closely contested first half, which has been a theme in recent meetings since TCU’s 56-0 triumph in 2014. But gone are standout wide receiver Courtland Sutton and coach Chad Morris. It will be interesting to see what coach Sonny Dykes, who spent last season as an offensive analyst at TCU, can accomplish against his former team, but the talent-mismatch in this one should hand the Horned Frogs their seventh consecutive Iron Skillet.
Prediction: TCU 42, SMU 17
Game 3: TCU vs Ohio State – Sept. 15, 2018 (Arlington, Texas)
This is the game everyone has been waiting for. TCU’s Sept. 15 match up vs. Ohio State at AT&T Stadium might just be the biggest non-conference game in school history for the Horned Frogs.
The fight between Gary Patterson and Urban Meyer may look compelling on paper, but taking down the Buckeyes will be a formidable task for the Horned Frogs. Patterson is no stranger to preparing his team for the big stage, no matter the amount of depth, but TCU’s offensive line could be overwhelmed by the size that Buckeyes bring on defense. Unless Shawn Robinson plays like he did the last time he took the field at Jerry World – a six touchdown performance en route to Texas state title for DeSoto High School – it could be a long day for those sporting purple and white.
Prediction: TCU 28, Ohio State 38
Game 4: TCU at Texas – Sept. 22, 2018
This will be the first time that TCU has paid a visit to the Forty Acres outside of Thanksgiving weekend since joining the Big 12. Win or lose vs. Ohio State, the Horned Frogs will still be feeling the bumps and bruises from a week prior, but so will Texas coming off a home game vs. USC. Given the Longhorns’ losses on defense, the struggles in the backfield and the ever-persisting quarterback stalemate between Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele, TCU should have the advantage once again in this one after outscoring the Texas by a combined 120 points in the last four meetings. It could be closer this time, especially if the Longhorns upend the Trojans and ride some extra momentum into the game, but the Big 12 is built on offense, and the Horned Frogs appear to be in better shape when it comes to that department.
Prediction: TCU 35, Texas 28
Game 5: TCU vs. Iowa State – Sept. 29, 2018
TCU will be hungry for payback after its 7-0 start to 2017 was derailed by an upset loss in Ames, Iowa last October. Of course, it was a game the Horned Frogs probably should have won, considering the defense held Iowa State to just 14 points and the offense committed two red zone turnovers. The Cyclones are poised to be a pesky Big 12 opponent once again in 2018 as they return running back David Montgomery, but gone are wide receiver Allen Lazard and quarterback-turned-linebacker Joel Lanning, both of whom proved to be among the team’s most valuable players in 2017. Combine those losses with home field advantage for TCU, and the Horned Frogs should be able to achieve their revenge come the final weekend of September.
Prediction: TCU 38, Iowa State 17
Game 6: TCU vs. Texas Tech – Oct. 11, 2018
For the first time since 2015, the Horned Frogs will be part of a Thursday night contest when they host Texas Tech following a bye weekend. TCU hasn’t lost a mid-week contest since falling to the Red Raiders in Lubbock back in September 2013, but don’t expect this one to have any shades of that controversial contest at Jones AT&T Stadium. Robinson’s lone start as a freshman in 2017 came against none other than Texas Tech on the road, and he led the Horned Frogs to a 27-3 victory. The Red Raiders’ historically sub-par defense may finally be trending in the right direction, but there is still plenty of work to be done, and the Texas Tech offense will be adjusting to new faces after losing starting quarterback Nic Shimonek and standout receiver Keke Coutee over the offseason. TCU may not be putting up 82 points, but the recipe is there for a relatively easy victory.
Prediction: TCU 48, Texas Tech 21
Game 7: TCU vs. Oklahoma – Oct. 20, 2018
For the first time since the field was stormed at Amon G. Carter Stadium in October 2014, the Horned Frogs won’t be facing a quarterback named Baker Mayfield when they go head-to-head with the Oklahoma Sooners.
Of course, that’s not to say that TCU is completely out of the woods. Oklahoma returns leading rusher Rodney Anderson, who feasted on the Horned Frogs last November in Norman with 290 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns. As for Mayfield’s projected successor, Kyler Murray, the former Texas A&M transfer has plenty of athleticism, but is largely unproven as a passer in the Big 12.
Ultimately, Murray’s effectiveness as a passer may decide this contest. TCU’s offense is bound to score points against Oklahoma’s sub-par defense, as the Horned Frogs already dropped 46 points the last time the Sooners visited Fort Worth in 2016. If Oklahoma’s offense struggles to get going, then TCU might just bring its 4-game skid vs. the Sooners to an end.
Prediction: TCU 38, Oklahoma 35
Game 8: TCU at Kansas – Oct. 27, 2018
Yes, the Horned Frogs inexplicably had their struggles vs. Kansas from 2013-2016, and the last two trips to Lawrence have put some gray hairs on both TCU fans and players alike. But last year’s 43-0 shutout victory over the Jayhawks changed that narrative, as the Horned Frogs surrendered the fewest yards in any Big 12 game ever played (21). While it may seem that Kansas has already hit rock bottom with just one Big 12 win in the last three years, the Jayhawks certainly don’t seem to be trending upward entering the 2018 campaign, to put it lightly. Expect another rout in this one.
Prediction: TCU 38, Kansas 3
Game 9: TCU vs. Kansas State – Nov. 3, 2018
Kansas State may not appear dangerous on paper, but coach Bill Snyder seemingly always finds a way to get his team ready for the big games. If TCU is indeed at just one loss or better entering this one, the Horned Frogs best be ready for the legendary Kansas State coach to throw all the tricks he has in the bag. The Wildcats boast two dual-threat quarterbacks in the form of Alex Delton and Skylar Thompson, the latter who led the team to an upset victory over No. 13 Oklahoma State in his first-ever start last fall. That said, Kansas State had enough departures over the offseason – defensive back D.J. Reed and receiver Byron Pringle among them – to the point that TCU should be able to get past the Snydercats with relative ease. It’s just a matter of walking in to this one with the right mentality.
Prediction: TCU 37, Kansas State 20
Game 10: TCU at West Virginia – Nov. 10, 2018
Playing as the visitor in Morgantown is a tall task as is. It’s especially brutal when encountering cold, dreary November weather and facing what could be the most prolific offense in college football this fall. Quarterback Will Grier has already been tabbed a Heisman contender by several pundits, and if he lives up to the hype, even the Big 12’s best defenses may not be enough to stop him from putting up big numbers.
TCU is 2-1 in on the road vs. the Mountaineers, but both wins were decided on the final play of the game, and coach Dana Holgorsen is set to field a more formidable team this fall than he did in either 2012 or 2014. The Horned Frogs’ defense may limit West Virginia’s production to some degree, but the Big 12 does run on offense, and the Mountaineers appear to have the edge in that department. Combined with the elements, this one may be too much for TCU to walk away victorious.
Prediction: TCU 24, West Virginia 34
Game 11: TCU at Baylor – Nov. 17, 2018
Where do we begin with this annual rivalry game? If one thing is for sure, it’s that Baylor won’t be the 1-win squad that it was during Matt Rhule’s debut season as coach in 2017. Quarterback Charlie Brewer is only expected to be that much better this fall after being named Big 12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year last season, and if the Bears do end up being the 6-win team some project them to be, Brewer will most likely be responsible for that.
Alas, Baylor still lacks depth in plenty of other areas, especially at offensive line. The Horned Frogs may not be dropping 62 points, but the talent gap is just too wide for TCU to drop the ball in this one, even on the road. Unless the Horned Frogs completely fall apart, they should be heading for 4-straight victories over their most heated Big 12 rival.
Prediction: TCU 44, Baylor 21
Game 12: TCU vs. Oklahoma State – Nov. 24, 2018
In 2017, TCU posted their first win in Stillwater since 1991 when the Horned Frogs upset an Oklahoma State team that many thought could crack the College Football Playoff. Now, the Horned Frogs get the Cowboys not only at home, but also amidst a full on rebuild for Mike Gundy. Oklahoma State lost both quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington – the school’s all time leading passer and receiver, respectively – to graduation during the offseason. With TCU returning almost every valuable piece of its receiving corps from last year, the Horned Frogs should be able to get past the Pokes with no problem en route to a fifth consecutive Thanksgiving weekend victory.
Prediction: TCU 42, Oklahoma State 21
THE VERDICT: TCU ends the regular season with a 10-2 overall record, 8-1 Big 12 record, and earns a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game for a second consecutive year.