It's a big season in Fort Worth with lots of expectation and excitement. How does the schedule stack up? Let's take a closer look.
Aug. 31: vs. LSU at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas
Sept. 7: SE Louisiana
Sept. 12: at Texas Tech
Sept. 28: SMU
Oct. 5: at Oklahoma
Oct. 12: Kansas
Oct. 19: at Oklahoma State
Oct. 26: Texas
Nov. 2: West Virginia
Nov. 9: at Iowa State
Nov. 16: at Kansas State
Nov. 30: Baylor
Non-con challenge: LSU. TCU wasn't a Big 12 member when it signed up for a home-and-home against LSU, but the two teams decided to make it one clash at Cowboys Stadium in 2013 instead. It should be a great one. Two top-15 teams in a matchup that will surely attract plenty of attention and maybe "College Gameday," too. Casey Pachall's likely debut will draw plenty of attention, but LSU locked down Oregon in this stadium two years ago and the strong defensive tradition will be a huge early test for the Frogs and the best nonconference game of any team in the Big 12.
Gut check game: at Texas Tech. Tech will be a bit of a wild card this season, and win or lose that game against LSU, the Frogs will have to validate themselves in a tough road atmosphere in the first big game of the Kliff Kingsbury Era. Believe me, Tech is no doubt good enough to beat TCU, though the Frogs did play very well on the road last season. It's also got a tinge of revenge to it, too. The Red Raiders beat the Frogs in triple overtime last season. Lose this game, and regardless of what happens in that LSU game, the Frogs' balloon will be pretty deflated.
Chance to impress: at Oklahoma. Gary Patterson went and beat Oklahoma in Norman before it was cool and everybody was doing it. Until 2011, only two coaches had ever done it. Patterson's been joined by Brian Kelly, Bill Snyder and Tommy Tuberville in the past two seasons, but this season is different. TCU's not trying to pull an upset. It's trying to walk into Oklahoma and gain an edge in the Big 12 title race by proving it's definitively better than the Sooners. That's new territory for the Frogs, and no doubt: If TCU wins this game, they'll impress and be forced to be taken seriously as a real Big 12 title contender.
Eyeing revenge: at Oklahoma State. For one, TCU will have to fight through more than just the Sooners to win a Big 12 title but last year's 27-0 second half in Stillwater was the low point of TCU's season, and the biggest disappointment for Patterson's team last year. Thanks to a scheduling quirk, the Frogs have to make a return trip to Oklahoma State, but this game will have a big impact on the Big 12 title race and winning it would mean a whole lot to TCU.
Upset watch: at Kansas State. If TCU does hang on and is in the thick of the Big 12 title hunt, the late-season trip to K-State will be a difficult one for a team that's never easy to beat. Add to that a frenzied road atmosphere and the pressure of badly needing a win and everything that a title would mean to the program, and it's going to be a bumpy road for the 11th game and the final road game of the season for the Frogs.
Final analysis: TCU gets the favorable five home games in conference play and goes on the road four times, though two of those road games are against contenders Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. That makes the road to the Big 12 title look a bit more uphill. Granted, this is the same team that didn't win a Big 12 game at home last season, so maybe that's not quite a good thing. The middle of the season is where it all will go down for the Frogs, playing the league's three other top teams sandwiched around a home date in October against Kansas, who actually gave the Frogs some issues last season, thanks to turnover problems. That was with Pachall on the field, too. That stretch will decide if TCU's Big 12 title dreams are pipe dreams or if they'll become reality.