While not the gold-plated gift-wrapped schedule given the Horned Frogs in 2009, TCU does have a favorable schedule in 2010. (See it in the table on the sidebar.)
The Frogs stick to the tried-and-true formula for non-conference games: one cartel semi-heavy-weight, one Big12 team, SMU, and one creampuff. The semi-heavy-weight cartel team is the opener, at JerryWorld, in Oregon State. The location takes a lot of the punch out of this matchup; the crowd, jet-lag, and general comfort level will be thoroughly friendly for the Frogs.
The creampuff is largely an unknown 2A team; these games are unfair, and good for little more than injuries and concession sales. The Wimple wishes TCU would add North Texas instead of a 2A team. The level of competition would hardly be different, and an all-1A schedule appeals to the computers. Oh well.
Baylor is the Big12 team on the schedule, for the third time in four years. The Bears come to Fort Worth again, and likely will leave just as shut-out as last time. Yes, Robert Griffin is a dynamic quarterback. No, he hasn’t played a defense like TCU’s before, and yes, doofus Baylor fans will supply all the bulletin board material needed to motivate the Frogs. This will be fun.
Finally SMU. This year– the first year in memory– the Mustangs don’t double the “creampuff” category. In fact, the Frogs may face a decent test in their Friday night roady to Dallas to face the Mustangs. The spread still probably will be in the double digits: perhaps half of last season’s ridiculous 40-point bet. But SMU showed a new and encouraging intensity in last year’s tilt, and have added confidence and a little success to their mojo since then. The Wimple doesn’t see SMU pulling off a 2005-esque upset this year, but he is glad the 2011 game is in Fort Worth.
Conference play– and the Frogs’ first foray outside the Metroplex this season– begins in Fort Collins at week 5. Colorado State won’t be a gimme at Sonny Lubick stadium this season. If the Frogs take bad injury luck north again, like they did in 2008, this could be uncomfortably close. Next come three MWC top-halfers to Fort Worth. Wyoming brings their now-confident spread to ACS first, followed by BYU’s not-so-new quarterback, and then Air Force’s triple option. TCU cashes in a lot of schedule grace with these three coming at or after the halfway-point in the season, and all at home.
By this point the Frogs probably will be 8-0, having played without a bye, and almost a month at home. The next two roadtrips will be a challenge. First it’s a late game in Las Vegas, which TCU will win handily. UNLV may be playing harder in 2010, but it will be in the midst of a thorough identity change, and out for the count before halftime. The team will return to Fort Worth sometime in the wee hours of Sunday, with the season’s toughest game looming. Week 10 (November 6, again) features the Frogs’ return to Salt Lake City to face the Utes. This year the game starts at 1:30 in the afternoon, and TCU (hopefully) will have the senior quarterback. Again the possibility of a BCS berth (or something larger) may hang on the outcome of this match. It may be the biggest Mountain West game of the year, or longer.
The Frogs host San Diego State in week 11, and then enjoy their only bye of the year, before finishing against a much improved New Mexico in Albuquerque.
TCU ought to be favored in every game this year, except maybe the grudge match in Salt Lake City. TCU hasn’t won in Rice-Eccles at least since its entry into the Mountain West. This will be TCU’s first day game there since then, and if injuries don’t significantly alter the two-deep beforehand, TCU will have the more experienced team at nearly every position.
So the schedule doesn’t hinder the Frogs; given TCU’s unprecedented pre-season poll position (#6 in ESPN’s post-spring lineup), any ceiling on the 2010 Frogs will be self-imposed. If the Horned Frogs show 2009-like intensity consistently in 2010, the purple-clad Fort Worth crew may force a rewrite of the BCS rules come bowl season.