FORT WORTH, Texas - For the most part, TCU becoming a member of the Big 12 Conference involves perfect timing.
The Horned Frogs will open the 2012 season in Amon Carter Stadium, which has undergone a $164 million face lift. The school set a record for season ticket sales. TCU has won 10 or more games eight times in the last 11 seasons, including a 13-0 record in 2010 capped by a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin.
But after winning championships in the Western Athletic, Conference USA and Mountain West conferences, the Frogs are stepping up in competition. And coach Gary Patterson is coaching a team in transition.
"You have to put the best people on the field; we've lost almost 34 players (to graduation, off-the-field issues, academics and injuries)."
TCU returns six starters on offense and five on defense. Patterson is concerned about his team's inexperience and depth. His team closes with five games - at Oklahoma State, at West Virginia, Kansas State, at Texas and Oklahoma. Those teams' combined won-loss record in 2011 was 50-15.
"We have the talent, and we have the skill and the size to compete with any of those teams," junior quarterback Casey Pachall said. "It's just being able to deal with them week to week to week. We know what we can do, and we know we can put up a lot of numbers, and a lot of points."
In his first season as a starter in 2011, Pachall completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,921 yards and 25 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Two productive running backs - Waymon James and Matthew Tucker - return as do top receivers Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson.
"We can run, we have good players," Patterson said of his receivers. "They're all a year older. That's different than last year when we had six brand new freshman wide receivers and nobody knew what they were doing."
TCU won 11 games last season despite a defense that atypical for a Patterson-coached team. The Frogs allowed a total of 90 points in their two losses and allowed 400-plus total yards in five games.
TCU, which has won 50 of its last 55 games and 24 consecutive conference games, will play its first Big 12 Conference game at Kansas on Sept. 15.
"Everything we've done to this point is great. But now the real work starts," Patterson said. "It's another way we've got to keep climbing the mountain. The higher you get on a mountain, the thinner the air, the harder it is. So for us we're going to keep doing that.
"Our group has to understand, you have not arrived just because we got to the Big 12. Being in the Big 12 doesn't make you special. Winning makes you special. That's how we got back to this point - winning."
TCU Horned Frogs
Coach: Gary Patterson, 12th season.
2011: 11-2 overall, 7-0 (Mountain West Conference).
Bowl: Defeated Louisiana Tech, 31-24, in Poinsettia Bowl.
Returning starters: 6 on offense, 5 on defense.
Key players: Junior QB Casey Pachall, junior RB Waymon James, senior RB Matthew Tucker, junior WR Josh Boyce, senior WR Skye Dawson, sophomore WR Brandon Carter, junior DE Stansly Maponga, junior CB Jason Verrett, senior DE Ross Forrest, senior C James Fry, senior RG Blaize Foltz, senior LB Kenny Cain.
Information, please: Freshman kicker Jaden Oberkrom, who hit two 61-yard field goals during a scrimmage, has impressed Patterson with his range. ... Freshman Ethan Perry and senior Cale Patterson are battling for the punting job. ... Sophomore second-team tight end Stephen Bryant will miss the season with a shoulder injury. ... Coach Gary Patterson has won 109 games in 11 seasons. That equals Dutch Meyer's school record. Patterson reached that mark in 62 fewer games than the coach who led the Frogs to their only AP national championship in 1938. ... In three seasons (2008 through 2010) TCU's defense allowed 28 passing touchdowns. Last season it allowed 23 TDs through the air.
Numbers to note: Since 2008, TCU is 7-3 against ranked foes and five of those victories came against teams ranked in the top 10: No. 8 BYU. and No. 9 Boise State in 2008, No. 5 Utah and No. 5 Wisconsin in 2010 and No. 5 Boise State in 2011. And since 2002, TCU is 16-4 against teams from BCS conferences.
|Sept. 8||Grambling State|
|Sept. 15||at Kansas*|
|Sept. 29||at SMU*|
|Oct. 6||Iowa State*|
|Oct. 13||at Baylor*|
|Oct. 20||Texas Tech*|
|Oct. 27||at Oklahoma State*|
|Nov. 3||at West Virginia*|
|Nov. 10||Kansas State*|
|Nov. 24||at Texas*|