TCU football will play in one of the top nonconference games of the 2018 college football season when the Horned Frogs take on the Ohio State Buckeyes on Sept. 15.
The Big 12-Big Ten showdown, which is set to be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, features two of the teams that were part of a heated debate surrounding the inaugural College Football Playoff field in 2014. The Buckeyes bounced the Horned Frogs out of the top 4 on selection day before upsetting Alabama in the semifinals and then defeating Oregon to win the national title.
The Week 3 matchup featuring coaches Gary Patterson and Urban Meyer at the same venue where the first national title game of the playoff era was played is nothing short of an opportunity for TCU to make a statement. But it also makes it a tall task for the Horned Frogs, who lost a massive senior class, to remain undefeated once Big 12 play arrives later that month.
So is it safe to say that TCU own’s the most formidable nonconference schedule of any team in the Big 12? Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel says that’s the case, with the Horned Frogs edging Oklahoma for the toughest nonconference slate of any team in the conference.
“The Big 12 went 6-0 against Football Championship Subdivision teams last season including a 63-0 win over Jackson State in last year’s opener. TCU travels to SMU where the Horned Frogs have won 21 out of the past 23 meetings to their in-state rival with the last road loss coming in 1998. The schedule features a rare midseason neutral-site showdown with Ohio State at AT&T Stadium. It’s the seventh meeting between these two programs but the first since 1973.”
The SMU game shouldn’t have TCU fans as nervous as the showdown with the Buckeyes one week later. The Horned Frogs have won Battle of the Iron Skillet every year dating back to 2012. Even a Friday night matchup in Dallas this year shouldn’t faze the Horned Frogs, as their last win at SMU — 33-3 in 2016 — was also played on a Friday night.
A glance at Big 12 nonconference play
So how does TCU’s nonconference schedule compare to some of the other teams that are expected to contend for the Big 12 crown in 2018?
Oklahoma, who Murschel ranked just below TCU, has one Power 5 opponent on its nonconference schedule — a Week 2 matchup vs. UCLA. To be fair, the Sooners’ Week 1 matchup vs. Florida Atlantic will have somewhat of a Power 5 feeling to it with coach Lane Kiffin leading the Owls. Oklahoma, however, benefits from playing both of those games at home. The Sooners also get Army in Norman, Okla. in Week 4 — one week after the team’s Big 12 opener at Iowa State.
While going undefeated in nonconference play won’t be easy for TCU and Oklahoma though, their slates are far from being the most Power 5 heavy among Big 12 teams.
West Virginia, which has one of the most experienced offenses within the conference this fall, has two Power 5 opponents on its nonconference schedule. The Mountaineers face Tennessee in a neutral-site contest in Charlotte, N.C. in Week 1 before facing North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C., two weeks later. West Virginia is currently on a three-game losing streak to the Wolfpack in the all-time series.
Texas also has two Power 5 opponents — Maryland and USC — on its nonconference schedule. The Longhorns lost to both teams in nonconference play a year ago, but it shouldn’t be as daunting of a task this time around. Texas will face the Terrapins at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., before getting the Trojans at home this year. USC will be without many players that made it a top-4 team at the time of the 2017 meeting — namely starting quarterback Sam Darnold and running back Ronald Jones II.
The good news for TCU fans — if the Horned Frogs can get through nonconference play unscathed, the outlook for Big 12 games will be nothing short of promising, not to mention that TCU would likely have a top-10 win on its resume already. But the margin for error will be near zero if the Horned Frogs are to defeat Ohio State.
The Horned Frogs open the year against FCS opponent Southern at Amon G. Carter Stadium on Sept. 1. TCU will seek its second consecutive 10-win regular season after finishing as the runner-up in the Big 12 last year.