There shouldn’t be much trouble to worry about for TCU football in the first two weeks of the 2018 campaign. The Horned Frogs open the season with a home game vs. FCS Southern University on Sept. 1 before venturing to Dallas for a date with SMU on Sept. 7.
The real fun, or should we say test, begins Week 3.
The Horned Frogs’ first Power 5 matchup comes as one of the highest-billed nonconference games Gary Patterson and Co. have ever been a part of — a Sept. 15 showdown with Ohio State at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. TCU opens Big 12 play a week later with a trip to the Forty Acres to take on Texas before seeking to avenge a 2017 loss to Iowa State when the Cyclones visit Fort Worth on Sept. 29.
Put it all together, and the Horned Frogs’ three-game stretch to close September is ranked by ESPN as the 10th toughest in college football. ESPN’s Chris Low had this to say about the slate:
“One of the biggest challenges for the Horned Frogs will be rebuilding their offensive line, and they won’t have much margin for error early in the season. They take on No. 3 Ohio State at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the third week of the season, then travel to No. 22 Texas the next week. TCU has won four in a row over Texas, which will be coming off of a tough game of its own against USC. The Horned Frogs come back home to close out September against an Iowa State team that has the most momentum the Cyclones have enjoyed in ages, particularly with Matt Campbell signing a new deal to stay put as head coach.”
While the Ohio State game may be a mismatch once the teams take the field, TCU will benefit from playing just 20 minutes east of Amon G. Carter Stadium. But AT&T Stadium is an attractive destination for any fan base to visit. To that point, TCU fans were visibly outnumbered each of the last two times the Horned Frogs played at “Jerry World,” first vs. LSU in 2013 and then vs. Oklahoma last December in the return of the Big 12 Championship Game.
The narrative vs. Texas is a bit more comforting, as TCU has outscored by the Longhorns by 120 points combined over the past four meetings. This fall, however, will mark the first time that TCU has faced Texas in Austin outside of Thanksgiving weekend since joining the Big 12.
When the team returns home for the final weekend of September, it will be nothing short of a payback game as Matt Campbell and the Cyclones visit Amon G. Carter Stadium. Iowa State derailed TCU’s hopes of an undefeated season last October with a stunning 14-7 upset of the No. 4 Horned Frogs in Ames, Iowa. TCU had not lost to Iowa State since 2012.
When October rolls around, TCU could be 5-0. It also could be 3-2. And how the Horned Frogs handle that first-month stretch could make the difference between a championship-caliber season and an uncharacteristic middle-of-the-pack finish.