TCU came up short in the mission to win its first outright Big 12 title in 2017. The Horned Frogs led the conference in every major defensive statistic but couldn’t score enough to avoid a major upset at Iowa State, and also couldn’t keep the explosive Oklahoma offense in check in a pair of losses to the Sooners, including a 41-17 disappointment in the Big 12 Championship Game.
Nevertheless, TCU rolled to 11 victories, often in impressive fashion, which secured the third double-digit-win season for the program over the last four years. Another could be on the way. The Frogs are certainly among the favorites to win the Big 12 in what appears to be a particularly wide-open season for the league.
The question now: can Gary Patterson lead his team to the Big 12 championship, and if so, will it be enough to earn TCU a spot in the College Football Playoff? Athlon asked a few editors and college football contributors to share their realistic win/loss projection for the Horned Frogs in 2018.
TCU Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Gary Patterson’s team returns only nine starters, but TCU will be in the thick of the race to earn a trip to the Big 12 Championship Game in 2018. Defense will be a strength for the Horned Frogs once again. End Ben Banogu is one of the conference's top returning defenders, and the addition of Northern Illinois’ graduate transfer Jawuan Johnson bolsters a linebacker unit that already featured Ty Summers. Patterson has to plug a few holes in the secondary, but this group is poised to rank near the top of the Big 12.
Bigger concerns surround an offense that lost three starters in the trenches and quarterback Kenny Hill. New signal-caller Shawn Robinson is a breakout candidate, and the Horned Frogs aren’t hurting for talent at the skill spots. Considering how tight the battle in the Big 12 standings will be, I anticipate a few upsets along the way, thus the pick of TCU over Oklahoma and Baylor over the Horned Frogs. The path might not be correct, but I think Patterson’s team settles at 8-4 this year.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
This is a good team that could challenge for the Big 12 title if Shawn Robinson steps in and plays well on a consistent basis at quarterback. Obviously, the game vs. Ohio State in Arlington is huge, but the biggest game of the season could be the next week when the Frogs visit Texas. After that, TCU returns home for three straight games, the last of which is against Big 12 favorite Oklahoma. If the Frogs beat Texas, they should be 3-0 in the league when OU comes to town.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
Gary Patterson did a great job with the team in last year's 11-3 run and a similar effort and Big 12 title game appearance should be in the cards once again for the Horned Frogs. I'm not as worried about Shawn Robinson taking over at quarterback as some given his supporting cast is excellent and this front seven on defense could be even more explosive than in past years. The game against Ohio State will be a big measuring stick nationally but while I'm not sure they're quite there as a College Football Playoff contender, TCU should be back at AT&T Stadium for the conference title game.
Nicholas Ian Allen (@NicholasIAllen)
At first glance, TCU lost a lot from its 2017 squad. The Horned Frogs return just three full-time starters from an offense that was good (but not great) and must also replace five starters from its very good (almost great) defense. Gary Patterson and his staff must break in a new quarterback and three new starters on the offensive line, which is never an easy combination.
However, the losses aren’t actually as bad as they sound. Though none were technically “starters” in 2017, leading receiver Jalen Raegor and leading rusher Darius Anderson both return as does the dynamic return man and electric offensive weapon KaVontae Turpin, who should be an even bigger factor this year. Quarterback Shawn Robinson picked up some experience as a freshman, including one start, and the Frogs have depth at the position as well. Defensively, three of the team’s top four tacklers must be replaced, but ultra-productive linebacker Jawuan Johnson, a transfer from Northern Illinois, should help. Also, no particular position group on that side of the ball was hit hard by graduation. Multiple starters return on the defensive line and in the secondary. Overall, TCU welcomes back more than half of its rushing yards, receptions, tackles, tackles for a loss, sacks and interceptions from last season.
But the schedule is difficult. Playing SMU on short rest in Week 2 is trickier than it looks on paper. Afterward, TCU faces a three-headed monster of physical teams over the next three weeks with a trip to Austin sandwiched between a semi-neutral site heavyweight matchup with Ohio State and a visit from Iowa State. Later, Oklahoma has an extra week of preparation before travelling to Fort Worth and TCU must make the long trip to West Virginia where the nation’s top quarterback will be waiting. Finally, not playing Oklahoma State until the regular season finale means the Cowboys will have all season to get its new offensive personnel settled.
The Horned Frogs have the talent and coaching prowess to make a run at a second straight Big 12 Championship Game appearance, but the schedule does not set up will for a College Football Playoff push.