All of the comments frog fans have had to endure about "you guys don't deserve a national title shot, your schedule is weak!" over the past few years is about to fall by the wayside in a big way as the Frogs schedule will move away from a marquee date with Utah/BYU/Boise schedule to a marquee date of Texas/Oklahoma/West Virginia/Oklahoma State schedule- That's going from "in the BCS every few years" opponents to "in the BCS title game every few years" sort of opponents. If TCU goes 10-2 without winning the conference they'll be in at large discussions, if they win the conference they're in with at least a Fiesta Bowl big and if they go undefeated they're in the title game period, unless the SEC puts out an undefeated team and either Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame or USC go undefeated. That's the cache of the Big 12, and though some pundits question if we'll have sustained success in our new conference there can be no questioning that if we do have success, big things will be ahead for us. Which leaves the froggy faithful with a question going forward- with nine conference games and a long term contract still ahead of us with SMU, is it worth it for the Frogs to continue to schedule a big name out of conference opponent? We'll look at TCU's future schedules, analyze the options and some of the pros and cons for each situation after the jump.
Option 1: Continue scheduling like a BCS buster- Since 2003, TCU has been consistently knocking on the door of the BCS, and as a result the frogs have been seeking out big marquee wins in non-conference play to bolster weak CUSA and Mountain West schedules. Also since 2000 TCU has played at least 1 BCS conference foe out of conference a season, and has usually played two.
TCU's non conference games since 2003 (BCS conference teams in bold)
- 2003: Navy, Vanderbilt, Arizona, SMU
- 2004: Northwestern, SMU, Texas Tech
- 2005: Oklahoma, SMU, Army
- 2006: Baylor, California-Davis, Texas Tech, Army
- 2007: Baylor, Texas, SMU, Stanford
- 2008: Stephen F. Austin, Stanford, SMU, Oklahoma
- 2009: Virginia, Texas State, Clemson, SMU
- 2010: Oregon State, Tennessee Tech, Baylor, SMU
- 2011: Baylor, Louisiana Monroe, Portland State, SMU, BYU
So the only years where TCU hasn't played at least two BCS teams were 2005 where where we opened the season at Oklahoma and had an eleven game regular season, and 2011 when Texas Tech weaseled out of a scheduled TCU home game at the eleventh hour, and for the immediate future at least that standard won't change with Virginia this year and home and homes already scheduled with LSU for 2013-2014 and our old SWC pals Arkansas in 2015-2016. With nine conference games and the SMU game booked until 2016 that leaves one spot free for an FCS team (a regrettable necessity for today's climate), TCU is going to have a monster tough schedule that will result in a national championship bid should they make it through unscathed (and an excellent shot at forgiveness for one loss). On the other hand, scheduling these sorts of games is likely to put an early loss on us in some seasons, which gives us little to no breathing room for losses in conference play- and any thinking that we're going to dominate the Big 12 year in and out as we did in the Mountain West is very silly.
Pros: National spotlight games early in the season, more interesting home games for season ticket holders, easier to forgive a loss in the rankings, recruits love big game atmospheres.
Cons: Winning at LSU and Arkansas is very, very difficult, it's another big game that could hurt our depth, makes it harder to have seven home games- which can be a big economic factor for a program.
Big 12 teams that Schedule like this: Oklahoma (Played FSU, is playing Notre Dame, Tennessee, Ohio State in future seasons), West Virginia (Series with Maryland, playing Alabama in 2014).
Option 2: More Home games- The Big 12 schedule ensures that we won't have any absolute duds of a home slate like 2011 where SMU was our best home game, as we've slipped in to a nice schedule where we get Texas and Baylor at home in even years and Tech and Oklahoma in odd years, the problem is with nine conference games we get an uneven split, and SMU is currently on the road in the years where we have four home games, so we need two home games every even numbered year to get to the minimum six the athletic department needs to help fund the rest of the sports (having the new TV deal is nice, but it doesn't kick in in full right away) and it's hard to line up home games when you know you're going to the other guys place the next year. How do big time programs handle this? Why, by buying home games from less fortunate teams, of course! TCU has some experience with that as well, having to write a sizable check to Louisiana-Monroe at a late date to fill our home slate, but it could be a much more frequent necessity- and with as much revenue as home football games bring in, the athletic department would love to get up to seven in most years. Most schools in big conferences try to limit going on the road, so you have the Michigans and Floridas of the world who have both have had eight home games in a season recently, but as TCU isn't pulling in 110k fans seven home games seems like the magic number for SMU at home years. This would mean a lot more UNT/Louisiana Monroe/Tulanes and a lot fewer LSUs, but the prospect of being able to have seven game days a season to host local recruits could be a very valuable recruiting tool as well.
Pros: More home games, richer athletic department helps all sports, more opportunities to get recruits on campus, easier wins will help with bowl standings.
Cons: It's less exciting to play Arkansas State than it is to play Arkansas, strength of schedule comes into play when discussing teams with the same number of losses, games won't be as easy to find on TV- Texas can play Rice and still be on TV everywhere but we're not Texas.
Big 12 teams that schedule like this: Texas Tech hasn't played a BCS team in non conference since 2003, Baylor locked in to a long term contract with a Big East team... but it's SMU and they locked it in well before SMU got into the Big East.
Option 3: Goodbye to Southern Methodist University- The elephant in the room is that TCU is moving to a higher grade of conference and it may not be economical to play SMU home and home. If SMU was willing to continue to play the series on a home-neutral site, or at Fort Worth exclusively then that would make a great deal of financial sense- as it is now, however SMU is more often than not a serious drag on our strength of schedule who gets fired up enough about playing us to upset a special season here and there. By not playing at SMU TCU would be able to open up the schedule a bit and continue to schedule interesting matchups which will result in better TV placement, more home games and all of the other wonderful things mentioned elsewhere. The issue? We've got a long history with Some Miscreant University, and despite gaining back so many of our classic rivalries with Big 12 membership, losing them would be a big hole in the schedule for a lot of TCU fans.
Pros: More home games, bigger out of conference opponents, get to keep our skillet year in and year out, don't have to deal with those obnoxious dozen SMU fans who make up the entirety of their home game attendance.
Cons: A lot of our student body doesn't remember the times when Baylor and Tech were our rivals so SMU is pretty much it, hasn't realignment taken enough rivalries from college football?, snide comments from SMU alums about how we're ducking them will flow.
Big 12 teams that don't schedule their rivals anymore: Texas (A&M and Arkansas both), Kansas
What do you guys want to see in TCU's future schedules? More home games or more marquee opponents?