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Make or Break: Three key games that will define TCU football’s season

The Horned Frogs’ season could hinge on these crucial contests.

TCU v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The key to approaching coin flips, I’ve often found, is having utmost confidence that you’ll call heads or tails correctly.

I feel like when I call “heads” in a voice as serious and assertive as I can muster, I’m almost willing the coin to land George Washington-side up. I’m influencing the very universe itself, the atoms inside the coin and the wind blowing it as it flips through the air, to land on my desired outcome.

This, of course, has no impact on what side the coin will land on (at least not provably). The whole idea behind a coin flip is that it’s 50-50. Luck needs to fall your way in order to win.

The way I see it, TCU has three coin flip games this year. Those three just happen to be the most important games on the Frogs’ schedule — a win could give TCU the momentum it needs to rattle off two or three wins in a row, while a loss would make it hard for the Horned Frogs to compete for a NY6 bowl or a Big 12 title.

To be clear, and to head off any arguments I suspect will pop up on Twitter, these are not the three toughest games the Frogs will play. They’re the three games that will most likely be very close and swing momentum the most. A win over Oklahoma, for example, would be like stealing house money, but a loss, while disappointing, won’t be surprising.

Let’s take a closer look at these three coin flips and what they’ll mean for TCU’s season.

Sept. 14 - At Purdue

For the second game of the season, TCU will travel to the desolate realm known as West Lafayette, Indiana, to take on a Purdue team with an incredible talent at wide receiver and one of the hottest names in college football at head coach. Jeff Gladney has enough skills at cornerback to limit Rondale Moore’s effectiveness, but the chess match between Gary Patterson’s defensive schemes and Jeff Brohm’s offensive play-calling will be fascinating.

A victory would give TCU a win over a solid P5 opponent — think back to how the Frogs could continually point to a win over a 6-7 Minnesota team in 2015. A loss means the only non-conference FBS team TCU could have a win over would be SMU, and that’s not an impressive enough resume to impress poll voters. A loss would also put a bad taste in the mouth of both players and fans heading into conference play two weeks later.

ESPN gives TCU a 65 percent chance of winning this game. I think that’s very generous to the Frogs. Call it a gut feeling, but I feel like TCU is in for a dogfight in Indiana on a Saturday night, and that’s never a place you want to be.

Oct. 26 - vs. Texas

TCU took four straight against the ‘Horns before losing 31-16 in the first game of the Big 12 slate last year. That scoreline is a bit deceiving — TCU out-gained Texas 372-367, but four turnovers killed any chance the Frogs had, and Texas didn’t turn the ball over once.

This year is primed to be a marquee matchup. ESPN’s predictor puts the Frogs at a 50.6 percent chance of winning, making this the truest coin flip of all. I’m sure much of that comes down to it being a home game for TCU, but Texas fans travel well, especially in state. Sam Ehlinger is reaching his final form as the Longhorns’ quarterback, and TCU will have its hands full trying to stop him. Last year, Ehlinger went 22-32 passing for 255 yards and two touchdowns, and added a rushing touchdown as well. The Frogs will be forced to pull out every trick in the book trying to stop him.

The stakes are clear. A win gives TCU five wins over Texas in six years and a leg up in the race for the conference title game. A loss kills any momentum heading into a crucial stretch of the season, gives Texas the advantage in the Big 12 standings and further reinforces the notion that this is the Longhorns’ state.

Nov. 9 - vs. Baylor

It seems obvious to say the game against Baylor is important. The Bears are the Frogs’ main rival, and the two teams are often evenly matched.

But this year’s game is more important than most. Matt Rhule is a good man that is building something big in Waco, and there’s no arguing that. Both teams have eyes on the Big 12 title game. TCU is riding a four-year win streak over the Bears that the Frogs would love to stretch to five. And it’s the second-to-last home game for TCU before trips to Lubbock and Norman, Okla.

It’s pretty clear what this game means. A win gives TCU bragging rights. A loss signals a new era of Baylor football.

ESPN has TCU as a 53.4 percent favorite.