TCU ready to earn its Big 12 stripes

TCU ready to earn its Big 12 stripes

Published Jul. 23, 2012 6:52 p.m. ET

DALLAS — The TCU Horned Frogs finally feel like they've found the hope they've been looking for in the Big 12.

That doesn't mean a TCU team that's gone 36-3 over the last three seasons expects to have it easy in the Big 12 though.

"I think Fort Worth, before we play a ballgame, wins," said TCU coach Gary Patterson said during the Big 12 Media Days on Monday. "I think before we play a ballgame, TCU wins – financially, credibility wise. Gary Patterson's job got harder."

The Horned Frogs have ditched the friendly confines of the Mountain West Conference for the Big 12. While the Frogs are stepping up in competition in the eyes of people across the country, the Frogs expect to compete for a conference championship from the get go. TCU was picked fifth in the conference in the preseason media poll. That could be a seen as a slight to the Frogs. The only losses TCU has over the last three years are to Boise State in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl and to Baylor and SMU last season.

That kind of success has Patterson upbeat as his team makes the switch.

"Our goal has always been to win a conference championship no matter what," Patterson said. "If you look in our pyramid, no matter what our league is, and that's going to be what we strive for in this league to do so also, and someday play for a national championship."

While that likely won't happen this year, the Frogs are coming to their new surroundings with some talent. Junior quarterback Casey Pachall threw for more than 2,900 yards in his first season as a starter.  In a conference that has been defined by quarterback play in recent years, Pachall could be key.

He knows he may have a hard time matching those kinds of numbers in the Big 12. He also knows he won't be doing it alone.

"The real adjustment is understanding how skilled and athletic this move is going to be," he said. "Every week is going to be big players, skilled players. We can handle that because we have skilled players as well. Our offense will be able to handle itself because our receivers, running backs and offensive line are good so that will help tremendously."

What TCU isn't so sure about is how hard the adjustment to the new conference will be. While the quality of play in the Mountain West isn't on par with the play in the Big 12, TCU also dominated in conference. The Frogs didn't lose a conference game in their final three seasons.

"Everybody's overlooking it," said guard Blaize Folitz, who is on both the Lombardi and Outland watch list. "We've been playing 12 games every year. It's the same thing we're doing this year. I'm excited just to play. I'm excited to see how we do."

Maybe the challenge of moving to the Big 12 is just what they needed.

"We always try no matter what, to have a chip on our shoulder," said senior defensive end Ross Forrest. "That's the best way to play. Coach Patterson's pretty motivating himself."

The constant barrage of questions about whether or not TCU being worthy of a Big 12 spot Monday may only make that chip a little bigger.

Patterson is well aware that no matter how big that chip is, it won't make much of a difference when TCU begins the season.

"Everything we've done to this point is great," he said. "But now the real work starts. Now we're climbing. It's another challenge. It's another way we've got to keep climbing the mountain. The higher you get on the mountain, the thinner the air, the harder it is."