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Football’s nonconference schedule will have major implications

TCU’s 2011 football schedule could have been killer, or at least hard to criticize by ESPN’s College GameDay crew. Let’s take a look at what could have been:

-Big 12 nonconference match-ups against Texas Tech and Baylor.

-Conference slugfests against perennial top 25 teams in BYU and Utah.

-A Fiesta Bowl rematch against a Boise State team that was a field goal chip shot from representing the non-automatic qualifiers in the Rose Bowl over TCU.

Now let’s take a look at the scheduling situation on the ground as of January 2011:

-BYU bolted the Mountain West Conference and went independent in football while joining the Western Athletic Conference in all other sports.

-Utah couldn’t resist moving to the Pac-10, with an automatic qualifying BCS bid included.

-The first and only TCU-Boise State conference battle, originally scheduled as a home game for the Frogs, was approved to be rescheduled as a Boise State home game based on a recommendation from the MWC athletics directors. The Frogs will have a chance to say hello to the “Smurf Turf” just as they say goodbye to the Mountain West.

-Texas Tech tucked its tail under its legs and went running from the Frogs for the second year in a row, leaving a hole in TCU’s nonconference schedule.

TCU’s schedule now looks far from killer. Baylor and SMU will be trap games for a TCU team that will return only six on defense and five on offense. Winning both games won’t do any harm, but a close win 8212; or heaven forbid, a loss 8212; and TCU hurts its chances for a third straight BCS bowl game.

TCU’s marquee game will be at non-AQ pal and temporary conference foe Boise State. It’s a losable game to say the least, especially as an away game. If the Frogs win, they’ll certainly get a boost in the polls and voter confidence. But how long will it last, and will it matter by the end of the season?

Athletics Director Chris Del Conte said earlier in the week that TCU’s replacement game for the Tech match-up was all but complete and that it would continue its rivalry.

The comments would at minimum correlate with rumors circulating on that BYU will be the team that replaces Tech. It also is rumored the game will be played at Cowboys Stadium 8212; similar to last year’s Oregon State game that replaced Tech on TCU’s schedule in 2010.

If BYU ends up the team that fills the nonconference void, which is by no means a guarantee at this point, TCU Athletics did a good job at damage control. There’s a strong chance BYU will be a desperately needed ranked opponent on what may be viewed as a powder puff schedule by national writers and pundits.

TCU still needs two other nonconference opponents to slot in its schedule even after Tech’s bubble is penciled in. Those two opponents likely will consist of FCS opponents or FBS bottom-feeders. That would have been the case regardless of conference shake-ups and Tech’s scheduling snub.

The 2011 schedule won’t be killer, and it won’t have a marquee opponent turning heads across the nation 8212; at least not an opponent who plays on green turf. With only half of TCU’s starters returning, it may not matter anyway. It isn’t likely TCU will go three consecutive seasons undefeated.

But if it is BYU or another respected program that fills Tech’s place on the 2011 schedule, kudos to TCU for scheduling damage control.

Ryne Sulier is a senior news-editorial major from Plano.

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