Aug 30, 2013 12:12 AM by AP
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Not so long ago when TCU was still a BCS buster, these were the kind of games the Horned Frogs had to play in hopes of proving themselves.
This season opener against 12th-ranked LSU was in the works long before TCU joined the Big 12 Conference.
"It's a little bit different, but we want to prove ourselves regardless," senior defensive end Jon Koontz said. "It's the first game of the season, but it's not the entire season."
The 20th-ranked Frogs open their second Big 12 season Saturday night against LSU, facing a team from the seven-time defending national champion SEC in an NFL stadium only about 20 miles from the TCU campus.
In the 2010 season-opening Cowboys Classic, TCU beat Oregon State in another Top 25 matchup. That started a 13-0 season capped with a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin and final No. 2 national ranking.
"For us, all the things I said about the Big 12 hold true for LSU," Frogs coach Gary Patterson said. "We've got to acquire depth to play with guys. That doesn't mean that we don't feel like that if things went right, you could have some things happen, that you can't win the ball game."
The Frogs now try to make a Big 12 statement against the SEC, which has six teams ranked higher than No. 13 Oklahoma State, the highest-ranked Big 12 squad.
"I think a game like this, and us coming out and playing our game, and coming out with a big win would be a big testament for the Big 12," tight end Stephen Bryant said.
LSU cornerback Jalen Mills, who is from the Dallas area, called TCU a great team, adding "a lot of guys who do like Texas schools will either go to Texas or TCU, so there's no difference."
The Tigers won the Cotton Bowl at the Cowboys' stadium over Texas A&M in January 2011, eight months before beating third-ranked Oregon in their other Cowboys Classic appearance.
They have won a nation's-best 41 regular season games in a row against non-conference teams since 2002. Their 10-game winning streak in openers includes that Oregon game and a 2010 victory over 18th-ranked North Carolina in the Georgia Dome.
"As a program, we're used to taking these challenges on. ... I think there's some excitement that builds," LSU coach Les Miles said. "We enjoy playing in an environment that will be kind of charged and ready, and even though there will be some young guys and a first-time experience, the people that have worn those uniforms, they know how to operate in that. There's reasons to believe that this team will respond as LSU teams in the past have."
Eleven players left LSU early after a 10-3 season when the Tigers were second in the SEC West behind defending national champion Alabama. A team-record eight defensive players were taken in the NFL draft last April.
TCU was still playing in the Mountain West when a series with the Tigers was scheduled, even before the Frogs had consecutive undefeated regular seasons (2009 and 2010) that ended in BCS games.
Under that original deal, the Frogs would have been playing their second game this season at LSU, with the Tigers coming to Fort Worth in 2014. The schools announced about a year ago that they instead would replace those games with what now is one of only two opening-weekend games matching Top 25 teams.
"I'm more worried about TCU, how we play within ourselves, how we do," Patterson said. " It's one thing to play it when you make mistakes, like last year against Grambling (56-0) where it didn't make any difference. This one, a small (mistake) can become a big thing."
The Frogs initially accepted an invitation in November 2010 to join the Big East Conference. They changed course 11 months later for the Big 12.
During a conference-hopping journey after being left out of the original Big 12 lineup in 1996, TCU won championships in the WAC, C-USA and MWC. Starting with a 2001 opening loss at No. 4 Nebraska, Patterson's first regular season game as head coach, the Frogs were 16-4 against opponents from conferences with automatic BCS bids before becoming one of those teams.
They won their 2005 opener at No. 7 Oklahoma, only to get upset the next week by SMU for their only loss that season. They also won on the road against Arizona, Northwestern, Stanford, West Virginia and Clemson.
"They're just as physical as Alabama and another other team we play," LSU running back Alfred Blue said. "If we win, it shows we're not a pushover."