You can debate the competition they've played, but you have to respect TCU's and West Virginia's credentials the past decade.
The Horned Frogs are 47-5 over the past four seasons with three bowl wins, highlighted by a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. TCU has won at least 10 games eight times the past decade.
Picked second in Big 12 preseason polls, the Mountaineers have posted at least nine wins in eight of their last 10 seasons. And WVU is coming off a clobbering of Clemson in a BCS bowl.
But how will the Frogs and Mountaineers fare in the Big 12, a league where every week can be a challenge?
Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads, former defensive coordinator at Pitt, knows firsthand the challenge of playing in Morgantown. Rhoads said at Media Days in Dallas the Mountaineers are legit.
“It's an upper echelon program that knows how to win and has the talent and coaching to compete immediately in the Big 12,” Rhoads said. “I would expect them to compete for a conference championship. They're that level program and always have been.”
Some late Mountaineer wins in the Big East were closer than expected. WVU players talked about that at Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, saying it's part human nature.
“I hate to say it, but we kind of put it in neutral in some games we played last year in the Big East,” said WVU senior center Joe Madsen. “There were teams like Syracuse you thought, ‘OK, we've beat them so many times.'”
The Frogs own some noteworthy nonconference wins, including a road win in Norman, a place few teams have won during the Bob Stoops era.
“We don't have to talk about it or have arguments,” said TCU defensive end Ross Forrest. “We get a chance to prove ourselves. How we perform will dictate what we do.”
Committed to competing with the big boys, the Frogs and Mountaineers have signed their coaches to long-term deals.
West Virginia extended Dana Holgorsen's deal six years. Holgorsen, who was hired last year after one season as Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator, has a contract that pays him $2.3 million this year. The deal runs through 2017.
TCU's Gary Patterson is entering his 12th season and reportedly makes $3.1 million. A year ago, he signed a contract extension that takes him through 2018. The Frogs' extensive makeover of Amon G. Carter Stadium will be on display Sept. 8.
“This will show the nation and the critics whether we are good enough to play in this league or maybe they were right,” said TCU junior quarterback Casey Pachall. “I completely believe we'll be perfectly fine.”
Coaches are going to defend their league, but WVU and TCU, football-wise, look like an upgrade over Missouri and Texas A&M.
“I think it's fair to say when you add West Virginia and TCU, two teams coming off bowl wins, two ranked teams, you put them with the rest of what we've been doing here in the Big 12, that our league is every bit as strong as it's ever been, if not stronger,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “They're both teams used to winning championships. So it's going to be tough.”