MORGANTOWN - Gary Patterson knew exactly what he was getting into when his TCU football team began play in the Big 12.
He just didn't know this would be who he was getting into it with.
Oh, sure, he figured he would be short-handed and young. It started when TCU's campus was the target of a wide-ranging drug bust in February that involved four of Patterson's football players. It continued through more normal football attrition factors like injuries.
It came to a head early this month when the team's starting quarterback, Casey Pachall, was arrested on suspicion of DUI and subsequently withdrew from school.
But what it has all added up to is the sobering realization that competing in the Big 12 after years of dominating lesser competition in the WAC, Conference USA and the Mountain West is just a different animal - one made all the more difficult by the circumstances of the past eight months.
"Having played most of these [Big 12 teams as non-conference opponents], we knew the competition level and we knew the margin for error would be a lot smaller from week to week than what we've played in the past,'' Patterson said. "And I think our kids are learning that.
"The biggest thing is you'd like to play with older players in their first year in the Big 12 than with younger players. But I've been happy with them. We just have to get better at what we do.''
On Saturday, Patterson brings the Horned Frogs to Morgantown for a game with West Virginia, the other Big 12 newbie discovering that life isn't always rosy in the league.
In some ways the teams' fortunes are quite similar. West Virginia was 5-0 and ranked No. 5 before suffering lopsided back-to-back losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State. TCU was 4-0 and ranked No. 15 before Pachall disappeared. Since then the Horned Frogs are 1-3.
But while West Virginia hasn't even been competitive in its two losses, TCU has been right there. Patterson's team stayed right with Oklahoma State last Saturday before losing 36-14. The week before it was a three-overtime loss to Texas Tech.
While frustrating, it's no time to push the panic button.