2013 TCU football's 10 things to know: Survive, then thrive

Ronald Martinez

Injuries and arrests forced TCU to field a ridiculously inexperienced squad in its first year in the Big 12. Head coach Gary Patterson and his Horned Frogs survived, however, and now it's time to make a run at a conference title. For more TCU, visit Frogs O' War.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. I was nervous

I spend a decent amount of time talking up mid-majors. I could chew year ear off for 10 minutes on all the ways that last year's Utah State team was good enough to win the Pac-12 South. I will argue the merits for San Jose State and Fresno State in that race, as well. I will talk up 2010 Nevada, 2011 Toledo, a few different recent BYU teams, this year's UL teams (-Lafayette and -Monroe), etc.

And it goes without saying that I was a big, big fan of TCU and Boise State for quite a few years in a row. I will tell you how Boise State might have been the best team in the country in 2010 and how TCU may have deserved a BCS title shot over Oregon that same year.

When I advocate for these teams, I do believe what I'm saying, of course; but it's easy to champion a team when you know you'll never have to worry about being proven wrong. I can tell you that TCU would have beaten Auburn in 2010, or that Utah State would have beaten UCLA and company last year, and I can back it up with all the numbers you'd want to see; you can disagree if you want, but you can never prove me wrong. It's arguing in a vacuum.

I've been trying to champion TCU for quite a while without actual repercussions from reality, but the Horned Frogs' move to the Big 12 in 2012 meant that it was actually time to find out if they could handle a major conference load like I thought they could. That's money-where-your-mouth-is territory.

And it turned out that they would take the field in the Big 12 following a crippling run of injuries and off-the-field issues. Some key defenders were dismissed because of drug-related arrests in the spring, then a loaded offensive backfield lost its best players to injury, attrition, and rehab. TCU played a ridiculous number of youngsters and fielded its thinnest, greenest team in years.

But the Horned Frogs survived. They didn't by any means thrive -- their 7-6 record was their worst since 2004, Gary Patterson's fourth season in charge, and according to the F/+ rankings, this was their worst team since 2007 -- but despite the extreme youth and a complete lack of depth, despite going with an all-freshman backfield, they still won two road games versus ranked teams, still qualified for a bowl, and still delivered a boatload of hope for 2013. And now the backfield is (theoretically) healthy, and the defense is ridiculously experienced.

The Horned Frogs will have a serious role to play in a wide-open conference title race. They survived a challenging calendar year, and now it's time to thrive.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 8-5 | Final F/+ Rk: 31
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
8-Sep Grambling State 56-0 W 39.2 - 6.4 W
15-Sep at Kansas 20-6 W 30.2 - 31.9 L
22-Sep Virginia 27-7 W 35.3 - 19.4 W
29-Sep at SMU 24-16 W 4.6 - 12.4 L
6-Oct Iowa State 23-37 L 26.8 - 32.6 L
13-Oct at Baylor 49-21 W 28.1 - 30.4 L
20-Oct Texas Tech 53-56 L 35.7 - 24.4 W
27-Oct at Oklahoma State 14-36 L 23.4 - 23.4 L
3-Nov at West Virginia 39-38 W 20.7 - 12.8 W
10-Nov Kansas State 10-23 L 21.7 - 13.6 W
22-Nov at Texas 20-13 W 22.7 - 17.3 W
1-Dec Oklahoma 17-24 L 27.6 - 23.5 W
29-Dec vs. Michigan State 16-17 L 29.5 - 15.2 W
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 28.3 68 22.6 30
Adj. Points Per Game 26.6 80 20.3 11

2. One hit after another

TCU has ranked in the top 12 of Def. F/+ for five of the last six years; the Horned Frogs peaked in 2008 (second) and 2010 (third) but have maintained a mostly solid level of play for most of recent history.

But in 2011, they sank to 41st. They were perfectly decent late in the season, but they struggled at cornerback and allowed far more passing downs conversions than we were used to seeing. TCU was hit hard by graduation at safety and linebacker, and the tackle position was thinned out by the aforementioned drug busts, so there was actually reason to be concerned about the TCU defense. At least, that was the case until the season actually began.

Aside from a series of midseason glitches, the defense was just fine. The problems lied on the offensive side of the ball, where TCU lost offensive coordinator Justin Fuente to Memphis in the offseason, then lost running back Ed Wesley to unexpected departure, then lost running back Waymon James to injury, then lost quarterback Casey Pachall to arrest and rehab. Meanwhile, Matthew Tucker, the last third of what was supposed to be a three-headed running back, struggled with injuries and was barely full strength. The result: a scattershot offensive effort that declined as the season progressed.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): TCU 27.3, Opponent 17.5 (plus-9.8)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 4 games): TCU 28.5, Opponent 27.7 (plus-0.8)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 5 games): TCU 24.4, Opponent 16.5 (plus-7.9)

For three games, Pachall and TCU were just about untouchable. But Pachall was absolutely dreadful against SMU, then got arrested. Redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin took over, and while he showed strong maturity while thrust into a difficult situation, he didn't necessarily show much accuracy. He was incredible in the late-going against West Virginia, but TCU scored more than 20 points just once in its last six games. That's not going to win you much in the Big 12.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 73 74 88 72
RUSHING 66 94 97 85
PASSING 62 54 63 52
Standard Downs 78 78 82
Passing Downs 81 105 61
Redzone 82 81 79
Q1 Rk 47 1st Down Rk 54
Q2 Rk 81 2nd Down Rk 87
Q3 Rk 38 3rd Down Rk 58
Q4 Rk 98

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Trevone Boykin 6'2, 215 So. *** (5.6) 167 292 2,054 57.2% 15 10 25 7.9% 6.0
Casey Pachall 6'5, 230 Sr. **** (5.8) 64 97 948 66.0% 10 1 3 3.0% 9.1
Matt Brown 6'1, 190 Jr. *** (5.7) 4 7 52 57.1% 0 1 2 22.2% 5.0
Tyler Matthews 6'4, 220 RSFr. **** (5.8)






3. Hey, Casey

Pachall was simply outstanding in his first season succeeding Rose Bowl champion Andy Dalton, completing 67 percent of his passes with minuscule sack (3.4 percent) and interception rates (2.0 percent). The former four-star recruit has lovely size and arm strength, and he raised his game on passing downs: TCU ranked 29th overall on standard downs, but 11th on passing downs. I've long called passing downs the "playmaker downs," and Pachall has proven himself quite the playmaker. He should fit right in in the Big 12. Of course, Pachall hasn't exactly had the happiest offseason. It was recently revealed that Pachall failed a drug test in February and later admitted to having dabbled in marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy in the last year. He has since passed further drug tests and will not face (further) disciplinary actions this fall, but with the entire TCU team seemingly coming under the spotlight for drug issues, it was at least a little disheartening to see that the quarterback, the face of the program, was also involved.

I wrote that last summer. Pachall responded first by completing 54 of his first 71 passes (76 percent) for 841 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception in wins over Grambling, Kansas, and Virginia. He then completed 10 of 26 passes for 107 yards against SMU in one of the season's worst offensive performances, got arrested, and left the team for rehab. He was back with the team this spring with "the color back in his face," and if his head is on straight, he could very well be the best quarterback in the Big 12. He has completed two-thirds of his career passes, with 36 touchdowns to just eight interceptions. He's big, mobile, accurate, and exciting.

With him at quarterback, TCU's passing game could be both efficient and explosive; leading receiver Josh Boyce is gone, but there are plenty of reasons to believe that Brandon Carter (last year's No. 2) and LaDarius Brown (No. 5) are ready to thrive as go-tos. Throw in Cam White and interesting transfers like Florida's Ja'Juan Story, and you've got a potentially great aerial attack.

Stay in the game, Casey.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
B.J. Catalon RB 5'9, 190 So. *** (5.7) 121 584 4.8 4.8 0 -2.2
Matthew Tucker RB 118 515 4.4 3.1 6 -6.5
Trevone Boykin QB 6'2, 215 So. *** (5.6) 103 582 5.7 5.6 3 +9.6
Aundre Dean RB 63 278 4.4 5.2 0 -1.8
Casey Pachall QB 6'5, 230 Sr. **** (5.8) 18 62 3.4 4.2 0 -2.0
Waymon James RB 5'8, 203 Sr. **** (5.9) 17 168 9.9 9.0 1 +7.4
Skye Dawson WR 11 46 4.2 2.7 0 -0.5
Aaron Green
(Nebraska 2011)
RB 5'11, 200 So. **** (5.9) 24 105 4.4 N/A 2 N/A
Jordan Moore RB 6'3, 210 So. *** (5.6)





Kyle Hicks RB 5'10, 190 Fr. **** (5.8)





4. Hey, Waymon

I also wrote this last year:

Running backs Matthew Tucker and Waymon James. A fantastic trio of running backs became a duo when Ed Wesley left the team this offseason. But barring a run of injuries or suspensions, two great running backs are typically enough.

Whoops. Injuries resulted in the two combining for just 125 carries in 2012 -- 17 from James (who was lost with a knee injury in the second game) and 118 from a limping Tucker. Boykin and B.J. Catalon ended up carrying the bulk of the load for the running game, and while Catalon was certainly acceptable, he wasn't Tucker (when full-speed) or James.

Since the start of the 2011 season, James has averaged a ridiculous 7.6 yards per carry. If he is ready to carry the primary load, TCU should easily improve on last year's No. 94 ranking in Rushing S&P+, even if the mobile Boykin is on the bench.

Waymon James. John Reiger, US Presswire.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Josh Boyce WR 101 66 891 65.3% 8.8 26.4% 63.4% 8.9 108.3
Brandon Carter WR 5'11, 186 Jr. *** (5.7) 60 36 590 60.0% 9.8 15.7% 46.7% 10.6 71.7
Skye Dawson WR 52 34 455 65.4% 8.8 13.6% 65.4% 8.6 55.3
Cam White WR 6'3, 200 Jr. *** (5.7) 43 21 284 48.8% 6.6 11.2% 60.5% 6.6 34.5
LaDarius Brown WR 6'4, 220 So. **** (5.9) 39 27 385 69.2% 9.9 10.2% 66.7% 10.2 46.8
B.J. Catalon RB 5'9, 190 So. *** (5.7) 34 23 152 67.6% 4.5 8.9% 50.0% 4.8 18.5
Matthew Tucker RB 18 10 69 55.6% 3.8 4.7% 33.3% 4.0 8.4
Corey Fuller TE 8 7 80 87.5% 10.0 2.1% 100.0% 6.0 9.7
David Porter WR 6'0, 197 Jr. *** (5.7) 6 2 18 33.3% 3.0 1.6% 0.0% 2.4 2.2
Griffin Gilbert TE 6'5, 220 So. **** (5.8) 4 2 11 50.0% 2.8 1.0% 75.0% 2.2 1.3
Kolby Listenbee WR 6'1, 183 So. *** (5.7) 3 1 59 33.3% 19.7 0.8% 0.0% 11.7 7.2
Ja'Juan Story (Florida) WR 6'4, 208 So. **** (5.8)








Josh Doctson (Wyoming) WR 6'4, 185 So. *** (5.5)








Ty Slanina WR 6'0, 182 Fr. *** (5.7)








Charlie Reid TE 6'4, 225 Fr. *** (5.7)








Cameron Echols-Luper WR 6'0, 190 Fr. *** (5.7)








Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 94.8 2.67 2.51 37.6% 72.4% 19.9% 62.6 5.6% 8.0%
Rank 91 98 110 77 39 81 115 77 88
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Blaize Foltz RG 27 career starts; 2012 2nd All-Big 12
James Fry C 25 career starts
Eric Tausch C 6'3, 300 Sr. ** (5.4) 14 career starts
Aviante Collins RT 6'6, 285 So. *** (5.5) 13 career starts
Tayo Fabuluje RT 6'7, 315 Jr. *** (5.6) 12 career starts
Joey Hunt LG 6'3, 288 So. *** (5.6) 1 career start
John Wooldridge RG 6'5, 310 Sr. *** (5.5) 1 career start
Halapoulivaati Vaitai RT 6'6, 308 So. *** (5.7)
Brady Foltz LG 6'4, 325 So. *** (5.6)
Jamelle Naff RG 6'4, 325 So. *** (5.7)
James Dunbar LT 6'6, 305 Sr. *** (5.6)
Michael Thompson RG 6'5, 352 Jr. *** (5.6)
Lloyd Tunstill OL 6'4, 305 Jr. ** (5.3)
Eason Fromayan RT 6'5, 280 Fr. *** (5.6)

5. A line liability

You know what makes life even more difficult when you've got a freshman quarterback and a freshman running back? A line that struggles to create opportunities for them. A year after losing three starters, including all-Mountain West guard Kyle Dooley, to graduation, TCU's line struggled quite a bit. One has to assume that the line's life was made more difficult by the freshmen, too, but regardless, TCU's line stats stunk. The Horned Frogs were decent in short-yardage situations (Power Success Rate) but often allowed defenders into the backfield and created a mediocre-at-best number of opportunities for Catalon and company. They also allowed a ton of sacks, but I'll write that off to some degree as part of Boykin's learning process -- the sack rates were nice and small when Pachall was behind center.

Five players return with starting experience, which certainly doesn't hurt, but even with Pachall, James, Carter, and company all healthy and ready to explode, the offense still has a lower ceiling if the line doesn't improve.

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 16 15 10 19
RUSHING 10 11 10 15
PASSING 42 22 16 29
Standard Downs 21 14 28
Passing Downs 10 5 13
Redzone 25 10 46
Q1 Rk 13 1st Down Rk 23
Q2 Rk 10 2nd Down Rk 11
Q3 Rk 28 3rd Down Rk 7
Q4 Rk 6

6. The defense was young and thin … and improved

Damn, can Gary Patterson and coordinator Dick Bumpas coach a defense. A year after TCU struggled more than expected, then lost players unexpectedly, TCU fielded a defense that improved from 75th to 22nd in Passing S&P+, from 76th to 10th on passing downs, from 49th to 25th in Redzone S&P+, and from 41st to 12th in overall Def. F/+. The 4-2-5 scheme Patterson long ago mastered was a perfect fit in the spread-out Big 12, and even with some midseason struggles -- 471 yards to Oklahoma State, 56 points (in overtime) to Texas Tech -- TCU finished strong, allowing just 4.4 yards per play versus Kansas State and Texas, allowing just 24 points to Oklahoma, and giving up just 227 yards to Michigan State.

Those numbers are impressive enough on their face. But look at the players listed below. Two of the top three linemen were freshmen (and the third was a sophomore). Four of the top five linebackers were sophomores. Five of the top seven defensive backs were freshmen or sophomores. Now the Horned Frogs are in an incredible position, returning nine starters and basically all of last year's second string.

This defense has a very good chance of once again reaching the top five in Def. F/+, and while you will always allow yards and points in the Big 12, the defense could put TCU in a position to make a serious run at the conference title, especially with Pachall and James back on offense.

7. Somehow, passing was the more palatable option

TCU's pass defense improved dramatically in 2012, partially because of the improvement of the pass rush (star recruit Devonte Fields made an enormous impact as a true freshman) and partially because corners Jason Verrett and Kevin White were football magnets. They combined to defense 31 passes (22 from Verrett), and a new corps of safeties stepped up nicely.

But it was still quite a bit easier to pass on TCU than to run. An incredibly young defensive line held up beautifully to run blocking, and the 4-2-5 scheme, anchored by linebackers Kenny Cain and Joel Hasley, was once again effective at so quickly swarming to the football. Cain is gone, as is end Stansly Maponga, but literally everybody else returns from last year's squad. Assuming your typical year-to-year, experience-keyed improvement, we should probably expect TCU to move from 11th in Rushing S&P+ to at least seventh or eighth, and from 22nd in Passing S&P+ to at least 16th or 18th. TCU was occasionally leaky against the pass last year (18-for-33 for 324 yards versus OSU, a strange 19-for-39 for 303 versus Kansas), but those leaks should get plugged pretty well in 2013. Good luck figuring out how to move the ball against this D, at least after Fields returns from a two-game suspension that will hurt TCU against LSU.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 114.6 2.48 3.02 33.2% 61.1% 23.4% 136.0 4.5% 7.4%
Rank 15 12 41 10 24 16 15 70 50
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Devonte Fields DE 6'4, 240 So. **** (5.8) 13 43.5 6.7% 18.5 10 1 4 2 1
Chucky Hunter DT 6'1, 300 Jr. **** (5.8) 13 29.5 4.6% 6 3.5 0 0 0 0
Davion Pierson DT 6'2, 305 So. *** (5.5) 13 25.0 3.9% 7.5 3.5 0 0 1 1
Stansly Maponga DE 11 20.5 3.2% 6.5 4 0 1 2 2
Jon Koontz DE 6'2, 265 Sr. NR 13 10.5 1.6% 0 0 1 2 0 0
David Johnson DT 6'2, 285 Jr. *** (5.7) 9 6.0 0.9% 1 1 0 0 0 0
Jon Lewis DT 6'2, 290 Jr. *** (5.6) 13 4.5 0.7% 2 0 0 0 0 0
James McFarland DE 6'3, 248 So. *** (5.7) 13 4.0 0.6% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Josh Carraway DE 6'4, 240 So. ** (5.4) 4 4.0 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Terrell Lathan DT 6'5, 280 So. *** (5.7) 6 2.0 0.3% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Anderson DE 6'3, 245 Jr. *** (5.6)

Mike Tuaua DE 6'3, 260 So. NR

Tevin Lawson DT 6'4, 275 Fr. **** (5.8)






Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Kenny Cain SLB 13 67.5 10.5% 5.5 1.5 2 4 0 1
Joel Hasley MLB 6'1, 223 Jr. NR 12 62.0 9.6% 8.5 2 0 2 0 0
Jonathan Anderson MLB 6'3, 208 Jr. *** (5.7) 13 23.0 3.6% 0 0 0 0 0 1
Marcus Mallet SLB 6'1, 227 Jr. *** (5.7) 12 15.5 2.4% 5 0 0 1 1 0
Paul Dawson SLB 6'2, 230 Jr. NR 13 11.0 1.7% 1 0 0 0 1 0
Alex Adewunmi LB 6'1, 210 Sr. NR 8 5.0 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Dac Shaw LB 6'2, 200 Fr. *** (5.7)

Paul Whitmill LB 5'11, 200 Fr. *** (5.7)






Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Elisha Olabode FS 5'11, 193 Sr. *** (5.6) 13 59.5 9.2% 3 0 4 9 2 1
Jason Verrett CB 5'10, 176 Sr. *** (5.7) 13 54.5 8.4% 5 0 6 16 0 0
Sam Carter SS 6'1, 215 Jr. *** (5.6) 13 51.0 7.9% 6.5 3 4 10 1 0
Chris Hackett WS 6'2, 195 So. *** (5.7) 13 49.0 7.6% 1.5 0 2 5 1 2
Kevin White CB 5'10, 174 Jr. *** (5.5) 13 32.0 5.0% 0 0 1 8 0 0
Derrick Kindred SS 5'10, 210 So. ** (5.4) 12 17.0 2.6% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Geoff Hooker FS 5'10, 186 Jr. NR 13 10.0 1.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Keivon Gamble CB 5'10, 180 Sr. *** (5.6) 12 7.5 1.2% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Trent Thomas SS 5'11, 190 Sr. ** (5.4) 8 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Zach Jackson WS 6'0, 185 RSFr. *** (5.5)

George Baltimore DB 6'0, 205 Fr. *** (5.7)






8. Best defense in the Big 12

I'm just repeating myself now, aren't I? Here are last year's Big 12 Def. F/+ rankings:

1. TCU (+14.6%, 12th overall)
2. Kansas State (+12.9%, 16th)
3. Oklahoma (+10.6%, 23rd)
4. Oklahoma State (+10.0%, 24th)
5. Texas (+4.5%, 40th)
6. Iowa State (+3.0%, 47th)
7. Texas Tech (-1.1%, 64th)
8. West Virginia (-2.4%, 69th)
9. Baylor (-5.1%, 79th)
10. Kansas (-6.0%, 84th)

Kansas State must replace nearly every starter, Oklahoma's secondary has been hit hard by graduation/attrition, and Oklahoma State is breaking in a new defensive coordinator after the old, incredibly underrated one was ousted. This isn't going to be the strongest year for Big 12 defenses, even if Texas bounces back as I assume it will. Meanwhile, TCU should field a top-10 unit.

And since I am indeed repeating myself here, I'll instead just take the time to remind you of this:

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Ethan Perry 6'4, 230 So. 63 44.5 10 20 19 61.9%
Cale Patterson 3 34.4 1 1 0 33.3%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Jaden Oberkrom 6'3, 187 So. 70 61.5 33 47.1%
Ryan DeNucci 5'10, 195 Jr. 3 61.7 1 33.3%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Jaden Oberkrom 6'3, 187 So. 42-42 11-16 68.8% 11-14 78.6%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Skye Dawson KR 20 23.1 0
Brandon Carter KR 5'11, 186 Jr. 7 25.1 0
Skye Dawson PR 17 9.4 0
Deante' Gray PR 5'10, 175 So. 7 22.4 1
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 55
Net Punting 41
Net Kickoffs 24
Touchback Pct 26
Field Goal Pct 57
Kick Returns Avg 49
Punt Returns Avg 19

9. Cannon Oberkrom

Jaden Oberkrom booted half of his kickoffs for touchbacks and made a higher percentage of his long field goals (40-plus yards) than his short ones. He has an absolute cannon, and there's a good chance that he doesn't really know where a given kick is going to go. That's fun. It's also possible that he will become even more of a weapon if TCU's offense improves enough to score a few more touchdowns and settle for fewer field goals.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2013 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug vs. LSU 3
7-Sep SE Louisiana NR
14-Sep at Texas Tech 42
28-Sep SMU 82
5-Oct at Oklahoma 7
12-Oct Kansas 104
19-Oct at Oklahoma State 6
26-Oct Texas 11
2-Nov West Virginia 41
9-Nov at Iowa State 76
16-Nov at Kansas State 40
30-Nov Baylor 36
Five-Year F/+ Rk 6
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 34
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* +3 / +2.7
TO Luck/Game 0.1
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 16 (7, 9)
Yds/Pt Margin** -0.6

10. Time to surge

There is no consensus favorite in the Big 12 this year. The early publications suggest that writers really have no idea what to do with this conference, so allow me to make the case for TCU. The Horned Frogs have more proven quantities than Oklahoma, have fielded a more consistently strong defense than Oklahoma State (and could have a better offensive backfield, too), and won at Texas last year. Even with a terribly young team, they proved solid on the road, and call me crazy, but they probably aren't going to go winless at home in conference again.

TCU survived the roughest year imaginable in 2012 and emerged with a team that is both healthy and absurdly experienced. The defense will probably be lights-out, and if Casey Pachall and Waymon James can stay on the field, the Horned Frogs should expect quite an offensive surge.

Last year, I was hedging my bets like crazy on TCU. This year, I'm outright stating that, barring injury and other issues, this will almost definitely be a top-20 team, will probably be a top-15, and could quite possibly be a top-10 team. The numbers love them, and the eyeballs should, too. Stay in the game, Casey.

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