Editor’s note: This is the seventh in a continuing series previewing the 2013 college football season in the Big 12 and the prospects for all 10 conference teams.
TCU Horned Frogs
(2012 season record: 7-6 in all games, 4-5 in the Big 12)
The 2012 season was a huge letdown for a TCU team that had won its conference championship for three straight seasons, losing only one league game in three years, entering its inaugural season in the Big 12.
Things are looking up this season for the Horned Frogs, who were 7-6 in their Big 12 debut a year ago and finished in a tie for fifth in the conference. A big reason for the preseason optimism is the return of two key players who were not present for most of last season: quarterback Casey Pachall and running back Wayman James, both seniors.
Pachall left the team after four games in 2012 to undergo treatment for substance abuse. James went down with an ACL injury in Week 2 last season after leading the team in 2011 with 875 rushing yards.
“Casey is a very talented young man,” coach Gary Patterson said about his veteran quarterback. “How he handles everything and does will be an indication of how well we do in the Big 12 (this season). If you want to play well in the Big 12, you’ve got to play well at quarterback. I think (Pachall) was the number one ranked quarterback after four games when we sat him down (last season).”
TCU will be improved on offense, despite having a couple of holes to fill on the offensive line. Nine starters return from the No. 1 defensive unit in the Big 12 a year ago. You can count on Patterson’s teams having outstanding defensive play, and this coming season should be no exception.
This year’s Horned Frogs defense will be led by defensive end Devonte Fields, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year last season. The secondary is probably the strength of the TCU defense, with the entire unit returning this season.
In assessing where his team is in its second season in the Big 12, Patterson said: “The key is, can you grow and become a top-20, top-15 or top-10 team, and in the Big 12, and keep it, not to do it every seven or eight years?” he said. “You’ve got teams in this conference who have been able to do it every other year. We’ve got to make decisions to put us in a position to do that.”
Projected 2013 finish: 4th, 8-4 in all games, 6-3 in the Big 12
Next up: Texas Longhorns