A year ago, TCU was facing the uncertainty of its first season in the Big 12 Conference. While compiling a 7-6 record in its first season at the "adult table" was commendable, it was below the Horned Frogs' standards.
The bottom line: TCU has become accustomed to finishing with 10 or more victories and playing in a major bowl. Year Two in the Big 12 promises a strong chance at double digit victories and a better post-season destination.
The preseason media poll pegged the Horned Frogs for third place behind Oklahoma State and Oklahoma and ahead of Texas.
"We can score a lot of points," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "But for us to be a national contender on a national scene, you've got to be able to play great defense in November and December and then January ball games to win national titles. You can score points, but you've got to be able -- in big ball games, you've got to be able to play defense."
Despite lacking upperclassmen, TCU led the Big 12 in defense last season. The Horned Frogs' secondary is one of the best in the nation and the line boasts a playmaker in sophomore defensive end Devonte Fields (he's suspended for the first two games).
Last season, TCU started 4-0 before quarterback Casey Pachall was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated in October. He left school to enter a rehab facility and freshman Trevone Boykin took over at quarterback.
Pachall, who is 15-2 as a starter, has returned for his senior season. He had Boykin entered preseason workouts battling for the starting job.
"Casey is a very talented young man," Patterson said. "How he handles everything and does will be an indication of how well we do in the Big 12 Conference. If you want to play well in the Big 12, you've got to play well at quarterback. Even last year, when Trevone played well, we won. When he didn't play well, we lost."
While it is assumed that Pachall will win the starting job, Patterson has hinted that both quarterbacks will play during the season. Each brings a different skill set and the TCU coach appears to like the idea of keeping opposing defenses guessing.
"You've got to prove people right or prove people wrong," said Patterson, whose team opens the season against No. 13 LSU. "In that case, we're going to try to prove to people that we can belong and try to move up. We've got an awfully tough game the first game of the season."
Coach: Gary Patterson, 116-36 in 14 seasons.
2012: 7-6 overall, 4-5 in Big 12, tied for 5th.
Bowl: Lost to Michigan State, in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, 17-16.
Returning starters: 7 on offense, 9 on defense.
Key players: Senior QB Casey Pachall, sophomore QB Trevone Boykin, sophomore DE Devonte Fields, senior CB Jason Verrett, senior RB Waymon James, sophomore RB B.J. Catalon, junior WR Brandon Carter, senior S Elisha Olabode, junior S Sam Carter, sophomore K Jaden Oberkrom.
Three Key Questions
1. How will the quarterback situation shake out?
Senior Casey Pachall was the first-team QB on the Big 12 preseason team selected by the media. Sophomore Trevone Boykin played well in Pachall's absence last season. Patterson has hinted that no matter who is named the starter, both could play during the season. The TCU coach likes the idea of making the opposition spend practice time preparing for both.
2. How will the offensive line and linebacker positions shape up?
Both were at the top of Patterson's list before practice started and within the first few days each unit unexpectedly had a starter leave the team (left tackle Tayo Fabuluje and linebacker Joel Halsey). The offensive line unit has a combined 29 career starts.
3. Who will emerge as the go-to receiver?
Josh Boyce was last season's big-play receiver but he has moved on to the NFL. There are a number of talented receivers on the roster but the TCU passing game will be at its best if one emerges to make the clutch receptions.
TCU opens the season against LSU at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. In future seasons, the Horned Frogs have nonconference games scheduled with Minnesota, Arkansas and Ohio State. … The Horned Frogs return nine starters on defense, including Big 12 defensive freshman of the year, defensive end Devonte Fields. He was voted the preseason defensive player of the year. … For the 4th straight year, TCU football sets a new school record for season tickets sold. This year's number is 31,425. … TCU football is 1 of just 8 programs nationally to play in at least 2 BCS games over the last 4 seasons. … Senior quarterback Casey Pachall is the NCAA's career leader in passing efficiency (minimum 15 games).
Numbers To Note
Since 2005, TCU is 48-2 when it wins the turnover margin. … In 65 games over the last five seasons, the Horned Frogs' defense has 156 quarterback sacks and has forced 130 turnovers. … TCU was second in the nation in forcing three-and-outs last season, averaging 5.7 per game. … TCU played 16 true freshmen last fall, tying it with Texas for the most of any team in the FBS.
|Aug. 31||vs. LSU (at Cowboys Stadium)|
|Sept. 7||Southeast Louisiana|
|Sept. 12||at Texas Tech*|
|Oct. 5||at Oklahoma*|
|Oct. 19||at Oklahoma State*|
|Nov. 2||West Virginia*|
|Nov. 9||at Iowa State*|
|Nov. 16||at Kansas State*|