2011 Record: 11-2 (7-0 in MWC)
Head Coach: Gary Patterson (109-39 at TCU)
Four Year Win Trend: 11.75 wins and 1.25 losses
Last Bowl Game: 2011 season Poinsettia Bowl: beat Louisiana Tech 31-24
Stat to Cheer: converted on 52.07% of third downs (1st in MWC)
Stats to Fear: they are no longer in the MWC
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: (Offense: 6; Defense: 5; Specialists: 0)
Key Defensive Returnees: DE Stansly Maponga (55 tackles, 9 sacks), LB Kenny Cain (72 tackles), DT David Johnson (47 tackles, 3 sacks)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Casey Pachall (25 TD, 7 INT), RB Matthew Tucker (702 yds rush, 12 TD), RB Waymon James (875 yds rush, 6 TD), WR Josh Boyce (61 rec, 9 TD), WR Skye Dawson (45 rec), RG Blaize Foltz
CFBZ: TCU had a rough off-season with four players getting kicked off the team including their leading tackler from 2010 Tanner Brock. How much will the loss of these players hurt?
Turfburner: The loss of the dismissed players was a blow to their depth more than anything. And while Brock would have been a big part of this year's team, the fact they played almost the entire year in 2011 without him allowed other players to step up and get game experience they wouldn't have otherwise gotten, namely Kenny Cain.
Cain replaced Brock after his ankle injury ended his season and he went on to lead TCU in tackles and should again be a force for their defense this season. He’ll likely be the guy this year that everyone is talking about at a school that has produced some pretty solid linebackers of late.
The bigger loss is trying to find a replacement for middle linebacker, Tank Carder, who has been the leader of their defense the past three seasons. The guy likely to replace him in the middle is sophomore Deryck Gildon. He saw significant playing time last year as a freshman finishing the year with 21 tackles. How he's able to handle the increased workload he'll likely see this season will go a long ways in determining how good TCU's defense will be this season.
CFBZ: Casey Pachall had an excellent debut season. Where does he stand in comparison to the rest of the Big 12 QBs?
Turfburner: Pachall is very good, probably even a bit underrated which is probably due to the fact that TCU relies so heavily on their ground game which could turn out to be the best in the Big 12 this season.
From a pure quarterback prospective though, he’s as good as anyone in the league besides Geno Smith and Landry Jones. If I were to rank the quarterbacks in the Big 12, I’d probably have Pachall in a tie for fourth behind Smith, Jones, and Colin Klein at Kansas State and tied with Seth Doege from Texas Tech.
He’s accurate and makes good decisions with the football and I would expect him to have another great season this year.
CFBZ: From a match-up perspective, which Big 12 teams do you think will give TCU the most problems?
Turfburner: I'm not exactly going out on a limb here, but Oklahoma and West Virginia will pose some big problems for TCU (as they will for most teams in the league).
TCU had problems with the better offenses they faced in 2011 with Robert Griffin throwing for 359 yards when Baylor scored 50 points in the season opener Later in the season with they faced Boise State, Kellen Moore threw for 320 yards even though TCU hung on to win, 36-35.
TCU will see a lot more of those types of offenses in the Big 12 and with the secondary likely being the weakest link in their defense, they'll have issues trying to slow down teams with the best passing games and Oklahoma and West Virginia are probably the two teams that will do it better than anyone else this season.
TCU does play a defensive system that should fit in well with the Big 12, however. Their base defense uses five defensive backs and fast linebackers which will play to their favor. They have some good talent in the secondary, although it’s young in several areas which means they’ll need to grow up in a hurry.
CFBZ: What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2012 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
Turfburner: I have them pegged for a 7-5 season which some might consider a disappointment, but I think it would be a solid start in the first season in the Big 12. TCU definitely has their sights set higher than that, but I think the grind of the Big 12 schedule will catch up to them by year’s end. The talent is there among their first team, but depth is going to be a problem down the stretch.
That said, their season really needs to be broken down into two halves; the first seven games and a brutal five game stretch to close the season.
TCU could very well start the season 7-0 and considering they are starting the year ranked seventh in the coaches poll, could easily find themselves well inside the top 10 heading into the last weekend in October. That’s when the road will get much more difficult with games at Oklahoma State, at West Virginia, Kansas State at home, at Texas, and the season finale against Oklahoma in Fort Worth.
If they can get to 6 wins in their first seven games, then eight wins is definitely within their reach, especially if they can avoid any major injuries.
With another year or two or recruiting Big 12 talent in Texas, there’s no reason TCU can’t or won’t be competing for a Big 12 title quicker than some might think.
TCU has managed to become very successful as a bully in the Mountain West Conference. Since the move to the MWC in 2005, TCU has won double digit games in six of seven seasons and has won the conference four times posting an undefeated conference record in each of those four championship seasons. Now TCU enters the Big 12 and enters the next stage of their college football history.
Last year, it was expected that TCU would take a step back at QB as Andy Dalton moved on to the NFL. What actually happened was Casey Pachall threw for slightly more yards, a slightly better percentage and almost had the same TD:INT ratio. Pachall had a fantastic sophomore season and looks poised to break-out this season. Despite losing Ed Wesley to the NFL, the Horned Frogs are stocked at RB returning two players who both ran for over 700 yards last year in Waymon James and Matthew Tucker. The Frogs also return talent at the receiver position in Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson. The offense has all the weapons in place to fit right in with the rest of the Big 12. The one issue they might have is on the line of scrimmage as they return the least amount of starts in the Big 12.
The defense took a step back last year (gave up 118.9 more yards and 9.5 more points per game) and it probably will again with the entrance in the Big 12. TCU must replace three of it's top four tacklers including ringleader Tank Carder. TCU is going to be very young on defense as there as many as seven projected underclassmen who could be starting this year. TCU built their reputation in the MWC on the back of their defense but it will probaby be their weak link heading into this season.
The good news, as Jay referred to in the Q&A, is that the schedule sets up nicely for TCU. It would not be shocking to see TCU at 7-0 as they play some decent teams but they are games they should win. October 27th is when the going gets tough. That's when TCU takes a trip to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State and then it's a whirlwind of the best of the best of the Big 12 (at WVU, vs K-State, at Texas, vs OU). Will TCU be in for a rude awakening in their debut season in the Big 12 or will they prove they belong?
2012 Prediction: 8-4
Top 25 Countdown
#19 Ohio State
#23 Oklahoma State
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