Big 12 Football Countdown: No. 3 TCU

USA TODAY Sports

Big 12 Football Countdown: No. 3 TCU

TCU, like West Virginia, entered their inaugural Big 12 season riding high and carrying hopes that they could capture the conference title in their first year. Instead they posted a 7-6 record, their worst since they a 5-6 campaign in 2004. TCU, unlike West Virginia, actually has a chance to win the Big 12 in year two thanks to their head coach Gary Patterson. During Patterson's 13 year tenure he averages just 2.7 losses per year. With nine starters returning on defense, he has a chance to do even better in 2013. The defense is practically set; the offense on the otherhand has its own set of issues. Most of those concerns stem from off the field issues. OT Tayo Fabuluje has left TCU for personal reasons, his departure does little to help TCU's already decrepit offensive line. QB Casey Pachall, who was suspended by TCU last year, looks to reclaim his starting spot over QB Trevone Boykin. Trips to Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Kansas State will make a run at the Big 12 a difficult one, but anything can happen under Patterson.

2012 Record: 7-6 (4-5)

Returning Starters: 17 (6 OFF, 9 DEF, 2 ST)

Key Losses on Offense: WR Joyce Boyce (891 yds. 7 TD), WR Skye Dawson (455 yds. 1 TD), RB Matthew Tucker (515 yds. 6 TD), C James Fry, OG Blaize Foltz

Key Losses on Defense: LB Kenny Cain, DE Stansly Maponga

Head Coach: Gary Patterson: 116-36 (14th Year)

Strength: Defense

Year in and year out TCU ranks high among the nation's top defenses, and that is largely due to 10th year DC Dick Bumpas. Bumpas will have a field day in 2013 as he will get to work with nine returning starters from the nation's 16th ranked defense from a year ago. Last season TCU ranked 10th in the nation against the run, allowing just 105 rushing yards per game. That stat could easily improve as four starters return to the defensive line including All Big 12 first teamer Devonte Fields (53 TOT 10 SACK). TCU had an above average pass defense in 2012, allowing 219 passing yards a game, though considering they are playing in the pass happy Big 12, that stat is actually pretty impressive. Even if you didn't consider TCU all that impressive in 2012, this year could turn out even better with four starters return to the secondary including All Big 12 first team CB Jason Verrett (63 TOT 6 INT).

Weakness/Questions: Offense

TCU wasn't as stable at offense as they were on defense last season. The Horned Frogs would have their offensive stride on occasion, but at the same time consistency was suspect. TCU had to deal with the loss of their QB Casey Pachall (948 yds. 10 TD) and RB Waymon James (726 yds. 6 TD (2011 stats), and still the Horned Frogs found ways to put points on the board. A lot of that was thanks to "interim" QB Trevone Boykin (2054 yds. 15 TD). Even if TCU does manage to work out the quarterback position, they still need to find reliable receivers as WR Brandon Carter (590 yds. 6 TD) and WR LaDarius Brown (385 yds. 5 TD) are TCU's top returning receivers. The running game wasn't as strong as it was during the previous season, but it should return to normal as top runningback B.J. Catalon (582 yds.) returns. Hopefully Waymon James (168 yds. 1 TD) has successfully nursed his wounded knee back to health and he can return to the lineup ready to contribute.

Projected Record: 9-3 (7-2)

Bowl Game: Cotton Bowl

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