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COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2013 PRESEASON TOP 25

#20

NATIONAL FORECAST

#20

Big 12 PREDICTION

#4

HEAD COACH: Gary Patterson, 116-36 (12 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Jarrett Anderson, Rusty Burns | DEF. COORDINATOR: Dick Bumpas

OFFENSE

Technically, TCU returns four starters on offense, but a more accurate number would be seven.

Not only has quarterback Casey Pachall returned, but so has former leading rusher Waymon James and projected starting tight end Stephen Bryant. Both James and Bryant were sidelined with season-ending injuries in 2012, and Pachall returns after missing the final nine games when he left school to seek treatment for substance abuse.

Pachall has been given the chance to earn his starting job back from Trevone Boykin, who filled in admirably as a redshirt freshman. Boykin is talented and does a better job improvising, but Pachall has a stronger arm and a firmer grasp of the offense. Now a senior, Pachall could be the story of the year in college football if he stays healthy — physically and mentally — and helps TCU compete for a Big 12 title.

James’ return is as big as Pachall’s. He led the Frogs in rushing in 2011 and was off to a good start before injuring his knee in Week 2. If TCU’s line can shore up its depth issues, the Horned Frogs could emerge as the team to beat in the Big 12.

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DEFENSE

Eight starters return to a TCU defense that ranked first in the league and 16th nationally.

 The two losses are big — defensive end Stansly Maponga and linebacker Kenny Cain — but the Frogs have been at their best in the Gary Patterson era when their secondary is deep and experienced. And that’s the case in 2013. Led by strong safety Sam Carter and All-America cornerback Jason Verrett, TCU intercepted 21 passes last season and helped slow down the wide-open offenses of the Big 12.

Associated Press Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields recorded 18.5 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks coming from the right edge, but he will have operate this fall without Maponga coming from the left side. Fields leads a deep and talented defensive line that should be one of the league’s best.

The one area of concern is linebacker, where TCU does not have a returning starter. Junior Marcus Mallet is expected to start at one spot, but former walk-on Joel Hasley decided to leave the team in the fall. Mallet has to get better in coverage this year. Former safety Jonathan Anderson moved to linebacker in the spring and could bring an element of speed.

Key Player

Casey Pachall, QB – Leads all active quarterbacks with a career passing efficiency rating of 163.1.

Waymon James, RB – Led TCU in rushing with 875 yards in 2011 and was averaging 9.9 yards per carry in 2012 before going down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 2.

Devonte Fields, DE – The Associated Press Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year led the league with 18.5 tackles for a loss and was third with 10 sacks as a true freshman.

Jason Verrett, CB – An All-American who led the Big 12 with six interceptions and 22 passes defended.

Brandon Carter, WR – Consistently provides a big-play threat and is TCU’s leading returning receiver with 590 yards and six touchdowns.


Schedule

SPECIALISTS

Both kicker Jaden Oberkrom and punter Ethan Perry performed well as true freshmen in 2012. Oberkrom made 22-of-30 field goals, including all six attempts in a triple-overtime loss to Texas Tech, one shy of tying an NCAA single-game record. Perry’s 44.5-yard  punting average is the second-best all-time at TCU and the best average since 1981. Deanté Gray’s career opened with a bang when he returned his first punt 70 yards for a score in the 2012 season opener, finishing with a TCU-record 160 return yards. Gray, Verrett and Brandon Carter could all be used on punt and kick returns.

FINAL ANALYSIS

There’s a tangible sense of optimism surrounding TCU as it prepares for its second season in the Big 12.

Patterson has a veteran team — as many as 15 of the projected starting 22 players are juniors or seniors. That wasn’t the case in 2012, when TCU fielded one of the youngest teams in the country.

“This is finally a year where we’re a little bit older,” Patterson said during spring camp. “The last two years we’ve been young, so the guys know what they’re doing.”

But two big areas of concern could cause TCU a lot of problems. The offensive line is thin and inexperienced. The linebacker corps, long a steady cornerstone of the Frogs’ defense, is dreadfully lacking in depth. If Patterson can solve these two problem areas, TCU should find itself in position to win a conference title. 

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The Debate

Which Team Will Win the Big 12 Title in 2013?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2013 PRESEASON TOP 25

#19

NATIONAL FORECAST

#19

Big Ten Leaders PREDICTION

#2

HEAD COACH: Gary Andersen, First Season | OFF. COORDINATOR: Andy Ludwig | DEF. COORDINATOR: Dave Aranda

OFFENSE

Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig could face significant challenges in his first season at UW because of personnel issues. Ludwig should have several playmakers at his disposal, including tailbacks James White and Melvin Gordon, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and tight end Jacob Pedersen. While the Badgers have playmakers, the quarterback battle could extend deep into fall camp. 

Junior college transfer Tanner McEvoy, who redshirted at South Carolina in 2011 before transferring to Arizona Western College, has three seasons of eligibility remaining. He’ll likely battle Joel Stave and Curt Phillips. Stave, a sophomore, took over in Week 4 last season and started six games before suffering a broken collarbone. Phillips, a sixth-year senior, started the last five games in 2012. He has battled through multiple injuries to his right knee but remains a legitimate running threat. McEvoy is considered the best fit for the offense. However, it's uncertain how quickly he can adjust to the higher level of competition in the Big Ten.

Also, injuries left UW with only eight healthy linemen in the spring, and the staff acknowledges that the overall depth isn’t close to where it needs to be.

Lastly, the wide receiver position beyond Abbrederis remains full of unproven players. UW needs to find a second threat, and no one emerged during spring ball.

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DEFENSE

Not long after he was hired as UW’s defensive coordinator, Dave Aranda talked enthusiastically about the variety of fronts he planned to use and how he hoped to attack opposing quarterbacks with blitz packages. “I am a big believer in that,” he said. “I’m a big advocate of attacking protections.”

Aranda, who plans to use three-, four- and five-man fronts and use zone blitzes liberally, should have the personnel in the front seven to get after opposing quarterbacks and ease the burden on a secondary that will be green with only one returning starter (safety Dezmen Southward).

UW has a surplus of experienced linemen, and Aranda’s flexibility and desire to attack appears to be a perfect fit for players such as Brendan Kelly, Vince Biegel and Tyler Dippel — all of whom will see time at end/outside linebacker — along with senior linebacker Chris Borland. Opponents know about Borland’s playmaking ability, but Biegel, who played in two games last season before a broken foot forced him to redshirt, could be an outstanding pass-rusher.

UW suffered a blow in April when senior David Gilbert, who had been hampered by injuries to his right foot in each of the last two seasons, announced he was leaving the program.

Key Player

Chris Borland, LB — Veteran should be disruptive as the Badgers employ multiple fronts and blitz packages.

Dezmen Southward, S — Fifth-year senior will be the lone returning starter in the secondary. UW needs him to be solid.

Jared Abbrederis, WR — UW’s only legitimate threat at wide receiver, the fifth-year senior averaged 17.1 yards on his 49 catches in 2012. 

Schedule

SPECIALISTS

Kyle French (10-of-16 field goal attempts) and Jack Russell (0-of-2) were inconsistent last season, which led to uncertainty for most of the season. French was outstanding in the spring, but will that carry over to the fall? Punter Drew Meyer (41.5-yard average, 14 punts of 50-plus yards) was solid as a redshirt freshman but must improve his hang time.

FINAL ANALYSIS

New UW coach Gary Andersen needed only four seasons to transform Utah State’s football program from dysfunctional to dynamic. Last season the Aggies won 11 games and secured the school’s first bowl victory in 19 years, and in the process passed Utah and BYU to take over the No. 1 spot in the state.

Andersen wasn’t actively looking to leave Utah State in December when Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez offered him the coaching job — Andersen had already rebuffed overtures from California, Kentucky and Colorado — but he was intrigued by the opportunity to coach on a larger stage and respected the UW program.

Andersen believes UW can compete on a national level, and the players who return in 2013 believe a fourth consecutive Big Ten title is a realistic goal.

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The Debate

Who Should Start at Quarterback for Wisconsin in 2013?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2013 PRESEASON TOP 25

#18

NATIONAL FORECAST

#18

Big 12 PREDICTION

#3

HEAD COACH: Mack Brown , 150-43 (15 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Major Applewhite, Darrell Wyatt | DEF. COORDINATOR: Manny Diaz

OFFENSE

After losing to Alabama in the BCS national title game after the 2009 regular season, Texas spent most of the next three years trying to build an SEC-style offense around a power running game with co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. Harsin is gone — he’s now the head coach at Arkansas State — and so is his offense. Texas is returning to the spread offense that helped the Longhorns reach four BCS bowl games between 2004-09, including a national title in 2005.

Under new play-caller Major Applewhite, the Texas offense will be up-tempo, no-huddle with the ball being snapped every 15 seconds.

The offense seems to suit junior David Ash, the unquestioned starter at quarterback. Ash needs to even out the inconsistency that caused him to be benched in four games last year, including losses to Oklahoma, TCU and Kansas State.

Leading receivers Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley return, and Davis’ ability to stretch the field should help create running room for a trio of strong running backs led by sophomore Johnathan Gray.

All five starters return on the offensive line, a group that helped Texas average 4.6 yards per carry in 2012. The coaches also have big plans for 6'6" tight end M.J. McFarland, who has the speed to be a down-the-field threat.

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DEFENSE

The Longhorns’ defense made the wrong kind of history last year, giving up more yards (5,244) than any other Texas defense — ever.

The breakdowns seemed to magnify when outside linebacker Jordan Hicks went down with a season-ending hip injury in Game 3. Hicks is back this year and showed in the Spring Game that he may be able to add some serious punch to a defense trying to replace NFL Draft picks Kenny Vaccaro at safety and Alex Okafor at defensive end.

While Hicks and sophomore outside linebacker Peter Jinkens have a chance to be difference-makers, middle linebacker is a huge question mark. Sophomore Dalton Santos appears to have beaten out junior Steve Edmond, who started all but one game last season.

The defensive line has depth, but it needs to be more disruptive, led by senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat (the son of former NFL sack artist Jim Jeffcoat), who returns from a ruptured pectoral muscle.

The secondary will desperately miss Vaccaro’s leadership and physical play. The emergence of corners Sheroid Evans and Duke Thomas will allow junior Quandre Diggs to replace Vaccaro as the nickel back.

Key Player

David Ash, QB – Coaches are hoping for consistency from Ash and not the up-and-down performances that caused him to be benched in four games last season.

Quandre Diggs, CB – After leading the team in interceptions in each of the past two years as a cornerback, Diggs will be all over the secondary in 2013.

Johnathan Gray, RB – The lead back of a talented trio, Gray has the elusiveness, toughness and speed to break out this season.

Mike Davis, WR – He nearly had a 1,000-yard season in 2012, and his ability to stretch the field in 2013 will be a huge key to UT’s new up-tempo spread attack.

Jordan Hicks, LB – His season-ending hip injury in Game 3 seemed to help doom the defense. The former 5-star recruit returns this year with huge expectations.

Schedule

SPECIALISTS

When kicker Anthony Fera transferred from Penn State before the 2012 season, he arrived as an awards candidate after making 14-of-17 field goals in 2011. But he also arrived with a groin injury that never seemed to heal. This year, Fera appears to be the favorite to replace punter Alex King, who averaged 45.3 yards per attempt last year. Sophomores Nick Rose and Nick Jordan are the frontrunners to kick field goals, because Fera’s recurring groin injury seems to be aggravated by the motion to kick field goals but not by punting. 

FINAL ANALYSIS

The Longhorns have more starters back than any team in the Big 12 and have the most experienced quarterback in the league in Ash.

But few are picking Texas to win the title after the Longhorns were blown out 63–21 by an Oklahoma team last season that paled in comparison to some of Bob Stoops’ other squads.

Mack Brown said in December 2011 Texas would win a national title in the next “two to three years.” That time is now, and for many Texas fans weary of a 22–16 record (11–15 in Big 12 play) the past three years, it’s put up or shut up time.

 

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The Debate

Oklahoma or Texas: Who Will Have More Wins in 2013?

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