Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 22 TCU. The Horned Frogs are on the move, making the switch from the Mountain West to the Big 12. TCU's offense is loaded, but a rebuilt defense and increased competition will determine just how high this team can climb in the top 25.
How Many Big 12 Games Will TCU Win in 2012?
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
TCU’s goals in its first season in the Big 12 should be to break even in conference play and to impress the home crowd. As successful as TCU was in the Mountain West and on the national stage when the opportunity was there, the Horned Frogs are probably looking at so-so season as a Big 12 team. The defense is rebuilding without Mountain West defensive player of the year Tank Carder and four starters in the secondary. That’s not a good recipe in a powerhouse offensive league. TCU probably is looking at losses at Oklahoma State, at West Virginia, at Texas and at home against Oklahoma. Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs should feel OK about their chances at Kansas and at home against Iowa State and Texas Tech. That leaves Baylor on the road and Kansas State at home as potential swing games, mainly because those two teams are going to be tough to read in the preseason. I’m going to split those two games for TCU and say the Frogs have a good shot to finish 4-4. If TCU is going to finish any better than that, the Frogs’ defense will have to reload before a brutal final stretch after Oct. 27 (at Oklahoma State, at West Virginia, Kansas State, at Texas, Oklahoma).
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The start to the season offers some intriguing tests but is very manageable. In fact, if TCU can get past Virginia in Week 4, they could be unbeated (7-0) heading into the final five games of the year. This would include wins over Kansas and Baylor on the road as well as Texas Tech and Iowa State at home. The Frogs should be heavy favorites in all four of its first Big 12 games. Come Halloween, however, the Horned Frogs will be dealing with freaks and ghouls for the remainder of its 2012 season. Back-to-back road trips to Oklahoma State and West Virginia starts November in brutal fashion before a home game against Kansas State. A 1-2 mark in that stretch puts TCU at 5-2 in league play heading into its second bye week — the only thing Gary Patterson has to be happy about in his final five games. The off weekend will allow the purple toads to lick their wounds before having to face the two Big 12 powers to finish the season. A trip to Texas and hosting Oklahoma gives the Frogs as brutal a final stretch as any team in the nation. TCU will pull-off one upset along the way (at Okie State?) and will beat the teams it is supposed to but won't topple the league's elite. If I was a Frogs fan, a 6-3 mark in my first trip through the Big 12 schedule should be considered a huge success.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
With a move from the Mountain West to the Big 12, TCU is going to be one of the most intriguing teams to watch in 2012. The Horned Frogs dominated in Mountain West play, but the Big 12 is going to present a tougher week-to-week challenge. The good news for TCU is the schedule is very manageable early in the year. The Horned Frogs open against Grambling and play Kansas in their first Big 12 contest. TCU will likely be favored in each of its first seven games, but will likely be an underdog in the final five contests. The Horned Frogs have tough matchups at Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Texas and host Kansas State and Oklahoma during that stretch. With a rebuilt offensive line and defense, catching the Big 12’s top teams late in the year is the best-case scenario for TCU. However, I think it will be tough to go 9-3 or 10-2 with the personnel question marks this team has in 2012. The Horned Frogs will likely pull off an upset or two, but could also lose an unexpected contest. Finishing 8-4 with five wins in Big 12 play is a solid debut season in the Big 12 for TCU and coach Gary Patterson.
I think TCU will find a way to get to five wins in its first season in the Big 12, meaning the Horned Frogs should finish somewhere in the middle of the pack in the conference. Ironically, in many ways this year's TCU team is built like a Big 12 team - high-powered offense, questionable defense, which has not been the case in recent years for Gary Patterson's squads. From 2008-10, TCU was No. 1 in the nation in total defense each and every year. Last year, the Horned Frogs slipped to No. 32 overall, and I think the trend will continue this year, especially given the fact that past Mountain West foes like Colorado State, New Mexico and UNLV, have been replaced on the schedule by the likes of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
As tough a transition as it figures to be going from the Mountain West to the Big 12 this year, it appears the defense will experience more growing pains than the offense in 2012. On offense, the Horned Frogs should be able to keep up with the rest of the offenses in the conference with quarterback Casey Pachall, wide receiver Josh Boyce and the three-headed backfield of Waymon James-Ed Wesley-Matthew Tucker leading the way.
The defense, on the other hand, already lost some key players through graduation and then lost a few more - namely linebacker Tanner Brock, defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey and safety Devin Johnson - in February following their arrests related to a drug scandal that has left a black eye on the program. All three players who were dismissed were expected to start this fall, meaning the Horned Frogs' defense will be even younger and more inexperienced than initially projected. That coupled with untested depth behind the starters will lead to some high-scoring affairs once TCU starts Big 12 play.
TCU actually opens up Big 12 play pretty favorably, starting with Kansas as its second game of the season and then hosting Iowa State on Oct. 16. After that, however, is where things get interesting. TCU's next five games are at Baylor, vs. Texas Tech, at Oklahoma State, at West Virginia and then home for Kansas State. The Horned Frogs then get a week off before ending their inaugural Big 12 season by going to Texas and then hosting Oklahoma on consecutive Saturdays. Not the warmest of welcomes, wouldn't you say?
I expect TCU to get out to a 2-0 start in conference play, but it's those final seven games, especially the last five, that are going to define the Horned Frogs' 2012 season. The offense should keep them in every game, but an inexperienced and untested defense is going to take its share of lumps and give up plenty of yards and points along the way. In the end, the Horned Frogs win one they probably shouldn't, which allows them to finish above .500 in their first year in the Big 12, giving their fans plenty of reasons to, ahem, croak, this fall.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I have the Horned Frogs going 5-4 in league play in their Big 12 debut. Gary Patterson has built a tradition of winning in Fort Worth, but TCU will definitely face an adjustment in playing big-time teams on a week-in, week-out basis. The defenses during Patterson’s tenure have been excellent, but last year’s unit ranked 60th in the country against the pass. That will have to change as the Horned Frogs will now face high-octane passing attacks consistently in the Big 12. The offense has a great group of skill players, led by quarterback Casey Pachall, receiver Josh Boyce and a trio of top running backs, but there are concerns with experience on the offensive line. TCU’s league slate is very backloaded, so a good start will be necessary to finish the season with a winning conference record. I’ll predict the Horned Frogs to start 4-1 in the Big 12, but then drop three of the final four contests. TCU is used to winning and has solid talent, and I believe Gary Patterson’s crew will finish above .500 in league play.
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