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West Virginia or TCU: Which program's decline in 2013 has been more surprising?

Dana Holgorsen

Dana Holgorsen

West Virginia and TCU are arguably the biggest disappointments in the Big 12 this year.

Losing to Kansas will prevent West Virginia from playing in a bowl for the first time since 2001, and the Mountaineers need to beat Iowa State in the season finale to avoid a 4-8 mark.

TCU was picked by most to finish in the top half of the Big 12.

However, the Horned Frogs are 4-7 headed into their season finale against Baylor next week.

Both programs have a difficult transition to the Big 12, so it will take time to recruit and build the program to compete consistently for conference titles.

West Virginia or TCU: Which programs decline in 2013 has been more surprising?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I’ve been more surprised with TCU’s decline this season. This was expected to be a rebuilding year for West Virginia, and that’s exactly what has played out in Morgantown. Dana Holgorsen is feeling a lot of pressure, but I think it’s too early to put the third-year coach on the hot seat. The Mountaineers had to move to a tougher conference, and only 11 starters are back from last season. West Virginia has lost three conference games by 10 points or less and most of this team returns in 2014, so there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic in Morgantown. TCU was picked by most to finish in the top half of the Big 12. But the Horned Frogs have dropped four out of their last five games, with Iowa State and Kansas representing the only conference wins for Gary Patterson’s team. Much like West Virginia, TCU has been dealing with a handful of injuries and much of this team’s core returns for 2014. Maybe the preseason expectations were too high for the Horned Frogs, but it seems this team has too much talent to be finishing 4-8. I expect both teams to rebound next year. However, it will be a long offseason for both coaches and programs.

Mark Ross
To me it's TCU. I didn't have high expectations for West Virginia to begin with because this was a team that lost a ton of offensive talent to the NFL and needed every bit of it last season just to finish 7-6. TCU, on the other hand, was returning most of its starting defense, a unit that finished among the top 30 teams in the nation in 2012 in three (total, scoring, rushing) of the four major categories. I thought the Horned Frogs were a darkhorse Big 12 contender this fall, but Gary Patterson's team just hasn't been able to put it all together. TCU isn't a bad team by any stretch, with just three double-digit losses and none by more than 14 points. But four losses in its last five games, two of them by a combined five points, means no bowl for the Horned Frogs for the first time in nine seasons. Patterson knew things would be tougher for his team when TCU joined the Big 12 last season. I just don't think even he expected this season to play out like this, not with all of the experience that was returning. There's enough talent on the roster for TCU to rebound in 2014. But while Horned Frogs fans are hoping that the third time around the Big 12 is the charm for their team, it's no stretch to say that the challenge that awaits for Patterson and his coaching staff is something entirely new.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Both team's seasons are surprising, though both have dealt with plenty of roster tumult. TCU has had Casey Pachall in and out of the lineup, defensive end Devonte Fields essentially has been a nonfactor, and linebacker Joel Hasley left the team before the season. West Virginia has dealt with similar injuries all season, particularly to veterans on the defense. If this makes sense, I’d say TCU’s 2013 season is the bigger surprise, but the trajectory for West Virginia is the bigger disappointment. TCU was bound to stumble moving into the Big 12, though I thought the offense would do just enough to keep the Horned Frogs competitive. It’s certainly better with Pachall back, but 4-7 is an awfully big fall. Pachall returned and the Horned Frogs offense put 27 on West Virginia, 21 on Iowa State and 31 on Kansas State. That’s enough to prove that had everyone stayed healthy, TCU’s probably looking at seven or eight wins. But West Virginia’s fall has been more dramatic. This was once one of the most consistent programs in the country, but the Mountaineers have gone 6-13 since Oct. 13, 2012. The program needed to flee the Big East, but it was clearly ill-equipped for the Big 12. This decline in 2013, though, makes me wonder if West Virginia will ever get back to where it was under Rich Rodriguez. Momentum is gone. The team has no identity. And recruiting is going to have some major hurdles. West Virginia is too far from Texas and doesn’t play in the Southeast, particularly Florida where the Mountaineers have had success. Rebuilding is going to be tough.