No one said it would be easy. Come to think of it, neither did head coach Gary Patterson. Prior to the kick-off of the TCU Horned Frogs‘ inaugural Big 12 season, Patterson was very careful, maybe clear is the better word, about how he and his team would approach the uncharted waters of a new conference. Many have been quick to analyze how the Frogs have done at the “big boy table” and quite frankly given the circumstances, this team has already risen. The record doesn’t speak towards just how much turmoil these kids have had to overcome. TCU has had to play well over 20 true and redshirt freshman, due to injuries, suspensions and ineligibility issues.
TCU has seen a couple streaks end this season. On Oct. 20, they suffered their first loss to a ranked team in five games at the hands of the Texas Tech Red Raiders. They also had their 12 game winning streak snapped this year. Even as they gear up for the West Virginia Mountaineers this Saturday they face more unfamiliar territory.
The purple and black have never lost three straight in Patterson’s tenure, nor had they lost two consecutive games since 2007. TCU has learned a lot in 2012. They’ve learned that 50 points doesn’t guarantee you a win the Big 12. They shouldn’t, however, be surprised by the depth of the conference. As much as Patterson was talking to the media about realistic expectations and the competition they would be facing every week, he had to have been telling his players the same.
Given the circumstances, the Horned Frogs have done well. Even after jumping out to a fast start at 5-1, the team was lacerated once again when quarterback Casey Pachall was suspended indefinitely. Pachall left the team to enter a drug and alcohol facility to receive treatment and in stepped Trevone Boykin. Patterson’s boys may not be competing for a spot in the BCS, something Fort Worth has grown accustomed to, but the amount of experience this young team has endured, will help the program rise in the Big 12.
Assuming Pachall doesn’t return for his senior season, Boykin, who has been thrown in to learn on the fly, is gaining some valuable experience as to what it takes to win in the Big 12. Boykin has had both good and bad moments this season and Gary Patterson can mold him, much like he did with Andy Dalton, into a quarterback that knows what his strengths are.
Patterson realizes that it will take some time to build his team into the perfect storm in the conference, all he has to do is find his team’s skill set and manage it. Patterson spoke to the Fort Worth Media this week and pointed to what the Kansas State Wildcats are doing. He rehashed what many already know about how the Wildcats keep winning. They’ve only turned the ball over four times, while the Horned frogs have given up the most turnovers in the conference. The Wildcats are the perfect example for Patterson to go off to succeed in a conference known nationally for its offense.
Patterson has put together some of the most dominating defensive units recently, that will not change. He will emphasize the same principles on defense and TCU could very well be one of the top defenses in the conference within a couple of years, but only if the kids respond to his message. You want a bold prediction? TCU will win the Big 12 within five years.