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NCAA Football Big 12 FootballTCU Horned Frogs

Rant Sports College Football Top 100: No. 19 TCU Horned Frogs

TCU Horned Frogs

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off their first season as members of the Big 12, the TCU Horned Frogs took a step back from their six 11-plus win seasons in seven years and won just seven — their lowest total since 2004 as members of Conference USA.

Gary Patterson has led this team to a 116-36 record in 13 seasons as head coach, becoming the winningest coach in program history this past fall. Leading this team from a seemingly average team to one in which 10 wins became the norm each season is an impressive feat, to say the least.

However, after entering a much tougher conference in 2012, the team faltered a bit, unable to find a consistent win pattern. Finishing 7-6 after a bowl loss to Michigan State, Patterson and crew got together, knowing they had a lot to work on, and made the team better this offseason.

Let’s take a look at how this veteran team stacks up against the competition in 2013.

KEY PLAYERS

Quarterback Casey Pachall was removed from the team following a DUI and many off-the-field issues last fall. He attended a rehabilitation center and got help away from the field, earning his spot back as starter of the team this fall. Showing that he can be a star, as he did in 2011, Pachall has the ability to pass for over 3,000 yards with an extremely accurate touch. He could lead this team to greatness in 2013.

Besides Pachall, senior running back Waymon James will be a huge key to the offensive scheme. Missing most of the 2012 season due to a knee injury kept this guy from accomplishing great things, but the team’s 2011 leading rusher will be back with a vengeance.

On defense, a huge returning lineman in Devonte Fields will be key for the veteran defense. Recording 10 sacks as a freshman in 2012, Fields has the ability to become the best pass-rusher in the nation this season.

OFFENSE

While Trevone Boykin quarterbacked this team for two-thirds of the 2012 season, the sophomore signal-caller will be taking a backseat to returning senior and reinstated team member, Pachall.

The passing game isn’t the only part of the offense that seems to be in good shape heading into the 2013 season, returning running backs James B.J. Calaton and dual-threat quarterback Boykin — for possible offensive-run stints — are going to make this team’s run game even better in 2013.

Lead returning receiver Brandon Carter will surely fill the huge void left by Josh Boyce. Racking up over 500 yards and six touchdowns on 36 catches, the junior wide out will be ready for a bigger role.

Ranking in the 60-range in most national offensive categories such as rush yards, pass yards and points per game, this offense has a lot of room for improvement and many players who can ensure such a thing happens.

DEFENSE

As I said earlier, Fields is a man. He is one of the top young defensive players in college football and he could easily put up 10-plus sacks once again in 2013. The sophomore defensive end is a force to be reckoned with — after he returns from a two-game suspension to begin the season, that is.

Luckily for this defense, the only key players they are losing on this side of the ball are defensive end Stansly Moponga and linebacker Kenny Cain. Obviously, there are more missing pieces, but these are the top two guys who will be missed heavily.

Safeties Elisha Oldabode and Sam Carter will be huge returning pieces in the secondary along with cornerback Jason Verrett. The three defensive backs combined for 14 of the team’s 21 interception from 2012.

SCHEDULE

The Horned Frogs have had a year to get used to the play of the Big 12. They have many top returning players on offense and defense that could make them serious contenders for a conference title.

Here are their toughest games: vs. LSU Tigers, at Oklahoma Sooners, at Oklahoma State Cowboys, vs. Texas Longhorns, at Kansas State Wildcats and vs. Baylor Bears.

By playing to their potential in 2012, they could easily win a majority of their tough games. They have the talent and potential to be one of the top teams in the nation. I believe they will finish the season 8-4 and make their ninth-straight bowl game.

Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.