Did you know: TCU returns nine starters from a defense that was ranked No. 16 in yards allowed in 2012. That ties Texas for the most returning starters on defense in the Big 12. But while the Longhorns lost their two best defensive players, TCU still has its best players in Fields and Verrett. Fields, who was an all-Big 12 selection as a freshman, is suspended for the first two games for a rules violations.
What to watch for
Calendar counting: The schedule could play in Texas’ favor when it comes to the TCU game. Although the Longhorns have to travel to Amon Carter Stadium, TCU will be in the thick of its Big 12 schedule and does not have the benefit of having byes sprinkled throughout. In fact TCU plays eight games in a row in the middle of the season without a bye. Texas, on the other hand, only plays one game in the 23 days leading up to the TCU game. Of course, that game is against Oklahoma. But still the Longhorns should have plenty of time to be prepared and healthy when they travel to TCU.
QB Casey Pachall set a number of TCU records when he was the starter in 2011.
Under center: There will be much discussion about the quarterback at TCU since Casey Pachall has returned after his suspension. Boykin filled in well after being thrown into the fire. But it appears as if Pachall will be given the opportunity to become the quarterback he was in 2011. Back then Pachall set TCU single-season records for completions (228), completion percentage (66.5) and passing yards (2,921). He was ranked 12th nationally in passing efficiency with a 157.98 rating and completed 66.5 percent of his passes with 25 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.
Ground game: TCU has done a better job than almost anyone nationally at distributing the ball to different players in the run game. And that should continue, as the Horned Frogs once again have three or possibly four options in the backfield. The most intriguing of them could be Nebraska transfer Aaron Green. He played 12 games for the Cornhuskers as a true freshman but only had 105 yards in 2011. Catalon is coming off a strong freshman year in which he averaged 4.7 yards per carry. That’s the same yard-per-carry average as Texas’ Johnathan Gray. Catalon is also a multi-purpose back, as he had 23 catches in his freshman season. And Waymon James is back from a knee injury. He was TCU’s leading rusher with 875 yards in 2011.
View from the other side: J.D. Moore, TCU beat writer, TCU360.com
What will Casey Pachall’s influence be on this team?
His biggest influences will be senior leadership, experienced talent and much-needed signal-calling. Pachall has already been on watchlists for the Maxwell and O’Brien awards, plus he’s shown his ability to play in crunch-time environments. If Pachall gets a full season in a scheme that fits his abilities during a year in which returning Big 12 quarterbacks are slim to none, he can easily become the most dangerous quarterback in the league.
Should TCU, with its multitude of returning starters, be the best defense in the Big 12?
Last season, TCU finished its debut season in the Big 12 as the league's best total defense, allowing a stingy 324 yards per game. The stunning fact of that defensive squad? The entire two-deep roster had only one senior -- linebacker Kenny Cain. From that 2012 defense, all players except for Cain and Stansly Maponga are returning. Gary Patterson, who has coached five national No. 1 defenses at TCU, has the talent and the knowledge to bring TCU a second consecutive conference-leading defense. Expect TCU to be the best defense in the Big 12.
How much help will Brandon Carter get at wide receiver? And just who will give him that help?
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LaDarius Brown, a sophomore, is slated to be the No. 1 receiver for the season. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver has blazing speed and took a majority of first-team reps in spring football. In addition, TCU benefits from the return of David Porter, whom Patterson called the most improved receiver in spring practices. Transfers Ja’Juan Story and Josh Doctson will see a lot of throws their way, and Cam White should look to improve on an impressive sophomore season.
B.J. Catalon had a big year for a freshman at running back. Does he continue to get the bulk of the carries or will it be spread among other backs like Waymon James?
Catalon will take over as the finesse tailback, a la Ed Wesley, but his carries will be balanced between he, James and new back Aaron Green. A former five-star recruit, Green is widely expected to do some serious damage.
What was the most important lesson learned by TCU in year one of the Big 12 and who will that help them in year two?
TCU learned how important offensive production is in the Big 12. Patterson has long been successful with a strong defensive mindset. After TCU’s debut in the Big 12, there’s no doubt about that. What is clear, though, is that TCU’s offense couldn’t get anything going and that’s what ultimately doomed the Horned Frogs in 2012.