TCU's history shows it can be instant contenders in Big 12 football

Posted Friday, Jun. 29, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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TCU coach Gary Patterson has often cautioned that it takes a coaching staff two years in a league to know what it's dealing with.

Taking two years to learn opponents' personnel while also competing home and away with each conference foe seems reasonable. Patterson would know. He previously helped coach the Horned Frogs successfully into three new leagues.

But don't be fooled. Patterson and his staff have been dissecting and analyzing the nine Big 12 Conference opponents for months. In other words, practically every second the coaches aren't concentrating on the Frogs, you can bet they're deep into film study on their opponents.

So how will this all translate into TCU's first year in the Big 12? Can the Frogs succeed, along with fellow newcomer West Virginia, in a league that has been one of the toughest since its inception in 1996?

Sure they can. But just as other TCU coaches have pointed out, including Frogs baseball coach Jim Schlossnagle, there's much less room for error.

In 2012, the Frogs will have an offense capable of scoring on most Big 12 defenses. And TCU's defense, so susceptible to big plays in 2011, should be much improved. Both sides of the ball have weaknesses, especially a lack of depth at offensive line and linebacker.

Are Patterson and his program capable of putting together a team that can contend for the Big 12 title in a given year, say this fall? Absolutely. They've more than proven that with consecutive undefeated regular seasons in 2009 and 2010.

Some argue that competing in the Mountain West is exactly the reason the Frogs were able to go undefeated. But going 25-1 in consecutive seasons and 36-3 over three seasons is a sign of excellent coaching, no matter the competition.

Sustaining success from year to year in the Big 12 will be a tougher task. Some of the most respected and highest-paid coaches in the country are in the Big 12, including staffs filled with longtime assistants and former head coaches.

In his first season as head coach in 2001, Patterson led the Frogs into Conference USA, going 6-6 and earning a bowl berth. The following year they improved to 10-2 and won a bowl.

In 2005, the Frogs were picked to finish last in their inaugural year in the MWC and finished 11-1 overall and 8-0 in the league to claim their first of four titles.

Conference titles are harder to come by in the Big 12, unless you're Oklahoma, which has won seven of the league's 16 championships.

Texas is second with three and four others were won by schools no longer in the conference (Texas A&M in '98; Nebraska in '97, '99; Colorado in '01).

Oklahoma State won the title for the first time last season after going 12-1. The lone loss, a double-overtime heartbreaker at Iowa State, sums up the toughness of winning in the Big 12. The loss prevented the Cowboys from playing for a national championship

Drop your guard and a title could be lost.

Patterson and his coaches know this already. Chances are their players will be reminded repeatedly.

Football teams in the Big 12

Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia

Old rival: Utah (2005-10); Boise State ('11)

New rival: Baylor

Last five champions

Year

Big 12

MWC

2011

Oklahoma State

TCU

2010

Oklahoma

TCU

2009

Texas

TCU

2008

Oklahoma

Utah

2007

Oklahoma

BYU

Best in the Big 12

It's tough to choose just one, with each team possessing at least a player or two that could qualify. Could it be West Virginia receiver and return specialist Tavon Austin, who was the Big East Conference Special Teams Player of the Year? Or could it be either Casey Pachall or Josh Boyce from TCU? Both were voted All-Mountain West as sophomores last year. A slew of talented running backs dot the league and more than half the teams boast potential Defensive Player of the Year candidates.

Quotable

"Our goal is not just to be competitive. Our goal is to win championships. That's what it's been every time we've gone into a different conference. Being in the Big 12 does not make us successful. Winning in the Big 12 Conference is what makes you successful." -- TCU coach Gary Patterson on Oct. 11, 2011, the day TCU accepted entrance into the Big 12.

Circle the date

Although TCU's first Big 12 game is Sept. 15 at Kansas, and the first league home game is Oct. 6 against Iowa State, the most anticipated games are the last two of the regular season. The Frogs travel to Austin for a Thanksgiving Day showdown with Texas and then host Oklahoma on Dec. 1 for the first time since the Sooners escaped 10-9 in Sept. 1998.

Stefan Stevenson

817-390-7760

Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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