“Fight ‘em until hell freezes over, then fight ‘em on the ice.”
– Dutch Meyer
December 29, 2012. It wasn’t supposed to end this way. When time expired in Tempe, Arizona, the Michigan State Spartans had beaten the TCU Horned Frogs 17-16 in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. For TCU, it was a fitting end to a season that seemed like it would never end. A season that had started back in February when 17 TCU students (including four football players) had been arrested in a massive drug bust. The scandal followed the team into August, when it was discovered that starting quarterback Casey Pachall had tested positive for marijuana use earlier in the year. By the time TCU opened their inaugural season in the Big 12 on September 8th, everyone was ready to look ahead, hopeful that this young team could live up to the reputation it had earned in the Mountain West. Then the team’s leading rusher, Waymon James, was injured a week later, out for the rest of the season. And a few weeks later, Pachall would be kicked off the team and out of school after a DWI arrest. The wheels had officially come off. Though they were 4-0 at the time, they would lose 6 of their 9 remaining games, including the bowl game in December.
It wasn’t how coach Gary Patterson wanted to enter the Big 12, and although everyone knew it was going to be a tough year, no one could’ve predicted it would be that tough.
But that was then.
It’s the dawn of a new season. The turf is green, the birds are singing, and Lou Holtz is just as unintelligible as ever. So what does the 2013 season hold for TCU and the rest of the Big 12? With exactly one week to go before kickoff, here’s how I see it shaking out.
TCU. The Frogs open their season in the worst way possible by playing LSU at Jerryworld, a game scheduled when TCU was still in a non-AQ conference and one that Patterson has admitted he regrets. If they win it (which they probably won’t), it’ll be a huge boost for the team, but they’ll still have a very long road ahead, including road games in Lubbock, Stillwater, and Norman. How successful they are depends on how rusty Pachall is as well as the rest of the offense. I think they have a good shot at OU, K-State, and Baylor, all of whom are starting new quarterbacks, but I think they’ll fall to LSU, Okie State, and possibly Texas. Prediction: 9-3.
Texas. This is a make-or-break season for Mack Brown. The Horns have struggled ever since losing to Alabama in the national championship at the end of the 2009 season, and the patience of UT’s big-money alumni is wearing thin. Texas has the right ingredients to win out, but I still see them struggling against OU and Okie State. The TCU game is a toss-up as are Baylor and K-State. Prediction: 9-3.
OU. The Sooners have a new quarterback, Trevor Knight, who has been called the Second Coming of Johnny Manziel. Just how good he is we’ll have to see, but the Big 12 is a lot more competitive than the SEC. Just sayin’. They’ll probably win the Red River Rivalry but I don’t see them winning the conference. Prediction: 9-3.
Oklahoma State. Okie State seems to be the unanimous choice to win the Big 12, although they won’t be undefeated in the process. Mike Gundy seems to be leaning toward using two different quarterbacks (as Patterson is at TCU), and if it works, the Cowboys’ offense could be deadly. Prediction: 10-2.
Baylor. The Bears have a new QB as well, but everything really comes down to the strength (or weakness) of the defense. The Big 12, of couse, isn’t known for its defense, but Baylor has probably had one of the weakest defenses of the conference historically. If Art Briles can turn that around, look out. A really favorable schedule helps, too, with OU, Tech, and Texas all at home. Prediction: 8-4.
Texas Tech. Kliff Kingsbury might be a god to the good people of Lubbock, but he’s still a guy who has never been a head coach anywhere. He’ll naturally resurrect the “throw every single play” strategy of Mike Leach (which is what he was hired to do), but it’ll take some time to figure things out. Prediction: 5-7.
Kansas State. Heisman-finalist Collin Klein might be gone, but don’t underestimate Bill Snyder. The Wildcats won’t win the conference this year, but they’re very likely to keep someone else from winning it, and home games against Baylor, TCU, and OU help tremendously. Prediction: 8-4.
Kansas. What can I say. Even head coach Charlie Weis (the Rodney Dangerfield of the Big 12) has referred to his team as a pile of crap. Prediction: 2-10.
Iowa State. I can’t help but to root for head coach Paul Rhoads, even though the Cyclones beat TCU in Fort Worth last year. The Frogs will get their payback, but ISU will still make it to their third straight bowl game. Prediction: 6-6.
West Virginia. The Mountaineers were expected to make a serious run for the Big 12 title last year. Instead they crashed and burned. They might do a little better this year, but not much. Prediction: 7-5.
1. Oklahoma State
6. Kansas State
7. West Virginia
8. Iowa State
9. Texas Tech