When TCU runs onto the field at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco, Texas on September 2 this year to play the Baylor Bears on ESPN, it will have been 244 days between Tank Carder‘s play against Wisconsin to break up Scott Tolzein‘s 2-point conversion pass in the Rose Bowl. That’s 244 days since TCU won its biggest game in school history.
Reason #9 to be excited about TCU’s 2011-2012 football season is that TCU will look to have a strong encore performance after their undisputed best season in school history.
Encore seasons can be tough. Expectations tend to be bloated, and the new squad fights to gain their own identity and shake the shadows of their predecessors.
Perhaps the player that will have the most difficult time shaking the shadows will be Casey Pachall. Pachall has tremendous talent, but he is unproven and inexperienced at leading a team who has been previously directed by one of college football’s steadiest players in Andy Dalton.
On the other hand, Gary Patterson is fortunate to have his best defensive player, Tank Carder, back for his final lap as a Horned Frog. Since the Rose Bowl game, Carder has racked up accolades from Playboy All-American to preseason All-American by multiple other publications.
Let’s take a look at several teams who failed to live up to expectations following their championship seasons. LSU followed their 2007 National Championship season with 4 losses in 2008 despite beginning the season ranked 7th in the AP poll. In 2007, the University of Florida lost four games despite winning the National Championship in 2006 and being ranked 3rd in the coaches poll to begin the season.
TCU’s games against Baylor, BYU, and Boise State pose the greatest threat to the Frogs in 2011. Baylor fans have circled their game vs. TCU on their calendar since TCU embarrassed the Bears in Fort Worth in 2011. Defending Robert Griffin III will be a tough early season test for the Frogs, but Gary Patterson said during spring practice that his defensive line is better than it was last season, and TCU’s linebacking duo will be as good as any in college football.
So let’s take a look at where TCU might regress and improve in 2011.
TCU’s offense led the conference in points per game at 41.6 in 2011. They have the potential to continue that production in 2011 especially with non-conference games vs. Portland State and Louisiana Monroe.
TCU’s rushing offense ranked second in the conference behind only Air Force at 247.4 yards per game. TCU has the opportunity to improve those numbers thanks to the running ability of Casey Pachall. Pachall will likely rely heavily on his legs as well as his arm until he gets comfortable which gives the Frogs the potential to rack up a lot of yards on the ground.
TCU ranked just third in the conference in passing yards per game last season. They averaged just 229.5 yards per game which ranked them 54th in the nation. Pachall and Josh Boyce would certainly say that they have the ability to duplicate those numbers in 2011, but with Kerley, Johnson, Young, and Clay gone on the edge and Andy Dalton in the NFL, TCU’s passing game is likely to take a few games to click. Thus, reducing their average yards per game in 2011.
No one in the nation had a better scoring defense than TCU in 2010. This is the stat area where TCU’s detractors say that the Frogs will regress in 2011. While the front 6 on TCU’s defense may be better in 2011, the secondary has lost the likes of Tejay Johnson and Jason Teague among others. I expect the secondary to cost the Frogs some points early in the season, but if history is any indication, Gary Patterson will keep his defense ranked in the top 10 nationally.
TCU led the Mountain West Conference in rush defense last season by allowing only 99.5 yards per game on the ground. I would be surprised to see that number rise in 2011. Stansly Maponga is an elite defensive end, and Braylon Broughton is an immovable force on the other end of the line.
Finally, TCU led the nation in pass yards allowed per game at 128.8 per contest. This number is destined to rise in 2011 as several unknowns remain in the TCU secondary. Other than Tekerrein Cuba and potentially Jason Verrett, no starters have been identified by the coaching staff. They continue to mix and match players such as Antonio Graves, Elisha Olabode, Sam Carter, and Jonathan Anderson in hopes that three will step forward to fill the remaining three starting spots. TCU gave up only 10 passing touchdowns the entire season.
Gary Patterson has a tough job ahead of him, but the Frogs have plenty of talent to win the Mountain West Conference again.