For those of you who may not know, I spent the last year on the college football nation blog at ESPN, where a big chunk of my time was devoted to covering TCU and the non-AQ schools. With TCU joining the Big East next year, I thought it would be a good idea to give you some of my thoughts and impressions on the program.
What can be expected from TCU?
Great defense. TCU has led the nation in total defense three straight years. In fact, TCU has now finished first in that category more times (five) than any other program since the NCAA began tracking statistics in 1937. Coach Gary Patterson expects to be just as good in 2011, though one point to note -- its top defensive player, Tank Carder, will be gone just in time for 2012. TCU runs a 4-2-5 defense, which allows it to take better advantage of the speed on defense. It is an excellent alignment to run against spread teams, which means TCU will be prepared to face the likes of Pittsburgh and West Virginia.
How about on offense?
TCU is loaded in the backfield this season with Ed Wesley and Matthew Tucker, and that should help take the pressure off new starting quarterback Casey Pachall. The quarterback does run in the TCU system. Andy Dalton broke for some big gains throughout his career there. The Horned Frogs have some young talent at receiver in Josh Boyce and are looking forward to several freshmen coming in, including Brandon Carter, LaDarius Brown, David Bush, David Porter and Cameron White. TCU must replace four starters on the offensive line this year, but keep in mind -- the bulk of its offensive starters will return for 2012.
Where will TCU wind up in Year 1 in the Big East?
I definitely think TCU will have to be considered one of the favorites. Go ahead and roll your eyes, West Virginia and Pitt fans and everybody else. I understand the perception that TCU has been in a non-AQ conference and therefore has beaten up on inferior competition like UNLV, Colorado State and New Mexico. But the Horned Frogs have proven to be up to the task in all their major tests. They won the Rose Bowl over Wisconsin. They have beaten Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Clemson. It is really difficult to go undefeated, no matter the conference. Patterson has done a nice job building his program into a Top 25 outfit by recruiting athletes and then fitting them into his schemes. Plenty of offensive players have come in and been turned into stud defensive players. Will there be an adjustment period? Sure. There are no easy outs in the Big East. But TCU has what it takes to make an impact immediately.
Well, I am just being honest. But I do want to see two things in 2011 before I make any solid judgments. First, how TCU is going to look with Pachall at quarterback. Losing Dalton is potentially huge. Secondly, how Utah fares in the Pac-12. The Utes are going to be the guinea pigs for non-AQs moving on up the ranks. Utah and TCU are different, yes. But the big knock on the non-AQs is that they do not play the same grind of a schedule as all the AQ conferences. We shall see what affect that grind has on Utah this year.
This is all good for the Big East, right?
Yes. I am of the opinion that adding TCU was a slam dunk, no-brainer decision. You have a school that has gone undefeated in the regular season in 2009 and 2010 with two BCS appearances -- a school that brings major credibility to the table. Whether fans agree or not, that was in question last season with an 8-4 team representing the league in a BCS game. So just embrace the move and see where it takes the league.