You need stars to win Big 12 titles, sure. Oklahoma State had two: Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden.
Kansas State had two this season, too: Collin Klein and Arthur Brown. What all too often got overlooked for both of those teams? The bushels of really, really good players who don't have national name recognition but show up week after week and are far above average for their position.
Both teams had outstanding offensive lines, but players like John Hubert, Meshak Williams, Ty Zimmerman and Nigel Malone were huge parts of those titles. Oklahoma State was deep at receiver with Josh Cooper and Michael Harrison and had huge pieces on defense like Jamie Blatnick and Markelle Martin, along with a pair of breakout cornerbacks in Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert.
We'll see about Casey Pachall, but TCU lost two players who are certainly far above average for their positions in receiver Josh Boyce and defensive end Stansly Maponga, a preseason All-Big 12 talent a year ago who had a disappointing season but was still a big talent with a chance for a huge 2013. Boyce wasn't a Biletnikoff Award-level talent, but he was likely a 1,000-yard receiver next season and the leader of a talented group that included Brandon Carter and LaDarius Brown.
TCU still has the talent to win a Big 12 title, but there's no doubt that without Boyce and Maponga, the road got a good bit harder. Devonte Fields and Pachall are the team's two most promising players, but a shutdown corner like Jason Verrett electing to return will be huge in helping TCU slow down the offensive juggernauts you'll find in the Big 12. That's the other big thing the last two Big 12 champions had in common: Watch K-State eviscerate good offenses like West Virginia, Texas Tech and slow down Oklahoma State. The Pokes a year earlier forced tons of turnovers, but also held Baylor's offense in check, shut down Texas A&M in the second half, shut out Texas Tech's offense and raced to a 40-point lead on Oklahoma before the Sooners scored their first touchdown.
TCU's got that kind of potential on defense, but the pass rush takes a hit without Maponga. The receivers lose Boyce and Skye Dawson, forcing LaDarius Brown to be a bigger piece of the offense. He'll be up for the task, but having Boyce would make life a lot easier on Trevone Boykin or Pachall.
Can TCU weather those losses and win its first Big 12 title in its second year in the league? Sure.
The odds, though, got longer when Boyce and Maponga took their talents to the NFL.