We're grading each Big 12 team's season right now, and we'll move on to the next team on the list: The TCU Horned Frogs.
OFFENSE: You have to wonder what could have been for TCU in Year 1 in the Big 12 if Casey Pachall had stayed on the team, Ed Wesley hadn't left in May and Waymon James' knee had remained healthy more than a couple games into the season. Ifs and buts, candy and nuts, etc., but that wasn't the case. The early season was plagued by turnovers and missed opportunities in the red zone even with Pachall, and that's factored into this grade. The toughest thing for this offense to swallow was how strong its receivers were, but Pachall's replacement, Trevone Boykin, couldn't get Josh Boyce and Brandon Carter the ball consistently enough to make this an offense good enough to hang in the upper half of the Big 12. Boykin played gutsy ball and used his legs well, and had an ability to hit the big play when TCU often needed it, and clearly grew throughout the season. After TCU got blasted at home by Iowa State, I all but eulogized TCU's season. A bowl game was out. And then it wasn't. Against K-State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the offense looked really, really rough, and let winnable games slip out of reach. The Frogs had a really impressive season, but the post-Pachall offense wasn't the reason why it happened. GRADE: C
DEFENSE: The Frogs got my vote as the Big 12's best defense. Stansly Maponga was a bit underwhelming on the defensive line, but Devonte Fields was better than anyone could have ever thought, winning the league's Defensive Player of the Year honors as a true freshman who only started to begin the season because DE Ross Forrest missed the season with a shoulder injury. Jason Verrett emerged as the league's best shutdown corner, a far cry from his awful outing to begin 2011 when RG3 torched Verrett and the Frogs. Elisha Olabode and Sam Carter filled out a strong secondary that forced 32 turnovers, tied for the most in the Big 12. Joel Hasley and Kenny Cain played well for an underrated linebacking corps that was gutted by the loss of Tanner Brock before the season and rising star Deryck Gildon being ruled ineligible and leaving for junior college. Nobody dealt with losses as heavy as TCU, and they happened on both sides of the ball. Gary Patterson strung together an amazing defense, despite it all, and led the league in total defense and yards per play. The Frogs gave up just 4.92 yards per play, nearly half a yard per play fewer than any other team in the Big 12. GRADE: A+
OVERALL: It's tough to grade the Frogs, whose seven-win season felt like a 10-win season, considering the circumstances. The offense had to play with one hand tied behind its back at times, without basically its entire offensive backfield. The defense lost almost as much, but filled in the holes at linebacker and Fields was a breakout star. Every win down the stretch was emotional, but you can't ignore there were only two of them in the final seven games of the year. TCU's impact on the Big 12 in Year 1 was bigger than its number in the win total. It showed a lot of toughness and to some degree, answered the "depth" question. Still, 7-6 is 7-6. GRADE: B-