TCU Horned Frogs season preview

Previewing the 2014 season for the TCU Horned Frogs:

Key returners: DT Chucky Hunter, S Sam Carter, CB Kevin White, RB B.J. Catalon, QB Trevone Boykin

Key losses: DE Devonte Fields, CB Jason Verrett, QB Casey Pachall, WR Brandon Carter

Most important 2014 games: Oct. 4 vs. Oklahoma, Oct. 11 at Baylor, Nov. 8 vs. Kansas State

Projected win percentage: 58.4 percent

Over/under Vegas odds: 8 wins

Instant impact newcomers: Quarterback Matt Joeckel. Johnny Manziel's backup at Texas A&M made the move to TCU this summer with the intention of winning the starting job. He is comfortable running an Air Raid offense, which gives the senior a leg up on his peers, but Gary Patterson still says the quarterback competition is wide open.

High point from 2013: Beating Iowa State 21-17. Boykin scored with 38 seconds left, one of his three rushing touchdowns of the day, helping the Horned Frogs stop a three-game losing streak. Some might say the way TCU battled then-No. 9 Baylor in the season finale was a higher high, but that ended in a tough 41-38 loss.

Low point from 2013: Losing to Kansas State 33-31. K-State kicker Jack Cantele drilled a 41-yard field goal with 3 seconds left to stun TCU after the Horned Frogs had taken the lead late in Manhattan. That loss put TCU at 4-7 and ineligible for a bowl game for the first time since 2004.

Best-case scenario for 2014: The new-look offense engineered by Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie gets rolling under Joeckel's guidance, the defense is one of the Big 12's best and the Horned Frogs shock Baylor and Texas Tech and start the season 7-1. The Frogs lose intense, close games against K-State and at Texas, but at 9-3, they aren't complaining.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: TCU loses three of its first five (Minnesota, Oklahoma, Baylor) and can't seem to figure out the right fit at quarterback. Start off that way, and the schedule suddenly looks a lot scarier. Throw in a few injuries, and worst case, you're talking about potentially another 4-8 or 5-7 season.

X factor: Close games. Let's recap last season: TCU was within three points of LSU in the fourth quarter, tied 10-10 with Texas Tech midway through the fourth, trailed 13-10 for most of the fourth against Oklahoma, cut it to 17-10 in the fourth against Oklahoma State, went to overtime against West Virginia, led 31-30 with 2 minutes left at Kansas State and was in field goal range down three points in the final minute against Baylor. They lost them all. The probability of that happening again seems slim.

They said it: "I think the key is to find the guy that has the swagger, that allows us to move the football, score the points and the guy that's not going to turn the ball over. Felt like last year, if we just would have done that, we would have had an opportunity to win a couple more ballgames. So really that's what we're trying. But we don't really have a timetable or anything else. It's just finding that guy that makes the offense go, and when you put all the pieces of the puzzle together, what makes us the best football team we can possibly be." -- Patterson on the quarterback battle.