TCU's strengths, weaknesses and players to watch
AP rank: 16
ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll rank: 15
It's hard to take too much away from TCU's 56-0 victory over Grambling State last week. When a team goes 17-for-17 passing like the Horned Frogs did (and eight of those passes are from the backup QB), it's pretty safe to assume they weren't challenged.
TCU also was just one of four teams nationally to have a bye during Week 1, which further limits the information we have on this year's team.
Coming into the season, TCU appeared to be a balanced team that would be led by quarterback Casey Pachall.
The 6-foot-5 junior completed 67 percent of his passes in 2011, racking up 25 touchdowns with just seven interceptions and 12 sacks. Those numbers put him in the elite category of returning QBs.
TCU also have a great complement of backs returning in senior Matthew Tucker and junior Wayman James. Tucker, at 6-1, 227, picked up most of the carries in the red zone (12 touchdowns), while the 5-8, 203-pound James averaged — averaged — 7.2 yards per carry.
Junior Josh Boyce is Pachall's favorite target, posting 61 catches and 998 yards a year ago.
TCU coach Gary Patterson also has a reputation for building great defenses, and last year, the Horned Frogs' strength was stuffing the run.
TCU allowed just 38 10-yard runs to opponents a year ago, which ranked fifth nationally. Opponents averaged just 3.5 yards per carry while only mustering seven rushing TDs against the Horned Frogs. That tied for the second-lowest number in the nation, behind only Alabama.
TCU lost most of its experience on the offensive line in the offseason, so that unit is still a bit of an unknown.
All-Mountain West first-teamer Blaize Foltz, a native of Rose Hill, is the starter at right guard, while left guard Eric Tausch (one start in 2011) and center James Fry (second year as starter) are the only other players who entered 2012 with starting experience at TCU.
Defensively, TCU appears to still have questions in the secondary after losing five contributors from a year ago.
The Horned Frogs actually struggled some against the pass in 2011, allowing 22 passes of 30 yards or more (tied for 97th nationally).
Junior cornerback Jason Verrett returns after being named All-Mountain West honorable mention in 2011, but besides him and sophomore safety Jonathan Anderson, TCU doesn't have a lot of experience on the back end of its 4-2-5 setup.
Players to Watch
As mentioned, quarterback Casey Pachall (No. 4) is an elite passer, making it onto multiple preseason QB award lists.
"There’s a lot of things to like about this kid," KU coach Charlie Weis said, "but his arm strength and his accuracy stand out for me."
Also, junior receiver Josh Boyce (No. 82) is tied for the most receiving touchdowns all-time at TCU with 17.
"Boyce is a guy, who it wouldn’t make a difference what team he was playing on, he’d be playing," Weis said. "He’s a really, really dynamic receiver and he’s not the only one they have but he’s ... if you have to pick your poison, that’s the first one you better be worrying about, because he’s a very, very good player."
Defensively, junior left end Stansly Maponga (No. 90) is the clear leader. The preseason All-Big 12 selection had nine sacks in 2011 and tied for sixth nationally with five forced fumbles, meaning KU quarterback Dayne Crist would be smart to secure the football if he feels pressure coming.
Just because TCU is new to the conference doesn't mean it's not a powerhouse.
The Horned Frogs have one of the most impressive recent résumés of any Big 12 team, and statistically, they should be just fine this year with a step up in competition.
Not including this season, TCU has lost just three times in its last three seasons. The Horned Frogs have playmakers on offense, defense and a coach that should be considered as one of the best in the conference and nation.
After a loss against Rice last week, I believe KU will play well Saturday. I just don't think it will matter much.
Prediction: TCU 49, Kansas 24
Hawk to Rock: If KU's scoring 24 points, and TCU is strong against the run, then those points are going to have to come from somewhere. Give me quarterback Dayne Crist as this week's Hawk to Rock, with Weis finding creative ways to get receivers open in the passing game. Give me 250 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception or fewer for Crist.