EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 16th in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
Checking them out
Everyone likes to talk about how well equipped West Virginia is to begin play in the Big 12 this year, what with a high-powered offense, a coaching staff familiar with the style of play and culture, and a recent history of success.
Well, meet the Horned Frogs, who also fit that description to a T.
TCU has lost all of three games in the last three years - by two points to Baylor, in overtime against rival SMU and in the Fiesta Bowl to Boise State. And the Frogs aren't exactly starting a down cycle, either. They have an offense that could be as balanced and explosive as any in the conference and a defense that for three straight years from 2008-10 was No. 1 in the country.
The offense this year will include another of the Big 12's seemingly unending supply of All-America candidates at quarterback, 6-foot-5, 215-pound Casey Pachall, who threw for just under 3,000 yards last year, which would be pedestrian in the Big 12. But he didn't need to throw because the ground game, behind three returning 700-yard-plus rushers, was chewing up opponents. When Pachall had to throw he completed 67 percent of his passes, and in a win over Boise State threw for 473 yards and five touchdowns.
In addition to all those running backs, the Frogs are also loaded at wide receiver. Josh Boyce (61 catches, 998 yards) and Skye Dawson (the team's best deep threat) lead the way, but any of five or six could emerge as a star. The offensive line had four first-year starters a year ago return, so now there's experience.
The defense isn't going to be No. 1 again, though. In fact, given personnel losses and the jump to the Big 12, it figures to fall dramatically. But Patterson knows how to build a defense and it's still going to be better than average in the Big 12
The only meeting between the team prior to this was fairly memorable. Well, not for TCU, but for West Virginia. In that 1984 Bluebonnet Bowl in what even then was an aging and decrepit Astrodome, West Virginia passed for more than 300 yards, outgained the Horned Frogs 502-279, had a 10-minute time of possession edge, led 31-7 at halftime and won 31-14. Kevin White passed for 280 yards and Willie Drewery caught six passes for 152 yards. ... TCU got no schedule break in its first Big 12 season, playing 10 straight weeks to start, and the last five games for the Frogs go like this: back-to-back road games at BCS bowl winners Oklahoma State and WVU, at 10-win Kansas State, and then, after an open week, closing games at Texas and home to Oklahoma.