Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
QB Casey Pachall (left) and head coach Gary Patterson (right) will lead the TCU Horned Frogs to a Big 12 title.
Gary Patterson and the TCU Horned Frogs know what its like to be in a BCS bowl. In 2009 and 2010, the Horned Frogs appeared in the Fiesta Bowl and Rose Bowl respectively. They won the Rose Bowl over Wisconsin by a score of 21-19.
Now, as the Horned Frogs enter their second year in the Big 12, they have the pieces to win the conference and the Big 12's automatic bid to the Fiesta Bowl.
The biggest piece coming back in quarterback Casey Pachall. Before he left the team due to issues with drugs and alcohol last season, he led the Horned Frogs to a 4-0 record with 948 yards passing and 10 touchdowns.
If Pachall has cleaned up his act, he could be the best quarterback in a league that is known for having great signal-callers. That certainly gives TCU an edge.
The other edge is the number of returners the Horned Frogs have. According to David Ubben of ESPN, the Horned Frogs return 15 players, the second-highest in the conference.
Schedule-wise, the Horned Frogs will face a big hurdle early. The team faces LSU to start the season, and they'll do it without arguably their best defensive player in defensive end Devonte Fields, who was suspended for TCU's first two games.
However, once the Horned Frogs get past LSU, their schedule gets much easier. Their other two non-conference games against Southeastern Louisiana and SMU should be cake-walks.
In the Big 12, TCU faces Kansas, Texas, West Virginia and Baylor at home. The only really tough game there will be the Baylor Bears.
On the road, the Horned Frogs have to visit Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Kansas State. Those will be four extremely tough road games, but Gary Patterson is a great coach who knows how to handle big-time environments.
The Horned Frogs are poised for a big season in 2013. With the league having so many teams with so many new players, TCU has an opportunity to take the conference title. If they find a way to beat LSU to start the year, the Horned Frogs could have an outside shot at a national title berth.
But for now, expect the Horned Frogs to appear in the Fiesta Bowl.