Texas Christian Horned Frogs
Head Coach: Gary Patterson
2014 Record: 12-1 overall, 8-1 Big 12
2014 Bowl Result: Beat Ole Miss 42-3 in the Peach Bowl
2015 Returning Starters: 10 offense, 5 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship Game: 21/2
Odds to Win 2015 Big 12 Championship: 9/5
Regular Season Wins: over 10 -145 / under 10 +115
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Last year, many thought TCU would improve on a dreadful 4-8 season in 2013. However, few thought they would contend for the Big 12 title or one of the four spots in the inaugural College Football Playoff. Still, the Horned Frogs would go 11-1 in the regular season and 8-1 in the Big 12.
Only a wild 61-58 loss at Baylor prevented TCU from going undefeated and making the playoff. In that game, TCU led by 21 with 11 minutes to go but Baylor came back and kicked the game winning field goal as time expired. The Bears and Horned Frogs tied for first in the Big 12 but both teams were snubbed for the playoff. TCU would have to settle for a 42-3 rout of Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl.
This year coach Gary Patterson and TCU return 15 starters including 10 on offense. The Horned Frogs are a slight favorite over Baylor to win the Big 12 and are the third choice to win the national championship behind only Ohio State and Alabama.
Let’s take a look at TCU on offense, defense and special teams as well as the schedule and outlook.
Co-Offensive coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham installed the Air Raid offense. It worked as the Horned Frogs averaged 533 yards per game on offense including 326 passing yards, both in the top seven nationally. Now 10 starters are back and the offense might even be more explosive if that is possible.
Senior quarterback Trevone Boykin returns to run the offense and could be a Heisman contender if he stays healthy. Last year he completed 61.2% of his passes for 3,901 yards with 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and also rushed for 707 yards on 152 carries with 8 touchdowns. Senior Bram Kohlhausen is the back-up in case anything happens to Boykin. Former Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill transferred to TCU but must sit out a season.
Senior running back Aaron Green didn’t start until November but still rushed for 922 yards on 129 carries with 9 touchdowns along with making 19 catches for 166 yards and 2 touchdowns. He returns and should be at least a 1,000 yard rusher with full season. The Horned Frogs do have to replace B.J. Catalon who rushed for almost 500 yards and 10 touchdowns. Catalon also had 14 catches and a touchdown, plus a kick return for a touchdown. Nebraska transfer Shaun Nixon, Kyle Hicks and sophomore Trevorris Johnson will split the back-up carries. Johnson rushed for 302 yards and 4 touchdowns last season on 53 carries. Hicks rushed for 160 yards but made 12 catches last year.
Four of the top five receivers return for TCU, with the exception of David Porter now with the Broncos. Josh Doctson is the Z receiver and had 65 catches for 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Kolby Listenbee is the X receiver and made 41 catches for 753 yards and 4 touchdowns. H-Back Deante’ Gray made 36 catches for 582 yards and 8 touchdowns, and also rushed for 88 yards. Y receiver Ty Slanina made 32 catches for 383 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The offensive line returns four starters but right tackle Hala Vaitai moves to the left side. His replacement will be Joseph Noteboom. The four returning starters have a combined 74 games of experience, anchored by third year starting center Joey Hunt.
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Defensive coordinators DeMontie Cross and Chad Glasgow have a rebuilding project on their hands with only 5 starters back. TCU uses a somewhat unconventional 4-2-5 defense.
Three starters return on the offensive line, led by tackle Davion Pearson who has 31 starts. He had 30 tackles including 8 for loss and 3.5 sacks last season. Ends Terrell Lathan and Josh Carraway also return, but Carraway will likely platoon with James McFarland on the left side. Nebraska transfer Aaron Curry will start at the other tackle after sitting out last year.
Both starting linebackers are gone including All-American Paul Dawson, now with the Cincinnati Bengals. He led the team in tackles with 55 including 20 for loss and 6 sacks, and also added 4 interceptions. Incoming freshmen Mike Freeze and Alec Dunham will likely be pressed into action right away, but junior Sammy Douglas and redshirt freshman Ty Summers will also compete for the starting spots.
Safety Chris Hackett left school early for the NFL after making 7 interceptions. He wasn’t drafted but signed as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Sophomore cornerback Ranthony Texada is the only returning starter after starting all 13 games as a freshman. Kenny Iloka will likely start in place of Hackett. Patterson has toyed with the idea of trying out receivers Gray and Cameron Echols-Luper at cornerback to add depth.
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Senior kicker Jaden Oberkrom is the active NCAA leader in field goals made with 58 in his career. Punter Ethan Perry is also a four year starter and averaged 45.3 yards per punt last year. Texada will return kicks, after Echols-Luper did it last year. Echols-Luper will still return punts and had a punt return for a touchdown last season.
TCU opens the season with a tough but winnable road game at Minnesota. The rest of September includes home games against Stephen F. Austin and SMU, and the conference opener at Texas Tech. October brings home games against Texas and West Virginia, and road games at Kansas State and Iowa State. In November, TCU travels to Oklahoma State, hosts Kansas, plays at Oklahoma and close the season at home against Baylor. The Baylor game could be a de facto Big 12 championship game and perhaps even a play-in game for the playoffs if everything works out well.
In the past, TCU relied on a strong defense to cover up some problems on offense. It might be the opposite this year. Don’t get me wrong, there is talent on defense, just not a lot of experience. Still, this team will likely be favored in every game and has a great shot of winning the Big 12 and qualifying for the playoff.
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