Gary Patterson and the TCU Horned Frogs entered the season last year expected by many to win the Big 12. They dealt with crippling injuries throughout the season, though, and fell short - though their 11-2 record, with the only losses coming at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, is a long way from embarrassing. Now Patterson has to deal with roster turnover on offense like few other teams in the country have to face.
The way he handled so many setbacks last year, though, and the success he has with the program - winning at least 11 games in eight of the last 11 seasons - makes it easier to have faith in this team than it would be for many in similar situations.
Key Additions and Departures
The team has one returning regular starter from last year on offense. One. You surely have to ask yourself how that is even possible. A couple of others - especially on the line - have a little starting experience as the injury bug was not limited to the defense last year. It's not quite as bad as it sounds overall, as injuries and the fast style of play meant that a lot of guys saw playing time even if they didn't start. While there is huge turnover at wide receiver, for example, led by the departure of first-round draft pick Josh Doctson, there are still three guys who combined for 76 catches and more than 1,000 yards back this year.
The biggest question they have to face is at quarterback, where both star Trevone Boykin and Bram Kohlhausen, the walk-on fifth-year senior who led the team to the biggest comeback in NCAA postseason history after Boykin was suspended for trying to punch a police officer, are gone. The likely starter is Texas A&M transfer Kenny Hill, though redshirt sophomore Foster Sawyer could be in the mix as well. Either QB will have to hope that the line, featuring four new starters and some big question marks, can protect them. The team will get a big boost from players returning after prolonged injury absences. Receiver Deante Gray missed all of last year with a knee injury, but he scored eight times the prior year. Receiver Ty Slanina missed most of last year as well, but he should be healthy to start the season.
Defensively it's a different story. They lost a couple of players - most notably safety Derrick Kindred, now with the Browns - but they largely dealt with the same kind of issues last year that the offense faces now, so they have more young-but-experienced players to work with. The linebacking corps faced ridiculous attrition and injury woes last year, but as a result they had three promising youngsters see a lot of game action, and they will be ready to be very solid this year. The secondary is solid, and the defensive line gets a big boost from the return of James McFarland, who was out all of last year. This defense is the strength of this team right now - or at least the unit that is easier to judge.
TCU Horned Frogs Schedule Analysis
The nonconference schedule certainly isn't too tough . A game at home against Arkansas in Week 2 is by far the most interesting, but TCU should be better than Arkansas is right now even if the visiting team is on a path of improvement. South Dakota State and SMU won't likely be much of a challenge at all.
As a Big 12 team they play every team in the conference, so the only factors that matter are where the games are and the order they are played in. It could certainly be worse. They get both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State at home, and two of their four conference road games - at West Virginia and Kansas - should be easy. The other two trips are to Baylor and Texas. Both of those games could present some challenges, but they are later in the season, and it is far from certain that either team will have a strong season given all each team has to overcome.
There is a three-game stretch of Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas which is the toughest of the schedule, but there is a bye after the Baylor game so it certainly isn't as bad as it could be.
This is a manageable schedule for a team of this caliber, and if they get off to a good start there is at least a chance that they will be favored for all but the Oklahoma game.
2016-17 TCU Betting Odds and Trends
Bovada has TCU at +3300 to win the National Championship, which has them tied with Baylor, Michigan State and USC as the 13th choice. They are tied with Oklahoma State as the second choice to win the Big 12 at +500, though they are far, far behind favored Oklahoma at -140. BetOnline sets the season win total at 8.5, with the "under" favored at -130.
Despite going a strong 11-2 last year, the team was thoroughly underwhelming to bet on - they were 7-6 ATS and went under the total seven times compared to six "overs".
2016-17 TCU Predictions and College Football Picks
We'll know a lot about this team within two weeks of the start of the season, as that contest against Arkansas will be very telling. Assuming they win that then they could certainly have the potential to take one step forward from last year - I don't see them beating Oklahoma, but Oklahoma State is certainly vulnerable in a game played in Fort Worth. This team will be in the conference mix and is a good bet to finish second - unless everything falls apart badly on offense, which we will know early on.
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