David Ubben, ESPN's dedicated Big12 blogger, is running a fascinating series of posts at ESPN.com, predicting not only the outcome, but a fact or two about each game for each Big12 team in 2012. Here's his notes about each TCU game. Aside from thoroughly discounting TCU's run defense, where is Ubben wrong, and where is he right? (And, given the linebacker situation in Fort Worth, just how wrong is Ubben's total lack of faith in TCU's ability to stop the run?)
Week 1: bye
Week 2: TCU 45, Grambling 17: Welcome to the 2012 season, Frogs! TCU had to endure a bye in Week 1, but the Frogs' Big 12 debut gets off to a nice start against an overmatched Grambling team. TCU's defense struggles early, but hits its stride late for a second-half shutout.
Not a lot to argue with that prediction about Grambling, if the middle of the defense is as weak as it might be. But the Frogs will be up, because it's the opener and the stadium will be rocking, and if Gary Patterson and Randy Shannon can make a linebacking corps out of Cain + the freshmen + the converted defensive backs, that shutout may start in the first half.
Week 3: TCU 41, Kansas 17: Kansas coach Charlie Weis had his team practice kicking a game-winning field goal and reaching 3-0 in this game during an open practice in the spring. Not happening. TCU goes to Lawrence and debuts its first Big 12 game the right way. KU will improve this year, but it's not happening just yet.
OK. 17 points? Maybe last season; I hope not this season.
Week 4: TCU 34, Virginia 28: The questions around TCU's defense continue through the early part of the season, but the offense assures that they're not too painful to answer just yet. Skye Dawson notches his second 100-yard game of the season, making ESPN highlight reels with an 85-yard catch and run for a third-quarter score that put the Frogs ahead for good.
Funny, love for Skye Dawson. I bet some of the younger receivers are outshining the senior by this game.
Week 5: TCU 38, SMU 31: TCU struggles early, but earns its revenge in Dallas over a fast-improving June Jones team. Garrett Gilbert's Redemption Tour crashes back into the Big 12, but TCU's offense is too much. The powerful running game wears down the Ponies in the fourth quarter and keeps Gilbert, Zach Line and the rest of the offense off the field.
I can see this game being lower scoring, but with the Frogs looking for revenge, it won't be this close. Poor Sach Line is working behind a very young o-line this season, and against an improved Frog d-line.
Week 6: TCU 27, Iowa State 24: The Cyclones nearly trip up the Horned Frogs' undefeated season in a physical game in Fort Worth, but Waymon James rumbles in for a three-yard, go-ahead score in the final minute to deny Paul Rhoads another big upset. James White tops 100 yards, but the struggles at quarterback are catching up to the Cyclones a bit.
Here's where I hope Ubben has gotten off the rails. If TCU is giving up 100-yard games to teams like SMU and Iowa State, then the Frogs' experiments at linebacker have failed, and the remainder of the season is going to be ugly.
Week 7: TCU 38, Baylor 34: TCU's return trip to Baylor? For most of the day, Casey Pachall looks like he did in the fourth quarter of last year's game and the Horned Frogs get a little revenge on their former Southwest Conference rivals. The game gets pretty chippy in the final minutes when the teams keep jawing at one another, but a major incident is avoided.
Again, revenge. One of these two teams returns its core, and it ain't the one in green.
Week 8: TCU 41, Texas Tech 31: Texas Tech has a lot to prove as a front seven when it comes to stopping the run, but TCU's balanced attack takes advantage. Matthew Tucker and Waymon James both top 100 yards and Casey Pachall only has to throw 15 passes in Fort Worth.
Put this down: Texas Tech ain't scoring 31 points against TCU this season. Even if the Frogs' defense is bad, it ain't gonna be that bad, and the Red Raiders aren't that good.
Week 9: Oklahoma State 47, TCU 41: TCU's undefeated season is officially over, fittingly at the hands of the reigning Big 12 champs. The Horned Frogs turn in a valiant effort on the road, but the Cowboys get the win by holding off a late charge. The 17-point, fourth-quarter lead is protected with, what else, a game-sealing turnover in the final minutes.
If the true fresman, Wes Lunt, is still starting QB in Stillwater by the ninth week, the Cowboys are not going to score 47 points against the Horned Frogs. TCU wins this, something like 41 to 21.
Week 10: West Virginia 38, TCU 28: The Horned Frogs will be walking into a powder keg in Morgantown. A year ago, these teams were to meet in a conference game, but who would have figured it'd be a Big 12 game instead of a Big East game? WVU takes care of business against a TCU secondary that can't handle the Tavon Austin-Stedman Bailey duo. Big game for Geno Smith. Two consecutive losses for TCU after starting 7-0.
Au contraire, Mr. Ubben, TCU's secondary is going to be fine. Yes, it'll give up some long plays against Smith-Bailey-Austin, but mostly it'll frustrate the Mountaineers with a fine rush, and confusing blitzes and coverages. TCU's core players know how to bring it in big road games; I see this playing out something like the Boise game last season, only Boise was better the West Virginia, and TCU 2012 will be better than TCU 2011. TCU wins, in a nail-biter, because of its defense.