For most people, the 2014 season for TCU will be remembered for their snub from the inaugural playoffs. I assume that you, like I, have seen far too many articles and read more sentences than you care to regarding the issue, so I will just leave it at that. More importantly than what 13 suited dudes (and dudette) think about their team's quality is how they came out and performed after such news. In just a few weeks, Gary Patterson took his heartbroken, but highly-efficient, football machine and turned it into a blood-thirsty army ready to destroy whatever helpless creature lies in it's path.
Cue a 42-3 dismantling of Ole Miss.
I'm not a huge believer in taking bowl success from the previous season and using it as a fail-proof projection of what is to come in the next, but if you ever doubted TCU's grit and Patterson's ability to motivate groups of 18-23 year old men, those doubts should be solemnly laid to rest by now.
With basically the entire offense returning and Patterson's track record for excellent defenses, saying the Horned Frogs are a shoe-in for the playoff isn't exactly stepping out on a limb. But safe bets are called that for a reason, and TCU is about as close as you're going to get to one before August even rolls around.
Arguably the most important position on the football field is the quarterback, and TCU has Vegas' best bet to win the Heisman in Trevone Boykin under center (we should consider calling it "behind center" at this point). His career started abruptly, being thrown into the starting position as a true freshman due to Casey Pachall's personal issues, and he did about as well as you could expect a true freshman to do under the circumstances. After an uninspiring sophomore year and lack of offensive efficiency, Patterson decided it was due for a change. He hired two new co-offensive coordinators that brought in a dynamic, fast paced, air-raid along with Johnny Football's backup to run it, who was seen by outsiders as TCU's next starting quarterback. But after seeing Boykin's abilities shine in a system tailored to magnify his strengths and utilize all of the Frog's weapons, he won the job in the offseason and never looked back, breaking single-season school records for touchdown passes (33), total touchdowns (42), passing yards (3,901) and total offense (4,608).
If you're searching for a reason as to why Boykin shouldn't have another explosive season, tools he has at his disposal and chemistry will not be valid answers. The only losses from 2014 were tailback B.J. Catalon, and third wide-out David Porter. Catalon was basically replaced last year after an injury kept him out for five games and Aaron Green spelled him more than adequately, and six other highly-talented receivers stand in the wake to fill in the y spot in Porter's absence.
The big-uglies on both sides of the ball will also have plenty of mutual experience to draw from, returning six seniors on the offensive side (including two reigning second team all-Big 12 performers from last season) and six players on the defensive line that played in every game last year. While they do have several solid starting options on the offensive line, depth could become an issue should one or two players get injured.
But as far as sure bets on this year's edition of the Horned Frogs, the back seven of Patterson's patented 4-2-5 defense is not one of them. After losing their top three players, the linebacking corps is 75% freshmen on the post-spring depth chart, and the secondary is charged with the task of replacing two NFL-caliber seniors and a three-year starter. Not to mention that Patterson will have a new defensive coordinator for the first time since 2003. The personnel in the linebacking corp and secondary could be a bit gamey, but doubt a Gary Patterson defense at your own risk.
In summary, TCU will be an offensive juggernaut with a solid defense, aside from maybe a few hiccups here and there due to lack of experience in the back seven and breaking in new defensive coordinators. If the defense does get off to a rocky start, there won't be much room for comfort the first week as the Frogs travel to Minneapolis to face a solid Gopher team. Should they get off to a bad start, they do have a couple of cupcakes to iron out the kinks in time for Big 12 play and will be battle-tested early, which isn't great news for Texas Tech, Texas, or us. As always, it will be hard to walk away from the Big 12 round-robin unscathed, but don't be surprised if you see a picture similar to the one that adorns this article in late November.
What does all of the above mean for the Cats? Not a whole lot of good if we're being honest. As we all are acutely aware, Snyder 2.0 teams have not done particularly well against teams with an obvious athletic advantage, and that's exactly what TCU has against us. Bill Snyder's level of consistency works both in mitigating how poorly his teams play, but it's also just as unlikely to play highly above their means, which is why he isn't typically known for creating upsets. That and Snyder's teams are always solid, so the potential for an upset is not usually there to begin with. Sandwiched between Texas and Iowa State on TCU's schedule, the chances of them looking ahead are slim and Texas may not have the ability this year to compete with them. So while the home-field advantage will certainly help, one thing I wouldn't bet on is our chances for an upset.