West Virginia Football Season Preview Game 8: TCU Horned Frogs

By the time Nov. 3 rolls around, both of the Big 12 Conference newcomers, West Virginia and TCU, will be settled in nicely (or perhaps not-so-nicely) into their new conference.

For the Mountaineers, it will be game five of Big 12 play, as they will be coming off their first bye week since the beginning of September.

For the Horned Frogs, it will be game six and part two of a two-week road trip that will begin in Stillwater, Okla.

WVU will be thrust into conference play, as it faces one of the conference favorites, Texas, in just its second Big 12 game.

On the other hand, TCU will be eased into the Big 12 a bit more, as its conference slate is oddly similar to the reverse order of the preseason Big 12 rankings; beginning with Kansas and ending with Oklahoma.

Regardless of how things shake out, the Horned Frogs will be taking a trip to Morgantown as they make the turn and head into the home stretch of the 2012 regular season.

At the helm for TCU is junior quarterback Casey Pachall (pronounced "PAW-hall"), who figures to assume an expanded role in his second season as the starter.

[caption id="attachment_830" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The pressure will be on TCU QB Casey Pachall in his first year in the Big 12. | Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj | US Presswire"][/caption]

Last year, the Brownwood, Texas native had just less than 3,000 yards passing with 25 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.

His 2011 numbers weren't eye popping by any means, but they didn't have to be.  TCU had the No. 19 rush offense in the nation, averaging 208.6 yards per game on the heels of three backs each with more than 700 yards.

It's actually impressive just how well the TCU coaching staff balanced out the carries for their three runners last season, as they had 120, 121, and 123 touches each.

Junior Waymon James returns after averaging 7.2 yards per carry and leading the way with 875 yards last year.

Joining him in returning to Fort Worth will be senior Matthew Tucker, the biggest back of the bunch.

The 6-1, 227-pound Tyler, Texas native was a terror near the goal line last year, accounting for 12 touchdowns—double that of James and No. 2 back Ed Wesley, who each had six.

[caption id="attachment_832" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Ed Wesley (34) will be missed in the TCU backfield. | Photo Credit: Keith Robinson"][/caption]

Wesley was also expected to contribute to the ground game for TCU in 2012, but now he simply represents an unexpected departures the Frogs will have to deal with.

Wesley's 726 yards will be missed after he elected the team to enter the NFL Supplemental Draft, likely due to his mother's health issues.

Fortunately, the Irving, Texas native was picked up by the Dallas Cowboys, but meanwhile the squad he left behind will be hurt by his departure, despite the apparent depth at running back.

However, running back depth isn't the main concern.  In front of those backs, only two starting offensive linemen return, as the remaining three starting slots must be filled.

Center James Fry and guard Blaize Foltz have 27 career starts between them and will be needed to anchor the line.

The Horned Frogs won't have to plug any wide-eyed freshmen into the starting line, as two juniors and a sophomore are expected to slide into the remaining slots.

However, overall depth on the line is a concern.

The defensive line is a much different story though, where each of the projected starters (and a few of the second-stringers) have recorded starting time.

TCU has one of the best defensive linemen in the country on the outside in junior Stansly Maponga.

The defensive end out of Carrollton, Texas registered nine sacks, 13.5 tackles for a loss, and 55 total tackles last season, along with five forced fumbles.

Expect him to be wreaking havoc on Big 12 blockers all year long.

A lot of pressure will be on Maponga and others to produce defensively after the departure of linebacker and defensive leader Tank Carder.

Senior linebacker Kenny Cain actually recorded more tackles than Carder last year in less games played, so expect him to carry the load in 2012.

One weak spot for TCU will likely be the secondary, which is good news for West Virginia.

Only one starter, cornerback Jason Verrett, returns from last season.  Verrett is a solid cover corner, but the depth behind him is a big question.

This should be enough for WVU to have a tactical advantage over TCU.

The Horned Frogs running game, coupled with the passing of Pachall, may pose a threat to the Mountaineer defense.

However, if WVU can keep Maponga at bay, Geno Smith should be able to have his way with the Horned Frogs secondary.

This will make it extremely difficult for TCU to keep up offensively.

Back to the West Virginia Mountaineers Newsfeed