TCU proving it was a good choice for maybe-expanding Big 12
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) With the Big 12 considering expansion, TCU coach Gary Patterson knows what he believes should be expected of potential additions.
''It's not the conference's job to make that university better,'' Patterson said. ''It's the university's job to make the conference better, whether it's in football, academics or whatever it is.''
Much like what Patterson feels the Horned Frogs have done, proving themselves a ''good choice'' since TCU and West Virginia were brought into the Big 12 four years ago when Missouri and Texas A&M bolted for the SEC.
When left out of the original Big 12 lineup in 1996, TCU went on to win championships in the WAC, Conference USA and Mountain West. Now transitioned into the Power Five conference, the Frogs are 23-3 the past two seasons with a share of the 2014 Big 12 title.
''I thought TCU was a great addition. Because we already had enough vision,'' Patterson said. ''We were building a new stadium, we were changing our facilities already, and not when we came into the new conference. We were changing everything we were doing academically.''
Dual-threat quarterback Trevone Boykin is gone after two record-setting seasons in TCU's potent offense, but the Frogs have 13 returning starters (seven defensive, six offensive) from last year's 11-2 team. They also get back six more starters (four defensive, two offensive) who suffered season-ending injuries last year.
Some things to watch at TCU in 2016:
HILL'S HOME: Kenny Hill gets a fresh start near home after being TCU's scout team quarterback last fall. The playmaker started his college career as the successor to Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, but left after two seasons and spent the 2015 spring semester in junior college before enrolling at TCU. TCU coaches insist Hill is competing with strong-arm sophomore Foster Sawyer to be the starting quarterback.
FROM BOTH SIDES: Defensive end Josh Carraway was one of the league's top pass-rushers with nine sacks last season when right end James McFarland was out because of a broken toe. McFarland, now back at left end, had a team-high seven sacks in 2014.
HERE TO STAY: Patterson is signed through the 2021 season after a recent one-year extension. He is the school's winningest head coach with 143 wins going into his 16th season. Patterson has 10 seasons of at least 10 wins – TCU had only four 10-win seasons before that.
KEY GAMES: TCU gets a tough non-conference test at home Sept. 10 against Arkansas, whose coach was at Wisconsin when the Frogs ended their undefeated 2010 season with a Rose Bowl win over the Badgers. Big 12 favorite Oklahoma visits Oct. 1, and Oklahoma State also crosses the Red River to play TCU on Nov. 19. The Frogs go to Baylor on Nov. 5, their first trip there since that epic 61-58 loss in 2014 – TCU won at home in double overtime over the Bears to end the 2015 regular season.
PREDICTION: With all the returning experience, the Frogs should be able to reach at least 10 wins again and be near the top of the Big 12 standings in position for a possible New Year's Six spot. Beat Oklahoma to start October, and TCU would have early momentum to make a push for the conference title.
SEASON OPENER: Sept. 3 vs. South Dakota State. Patterson's only loss to a lower-division team was in overtime to Northwestern State of Louisiana in his first home game as TCU's coach in 2001. The Jackrabbits, a top-10 FCS team, opened last season with a 41-38 win at winless Big 12 team Kansas.
Online: AP College football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org