In the summer of 2012, two teams joined the Big 12 Conference as brand new members, the West Virginia Mountaineers and the TCU Horned Frogs. Both teams went 7-6 their first year and struggled in their second year. Since then, the teams have not been on the same paths. TCU turned a 4-8 finish in 2013 into a 12-1 record in ‘14 and 11-2 in ‘15. As the Mountaineers soared in 2016, the Frogs dropped to 6-7. In 2017, Gary Patterson’s team rebounded for their third 11-win season in the Big 12.
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Recommended Blog: Frogs ‘O War
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Conference: Big 12
THE HEAD COACH
While Mike Gundy is the longest tenured Big 12 head coach, Patterson is the longest tenured at his school, having joined the Frogs in 2000. Patterson has become synonymous with tough defenses that are capable of slowing down even the most high-powered offenses. Patterson guided his Horned Frogs through three different conference moves, going from the WAC (Western Athletic Conference) to C-USA (Conference USA) to MWC (Mountain West Conference) to the Big 12. He has coached his team to 11 double-digit win seasons in 18 full seasons as head coach while claiming a share of the conference title six times.
SCOUTIN’ THE FROGS
Patterson has had a rollercoaster tenure in the Big 12. Three times his team has won at least 11 games and twice he has finished under .500. The Frogs followed up an 11-3 season in 2017 with a season that nearly cost them bowl eligibility. Two quick non-conference wins set up a showdown with the Ohio State Buckeyes in Week 3. The Frogs performed well for 3 quarters before succombing to the Buckeyes. The loss to the Buckeyes set up a horrid mid-season stretch that the Frogs would go 2-6 against, beating only Iowa State and Kansas State. Following a 47-10 beatdown at the hands of the Mountaineers, TCU righted its ship and won its last two conference games against Baylor and Oklahoma State to become bowl eligible. The Frogs finished their season with a win over the Cal Bears in the Cheez-It Bowl.
Who did they lose?
Leading passer Shawn Robinson is gone, suffering an injury-shortened season in which he only threw for 1300 yards and 9 touchdowns. Robinson wasn’t great for the Horned Frogs but he was a steady presence and one that Patterson will need to find a replacement for. Defensively, linebackers Ty Summers and Arrico Evans are gone along with safety Niko Small. The experienced trio gave Patterson a sense of calm on the defensive side of the ball and now TCU must find replacement for a pair of active linebackers and experienced safety.
Who do they return?
1,000 yard receiver Jalen Reagor returns to give whoever wins the starting quarterback position an electric receiver. Reagor set a TCU record with a touchdown catch in seven consecutive games. While Reagor keeps defense’s honest, running back Sewo Olonilua who had 635 yards last season returns. He should benefit from Reagors presence.
Garret Wallow returns and he was only 8 tackles shy of the team lead last season. Wallow is a solid all around defender for Patterson, who totaled 3 sacks and 2 pass knockdowns last season. Patterson’s secondary gets a boost as Jeff Gladney returns for his senior season as one of the Big 12’s best cornerbacks.
Why should West Virginia be worried?
Gary Patterson has only had consecutive mediocre seasons one time in his career. 6-6 in 2001 gave way to 10-2 in 2002. 5-6 in 2004 gave way to 11-1 in 2005. 8-5 in 2007 gave way to 11-2 in 2008. The only exception was the 2012-13 seasons. Still Patterson followed up the 4-8 season in 2013 with 12-1 2014 season.
Why should West Virginia not be worried?
Its another season where Patterson has to find his quarterback and that is usually the single largest determinant of whether or not a team has a good season. Most of the time, Patterson’s down seasons kept the same quarterback who was able to turn the corner, but now he is following up a mediocre season and must find a new QB.