The departures of Colorado and especially Nebraska were crushing blows to the Big-12 conference which was reduced from 12 schools to 10. The conference has now added TCU and West Virginia.
Losing a school with the enriched history and amount of success that the Nebraska Cornhuskers had to the Big 10 was in a sense a major defeat to the Big 12 Conference. Recently the Big 12 finalized a deal with the West Virginia Mountaineers after the Mountaineers endured a court battle with the Big East Conference and this conference can once again be truly considered the "Big 12".
TCU remains a member of the Big-12 Conference but they haven't gotten off to a respectable start.
On February 15th, 4 members of the TCU football team were arrested for selling drugs on campus (18 students in all). According to police, Tanner Brock; junior defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey; junior safety Devin Johnson and sophomore offensive tackle Ty Horn were selling marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, acid, and various other prescription medications. University officials are doing an investigation of the situation and the future of these players remains to be seen.
Let's put it bluntly, this is as bad as it gets for a new team entering a conference to have it's football players selling drugs and "hard drugs" nonetheless. TCU is coming off a season where they were the 18th ranked team in the nation and also coming off of a victory in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsetta Bowl.
I don't know how you introduce this after the arrested players have already introduced themselves but, let's take a look at the team.
High powered offense
TCU was ranked 9th in the nation in points scored, scoring over 40 points per game and it starts with their quarterback, junior Casey Pachall. Pachall had a breakout season throwing for 2921 yards with 25 TD and 7 INT on the season. Pachall's biggest game of the year came in a 36-35 upset of Kellen Moore and the Boise State Broncos. Pachall threw for 473 yards with 5 TD and 1 INT. This is basically a 200 yard passer per game that had a huge game against one of the best teams in the nation and is known for not making mistakes. Pachall should be much improved in the 2012 season.
TCU is stacked at running back with the trio of Waymon James (875 yards, 6 TD), Ed Wesley (726 yards, 6 TD), and Matthew Tucker (702 yards, 12 TD).
Casey Pachall also has his top 3 receivers returning, led by Josh Boyce. Boyce caught for 998 yards and 9 TD in 2011 and his biggest game of the season was also against Boise State in where he caught for 163 yards and 3 TD.
Simply stated, this is an offense with depth and talent and will play a key role in TCU's success.
Defense: Guilty of a penalty!
The defense is the area that gets hit the most with the drugbust as safety Devin Johnson and defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey commit the ultimate foul.
Last season both players were major contributors as Johnson had 47 tackles (8 for losses), 2.5 sacks, 3 passes broken up and 1 forced fumble. D.J. Yendrey contributed with 39 tackles (5 for losses) and 3 sacks. Linebacker Tanner Brock was sidelined with a foot injury last season but in 2010, this linebacker led the team in tackles with 106 and was a major force. Stay tuned as this could be a real blow to the TCU defense.
Losing 2 of it's top 3 tacklers, linebacker Kenny Cain (72 tackles, 1 INT, 1 sack) returns for TCU for his senior season. Also returning for the Horned Frogs is junior defensive lineman Stansly Maponga who dominated with 9 sacks on the season.
You're looking at a similar season or possibly better as this is a deep team at key positions. Look for TCU to possibly go 12-1 or 11-2 in their inaugural season in the Big-12 Conference.
The Big East fought hard to keep West Virginia but ultimately lost the battle. The Big-12 will be getting another top 25 team in WVU and the Mountaineers were 10-3 last season and embarrassed 15th ranked Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl 70-33. Yes folks, that's no typo.
West Virginia also has the 6th best passing team in the nation and ranked 13th in points. The addition of these two teams has certainly made the Nebraska Cornhuskers an afterthought.
WVU is led by senior quarterback Geno Smith out of Miami, Florida. Last season, Smith had a huge season, throwing for 4385 yards with 41 TD and 7 INT. Smith also went huge at the Discover Orange Bowl. He threw for 407 yards and 6 TD. The Mountaineers and Geno Smith will be coming into 2012 with major momentum.
Both of Smith's 1000 yard receivers of last year, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin will both be returning. These are short receivers that are 5 foot 10 and 5 foot 9, rescpectively, with speed. Last season, Tavon Austin caught 101 passes for 1186 yards and 8 TD's. Can anyone say Wes Welker? The Mountaineers were led by junior Stedman Bailey with 1279 yards and 9 TD's. West Virginia loses receivers Devon Brown, Willie Millhouse, and tight end Tyler Urban, but this receiving group is still stacked.
The running game looks to be promising as sophomore Dustin Garrison led the team in rushing last season while senior running back Shawnee Alston managed to find himself in the endzone 12 times.
The Big 12 certainly caught lightning in a bottle with the combination of TCU and West Virginia's offenses.
West Virginia didn't have one of the better defenses in the league last season, giving up almost 27 points per game but this is a high scoring team and you're going to see shootouts as you did in the Orange Bowl.
WVU losses 2 of it's top 3 tacklers to graduation but junior defensive back Darwin Cook returns. Cook had 85 tackles, 2 INT, and a fumble recovery for 99 yards and a TD last season. Although there are some senior losses, Cook will be supported in the secondary by Terence Garvin (72 tackles, 3.5 sacks) and Pat Miller (66 tackles, 2 INT's(1 for a TD)
The defensive line take's a real hit with the losses of it's 2 top sackmasters in Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller. WVU also say's goodbye to linebacker Najee Goode. Defensive lineman Will Clarke will try to fill the void but there are some holes.
Look for a similar 10-3 season out of West Virginia. The passing game is top notch but the defense has suffered some losses and although this is a team with momentum and potential, there's no substitute for a good defense.
We've taken a look at the new editions to the Big-12 Conference. They were mocked for playing just 10 teams last season but they've found top notch additions in TCU and West Virginia. Let's hope that the TCU incident is a one-time occurrence to a great conference.
Stay tuned for more updates on the Big-12 Conference and our college football picks later in the year.