The case for

The Horned Frogs had a fairly encouraging major conference debut last season, going 4--5 in the Big 12 and 7--6 overall. Even more encouraging for 2013: Three of those losses came by seven points or fewer, and 15 starters return. That total includes nine from a defense that ranked 16th nationally in yards from scrimmage (323.9 per game) and saw a pair of stars emerge in cornerback Jason Verrett (AP third-team All-America) and defensive end Devonte Fields (10 sacks and a conference-best 18½ tackles for loss), the lone unanimous preseason all-conference selection. Also back is QB Casey Pachall, who in four wins last September threw for 948 yards and 10 touchdowns with just one interception. But an October arrest for DWI led to a season-ending suspension and substance-abuse rehab. (Pachall, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor DWI, also failed a drug test earlier in 2012.) He must now beat out sophomore Trevone Boykin, who was erratic as a starter last fall.

The case against

Pachall has to return to top form for TCU to keep pace in a conference full of high-powered attacks. Also, Fields is suspended for the Frogs' first two games for an unspecified violation of university and team policies.

Coach Speak

GARY PATTERSON

SI

Between the conference change and the stadium expansion, it's been a busy few years for you.

GP

It's awesome for me getting the stadium done. So finally, for my first spring in about three or four years, I was able to be just a football coach, which is a big difference.

SI

Some have tabbed you as a sleeper for the Big 12 title. What do you make of that shift in perception?

GP

If somebody picks us low, it's my job to prove them wrong. And if somebody picks us high, it's my job to prove them right. I think that's what head coaches' jobs are.

SI

Is the "new" feeling of the conference gone?

GP

At least we have played everybody once. It takes you two years to play them all at your place once, their place once, so your kids get a feel for playing in those stadiums and how you do things. The good thing was, we won four out of five of our conference games on the road. Usually that's a thing that your kids have to learn the most. That's the biggest deal: How do you find a way to win more at home and keep up the same kind of energy you had going on the road and playing?

Player to Watch

He may not play right away, but 5'10", 190-pound four-star freshman running backKyle Hicksrepresents a boost in status for TCU. Hicks originally committed to Texas but switched to join high-school teammate defensive end Devonte Fields in Fort Worth.

PHOTOCHARLIE RIEDEL/AP (CARTER)Brandon Carter PHOTOCHRISTIAN PETERSEN/GETTY IMAGES (PATTERSON) CHART
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)