Comparing WVU and TCU’s entrance into the Big 12 Conference
Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 19:06
As West Virginia becomes part of the Big 12 Conference, the Mountaineer football program gains prominence. Headlined by three prolific offensive playmakers in Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, a rock-star head coach in Dana Holgorsen and a 70-point 2012 Orange Bowl pulping of the Clemson defense, and suddenly the old Gold and Blue becomes the new media favorite of the Big 12 Conference.
With almost every national sports outlet having representation at WVU spring practices – including ESPN’s Drive to the National Championship bus rolling through Morgantown – the hype around the program continues to build.
Smith, Austin and Bailey have been named preseason All-Americans by Phil Steele and Athlon Sports. Center Joe Madsen was moved to the Rimington Award preseason watch list, while six other Mountaineers were named to either Steele’s or Athlon’s preseason All-Big 12 team.
West Virginia knows it has all the ability to compete in the Big 12. New defensive coordinator Joe DeForest has been in the conference since 2001. His new 3-4 scheme has the defense feeling like they’re able to play freely and react to plays.
Both offensively and defensively the West Virginia coaches have instilled confidence in this program, that yes, it has given this team a "swagger."
Not only do the players believe, but it seems everyone around the Big 12 feels WVU is an early front-runner, along with Oklahoma, to compete for the Big 12 title.
While the timing for the Big 12 for West Virginia couldn’t be better, for the Texas Christian University football program the offseason has brought unfamiliar territory for the storied football school. In February, the Horned Frogs’ defense took a huge blow when Tanner Brock, DJ Yendry and Devin Johnson were all arrested in a campus-wide drug scandal.
Missing all of 2011 to a season-ending injury, Brock was a Sports Illustrated All-American in 2010 and totaled 106 tackles. Yendry and Johnson were big players on the two deep this past season. TCU is going to need all the defensive depth they can get as they go into the Big 12 with opposing high tempo offenses.
On top of losing one defensive star and two defensive
contributors, late last month starting running back Ed Wesley left the program, citing family reasons. For TCU to succeed early, they have to be able to keep opposing offenses off the field, and Wesley was a big part of that.
TCU also has to be able to run the football well. Last season the duo of Wesley and Waymond James was able to do that. This year it’ll be different – James will have to carry the load.
Since the Big 12 is an offensive league, the logical question has to be, is TCU’s defensive style of play good enough to slow those offenses?
TCU’s defense has dominated in the Mountain West and has been able to prepare for games like the 2011 Rose Bowl against Wisconsin where they held the Badgers to just 19 points. But now TCU has to prove week to week that it can handle the full throttled offenses in the Big 12.
I’m not saying the Horned Frogs can’t succeed, because eventually under arguably the best defensive teacher in the nation, Gary Patterson, they will. Since Patterson took over in 2001, he’s dealt with three conference affiliation changes and still has led the Frogs to the seventh best winning national percentage (.790) since.
TCU will get it right eventually, but West Virginia is more ready to win right now. WVU’s style of play and star power fits the league while TCU’s style has to be developed and adjusted in order to do well. In year one, with everything culminating at the right time for West Virginia, the Mountaineers are more likely to have on-field success.