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College Football Picks: TCU Legitimate Big 12 Conference Title Contenders

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TCU head coach Gary Patterson is at his best when his team is flying under the radar, which is precisely what the Horned Frogs are doing entering the 2017 season.  Coming off the program’s second losing season in 12 years, TCU is a legitimate Big 12 Conference Title contender.

The Horned Frogs are the most experienced team in the Big 12 with seventeen returning starters, including ten on the offensive side of the ball. Speaking of offense, TCU will have one of the most explosive attacks in the nation.  All three running backs from last year’s squad return, including senior tailback Kyle Hicks.

Hicks was the team’s offensive MVP last season, rushing for 1,042 yards at 5.1 yards per carry.  Hicks also led the team in receptions with 47 (417 yards; 8.9 yards per reception).  Darius Anderson rushed for over 100 yards against the Longhorns last season and provides depth in the backfield.

TCU takes the field with one of the best wide receiving units in the country. All nine receivers return, including seniors Taj Williams and John Diarse. This will be the most productive (and dangerous) wide receiving corp. in college football.  Starting quarterback Kenny Hill returns for his senior season after throwing for 3,208 yards (61.1%) last year.

Starting quarterback Kenny Hill returns for his senior season after throwing for 3,208 yards (61.1%) last year.  Hill should bounce back from a disappointing campaign wherein he led the Big 12 with thirteen interceptions.  In fact, my models indicate that Hill will match his production in 2014 with Texas A&M (2,649 yards; 67%; 23-8).

Offensive coordinators Sonny Cumbie and Curtis Luper have an experienced offensive line to work with as nine of the top 10 players from this unit return (75 career starts).  Coach Patterson always places an emphasis on developing a strong offensive line, and I expect the Horned Frogs will field one of the elite units in 2017.

TCU returns 74.9% of its tackles back on defense and possesses one of the best secondaries in the nation.  The entire two deep is back from last year’s unit that allowed a 57% completion rate and finished with 18 interceptions. Senior Nick Orr is the bedrock of this experienced unit and will have another outstanding season.

The Horned Frogs also own a very good linebacking unit that underperformed in 2016.  Travin Howard and Ty Summers are poised to have big years and I expect defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow to field one of the best front sevens in the Big 12 Conference.

Coach Patterson has compiled ten double-digit wins during his sixteen-year tenure in Fort Worth.  Following a disappointing 2016 campaign in which the Horned Frogs lost their final four home games and were defeated in the bowl, look for TCU to make some noise in the Big 12 Conference in 2017.

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