The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Today at No. 20: TCU

Coach: Gary Patterson (109-30, 12th season)

2011 record: 11-2 (7-0 in Mountain West, first in the MWC)


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Look back: TCU is coming off its fourth straight season of double-digit wins and its eighth out of 10 under Gary Patterson. An two-point loss to Baylor in Week 1 started the season off on the wrong foot for the Horned Frogs but the team quickly rebounded and won the next three games. An overtime loss to SMU on Oct. 1 was the last glitch for TCU, which won its next seven games and earned a spot in the Poinsettia Bowl. A 31-24 win over Louisiana Tech, guaranteed the team its second consecutive bowl victory. In the offseason, TCU accepted an invitation to play in the Big 12 Conference this season.

Offensive starters lost/returning: 5/6

Defensive starters lost/returning: 6/5

Key losses: WR Antonie Hicks, RB Ed Wesley, LB Tank Carder, S Tekerrein Cuba, S Johnny Fobbs

Top returnees: QB Casey Pachall, WR Josh Boyce, LB Kenny Cain, DE Stansly Maponga

Strengths: Casey Pachall returns to lead the TCU offense. In his first season as the starting quarterback, Pachall completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,921 yards and 25 touchdowns. The Horned Frogs were second in the Mountain West in scoring offense (41.1 points per game) and total offense (464.4 yards per game). Pachall was second in the league in passing yards per game (227.9) behind Boise State’s Kellen Moore. … Last season, TCU had three running backs that rushed for at least 700 yards – Waymon James (875 yards/6 TDs), Ed Wesley (726/6) and Matthew Tucker (702/12). Wesley decided to leave school during the offseason leaving the other two to share duties this season.

Weaknesses: Hard to imagine that a team with the 32nd-ranked defense in the country would be considered a concern but that was the case. TCU gave up 21.5 points per game last season, which was uncharacteristic for Patterson’s teams. The unit only returns five starters including linebacker Kenny Cain, who was the team’s leading tackler (72). Cain will step into a bigger role for the team especially after the departure of Tank Carder. The defensive line returns three starters including end Stansly Maponga, who led the team in sacks (9) and was tied for first on the team in tackles for loss (4.5). … The secondary was hit the hardest, losing safeties Tekerrein Cuba and Johnny Fobbs. Both accounted for 135 tackles and nine passes defended.

Outlook: TCU makes the lead from the Mountain West to the Big 12 this season. The style of play will be different as will be the quality of opponents. The offense runs through Pachall and should be okay making the transition however the defense is what could make or break this team. Can Patterson and his coaching staff get his players ready to face the grind of week-in and week-out opponents like Oklahoma, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas?

2012 Schedule

Sept. 8 Grambling State

Sept. 15 at Kansas

Sept 22 Virginia

Sept. 29 at SMU

Oct. 6 Iowa State

Oct. 13 at Baylor

Oct. 20 Texas Tech