Casey Pachall

No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 8 Clemson

The game snags the No. 1 spot on this list. The only Top 10 matchup of the weekend, these national title contenders will face off in primetime Saturday night. Although Georgia is favored, with two of the best offenses in college football and two of the best quarterbacks in the nation, this one could go either way. Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd are Heisman contenders this year looking to lead their teams to an undefeated season.

No. 12 LSU vs. No. 20 TCU

A decent amount of scandal surrounds this matchup. TCU quarterback Casey Pachall will make his debut following his indefinite suspension for a DWI incident that occurred in October of 2012. Between Pachall, TCU star defensive end Devonte Fields, who was suspended for violating team rules and LSU’s Jeremy Hill, who was arrested for punching a man outside a bar, the teams seem pretty evenly matched in the scandal department. Yet the favorite for the score board is LSU. But if Pachall returns and Fields is allowed to play, the Horned Frogs may stand a chance to knock off the national title contender.

Mississippi St. vs. No. 13 Oklahoma St.

Mississippi State failed to live up to expectations last season and is seeking redemption. Knocking off Oklahoma State, the Big 12’s top-ranked team, would be the jump-start they need to the season. Look for Bulldogs quarterback Tyler Russell to lead a high-powered offense that Mississippi State hopes can put enough points on the board to come out on top.

No. 1 Alabama vs. Virginia Tech

Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide hope to kick start the season with a victory over Virginia Tech. Alabama needs a big win build the momentum that will allow them to work their way through an SEC schedule with much tougher games down the road. Close to 40 percent of Virginia Tech’s players are either true or redshirt freshmen. Watching such a young team try to hold its own against a defending national champion is what makes this a game to watch.

TCU's Casey Pachall out of rehab, on road to redemption

DALLAS – This time last year, Casey Pachall was coming off a record-setting sophomore season in his first year as TCU’s starting quarterback and preparing for a promising junior year.

He and Trevone Boykin combined to complete all 17 of the Horned Frogs’ in a 56-0 blowout of Grambling State – an FBS record for most completions without an incompletion – while Gary Patterson became the program’s all-time winningest coach.

Pachall threw for more than 300 yards in each of the next two games and helped TCU improve to 4-0 in their first year as a member of the Big 12 following a 24-16 win over SMU.

The fall from grace was quick and unforgiving.

Pachall de-enrolled from the school and entered a rehab facility after being suspended by Patterson. Boykin, who had began working out with the team’s running backs the previous week, was back under center. The Horned Frogs fell to Iowa State, 37-24, in their Big 12 home opener the next weekend, ending their FBS-best 12-game winning streak.

“It was a hard decision,” Patterson said. “I knew it was going to affect our wins and losses. You had to take a guy we moved to running back and move him back to quarterback. But as far as what we’re doing for a young man’s life, I think it was an easy decision.”

Boykin, a redshirt freshman in 2012, improved as the season progressed, but TCU finished 7-6, its worst season in eight years. Patterson has yet to name a starting quarterback for this year, but Pachall is widely expected to beat out Boykin for the job. His teammates spoke to the changes they’ve seen in Pachall since his return.

“I lived with him,” senior running back Waymon James said. “When he was down with rehab, he was miserable. He couldn’t stand it. He was miserable every day. The only people he talked to was his mom, family and his girlfriend. He couldn’t take it anymore. You could tell on his face. He was excited to get back out there. He’s growing up. He’s maturing. He’s ready to take us to a championship.”

Pachall, who was picked by the media as the preseason All-Big 12 quarterback, was not among the four players representing TCU at Big 12 Media Days on Monday. This was at his request, according to his head coach.

“A lot of people asked me why I didn’t bring him to media days,” Patterson said. “Number one, we don’t know who our starting quarterback is. Two, it doesn’t have anything to do with what my intentions were… I’m letting him do his thing, keeping the pressure off him.”

Patterson could have easily dismissed Pachall, a repeat offender, from his team. But he gave him time away from the squad, left the door open for him to return, and welcomed him back with open arms. Time will tell if the move will pay off.

“He’s not just about winning. He’s about changing lives,” safety Sam Carter said. “He understands football is temporary. He understands we’re young. We’re 19 to 23 and we’re going to make mistakes. He was young before. Sometimes people need a second and third chance. We all make mistakes. Football is important but it’s about helping him become a better person.”

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin (2) is hit by Kansas State defensive end Adam Davis (55) and linebacker Arthur Brown (4) during the first half of a game Nov. 10 in Fort Worth.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

When TCU quarterback Casey Pachall was suspended indefinitely for a DWI arrest, the Horned Frogs turned to the only other player who had lined up under center this season on the roster, redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin.

Before assuming the starting duties, Boykin had played as a backup throwing for 74 yards and a touchdown through three games while racking up 122 yards on the ground. At this point in the season, after six games as the starting quarterback, Boykin has 1,540 yards in the air with 14 touchdowns, eight interceptions, and a 58.3 completion percentage. In addition, he has two touchdowns on the ground while rushing for 267 yards, the third leading rusher for TCU.

Considering the circumstances, Boykin’s 2-4 record doesn’t accurately show the progress he has made leading the Horned Frogs and the strides he has made towards solidifying his position as their starting quarterback for the foreseeable future.

“[Trevone] is a natural leader,” offensive lineman Blaize Foltz said last week. “It showed when he came back into the game after getting banged up. We definitely have a better chance to win when he is in the game for us.”

Against Baylor on Oct. 13, Boykin had a career day during a 49-21 blowout victory. He threw for 261 yards and four touchdowns, completing 73 percent of his passes. On the ground, Boykin also had 56 yards and one touchdown. He didn’t commit a turnover.

A pair of losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, which included a injury against the Cowboys, didn’t derail Boykin. Against West Virginia, he orchestrated a come-from-behind 39-38 victory for the Horned Frogs which included two overtimes. Boykin had 254 yards in the air and two touchdowns with 28 yards on the ground.

Although he is a powerful passing quarterback, Boykin can scramble when he needs to. Faced with a fourth-and-five situation against West Virginia, Boykin ran for 11 yards for the first down and then scampered for eight yards to set up good field goal position to tie the game. Later on in the game, Boykin threw a 95-yard touchdown to tie the game again and force overtime.

Even though Pachall is allowed to return in 2013 for another chance to play, Boykin may have solidified himself as next year’s go-to guy. Boykin prevented what could have been a disastrous season and guaranteed TCU a spot in the postseason.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Josh Boyce: The Texas defense has made great strides the last few weeks in coverage and in its ability to tackle. When the Longhorns face off against TCU, this progress will need to be continued as they will face another small and quick receiver in Josh Boyce. The junior wideout has had an impressive year thus far, racking up 756 yards on 56 receptions. His seven touchdowns lead the team, and his 13.5 yards per reception make him a player to watch. At 6-foot, 203 pounds, Boyce is similar to other players that have given the Longhorns problems all season long. His quickness allows him to get away from defenders and pick up necessary yards after the catch even in good coverage. His talents were showcased beautifully against West Virginia when he caught six passes for 180 yards with two touchdowns. For those people doing the math, that amounts to thirty yards per reception, which evidences Boyce’s ability to run with the football in his hands. The Longhorns should look to press Boyce early and keep him from finding lanes to run through when he catches the football.

Trevone Boykin: Boykin is a player who was forced into early action this season with the indefinite suspension of starting quarterback Casey Pachall. The freshman has had his up-and-downs, but has showcased the ability to perform under pressure. In the nine games he has appeared in this season, Boykin has passed for 1,540 yards with fourteen touchdowns. His eight interceptions show that he can make mistakes when pressured, but the same can be said for most freshman starters. Boykin’s most impressive performance came against a tough Texas Tech team. Despite a triple overtime loss, his 332 yards passing and four touchdowns in the contest showed that he could match the firepower of the prolific Tech offense. He has showcased a bit of ability with his legs also, rushing for two touchdowns while acquiring a 4.6 yards per carry average when he does run. The Longhorns should look to force Boykin to remain in the pocket and make throws against the toughest defense he’s seen so far in his career. He has proven he can play under pressure, but his detriments and inexperience have also shown themselves and Texas should look to exploit this while trying to contain him.

Devonte Fields: The Texas offensive line must pay attention to Devonte Fields. The freshman defensive end has had a productive season, picking up eight sacks and 43 tackles. His 15.5 tackles for loss lead the Horned Frog defense as Fields’ relentless pressure clogs up a lot of running lanes for opponents to get through. His speed at 240 pounds is a deadly weapon and will force the offensive line of Texas to be on top of their game in this matchup. If Texas wants to keep Ash, and the running backs, off their backs they will need to contain the established freshman and keep him from racking up even more sacks. Fields’ name will definitely be called more than once on Thanksgiving Day.

Quarterbacks
The Horned Frogs have gone just 2-4 since Casey Pachall’s DWI arrest, but this is not a reflection of the play of Trevone Boykin. The freshman has filled in admirably at the position, throwing for 1,540 yards and 14 touchdowns against eight interceptions. Boykin has been a threat on the ground as well, rushing for 267 yards and two scores on 93 attempts. Texas has also been the beneficiary of strong quarterback play for much of the season, and David Ash has responded from a mid-season slump with back-to-back impressive performances. Overall, the sophomore has completed 69.3 percent of his passes for 2,354 yards and 17 touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions. Ash’s efficiency rating of 161.7 leads the Big 12 and he is the leader of a Texas offense that has averaged nearly 40 points per game.
Advantage: Texas

Running Backs
The Longhorns have been one of the better running teams in the Big 12 this season, and Johnathan Gray has played a big role in his freshman campaign. Gray leads the team with 607 yards on the ground and is coming off of his first career multi-touchdown game. Joe Bergeron has become one of the nation’s top short-yardage backs, as he leads the team with 16 rushing touchdowns, and the return of Malcolm Brown solidifies the unit even further. TCU has been unspectacular on the ground, as its leading rusher has earned just 445 yards. As a team, the Horned Frogs average 3.9 yards per rush and have run for just nine touchdowns in ten games.
Advantage: Texas

Wide Receivers
Texas receivers Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley are both coming off of strong performances against Iowa State, as the pair combined for 15 receptions for 250 yards and a score against the Cyclones. Both Davis and Shipley have had nice seasons, as they have each caught at least 40 passes for 500 yards and have hauled in a total of 15 touchdowns. TCU has a balanced receiver unit as well, with at least four wideouts catching 21 or more passes for at least 300 yards. Josh Boyce has been the most productive Horned Frog, catching 56 passes for 756 yards and seven scores, and Brandon Carter has become a deadly big-play threat. Neither team is struggling at the position, but the Horned Frogs have benefitted from more depth at wide receiver in 2012.
Advantage: TCU


Offensive Line:
The offensive line has been perhaps the most impressive unit on this Longhorns’ team, as it allowed just seven sacks for 56 yards. Ash has consistently had time to complete passes downfield, as his receivers are averaging over 13 yards per catch. The run blocking has been strong as well, as the line has opened up running lanes all season for the Texas backs and allowed them to earn 4.8 yards per carry. TCU has not been nearly as efficient of offense this year, averaging under four yards per carry and 12.8 yards per catch. In addition, the TCU offensive line has surrendered 22 sacks for 166 yards. This has hindered the Horned Frogs on drives throughout the season.
Advantage: Texas

Defensive Line
The Texas defensive line is playing as well as it has all season and is coming off of an especially strong performance against Iowa State. Alex Okafor is enjoying a fine senior season, leading the team with eight sacks and 12 tackles for a loss. Cedric Reed has done a nice job filling in for an injured Jackson Jeffcoat at the opposite end, and defensive tackles Desmond Jackson and Brandon Moore have been solid up the middle in the past couple of games. As a whole, the Longhorns have recorded 23 sacks on the season. The Horned Frogs, too, boast a strong defensive line, as they too have brought the opposing quarterback down 23 times. That said, the Texas offensive line has been much tougher than that of TCU, and it will be much tougher for the Horned Frogs to generate pressure because of this.
Advantage: Texas

Linebackers
The play of the Texas linebackers has improved greatly in the past two weeks after struggling for much of the season. Steve Edmond has grown since the start of the season and he now leads the team with 43 unassisted tackles. Texas is still allowing five yards per rush and has surrendered and average of 200 yards per game on the ground. The Longhorns’ unit has made strides in limiting big plays, but will have to continue to improve its tackling. TCU has been one of the most stout run defenses in the Big 12, as it allows just 3.1 yards per carry and 98.4 rushing yards per game. The Horned Frog linebackers have been solid in bringing down opposing backs all season long.
Advantage: TCU

Defensive Backs
The Horned Frogs have been tough to beat through the air, as they have held opponents to just 6.6 yards per pass attempt. Teams have averaged 227.9 yards through the air per game against TCU, but the Horned Frogs have also intercepted 17 passes. Texas has been solid in the secondary as well, but opponents have been able to earn 7.7 yards per pass and have averaged 229.6 passing yards per game. The Longhorns have allowed four fewer scores through the air than have the Horned Frogs, but they have also recorded six fewer interceptions.
Advantage: TCU

Special Teams
Both teams have been strong returning kicks this season, with Texas earning 24.3 yards per return and TCU averaging 22.3 yards on kickoffs. The Horned Frogs have had the edge on punts, as they have gained an average of 15.4 yards on returns while Texas has earned 9.9 yards. The Horned Frogs have also been the more consistent team on field goals tries, as kicker Jaden Oberkrom has nailed 16 of his 22 attempts and is perfect on 37 extra point tries. The Longhorns have struggled at kicking field goals, going 7-for-13 attempts as a team. Three extra-point attempts have also been missed.
Advantage: TCU