On the first Sunday of last December, dark clouds converged on the Big 12 offices as neither TCU or Baylor made the Final Four cut which was a big shocker to many college football handicappers.
TCU was thought to be in at No. 3 in the latest poll, while Baylor was a longer shot at No. 5. But the lack of a championship game from the Big 12 turned out to hurt them and along with Ohio State's beatdown of Wisconsin and the Buckeyes shot up and the Horned Frogs were left wondering what happened.
The 2015 season brings a new opportunity for both programs and while neither has their own TV network, (Yea Texas, we are talking about you!) both are the sportsbooks betting odds favorites to win the Big 12.
On the national scale, Wagerweb for futures has TCU listed in the third spot to become national champions at +950 and the Bears are seventh at +1850 for college football odds. A national and southwest regional question is either team really a top choice for college fooball picks and if so, who? Here is a look into that question along with an answer.
With Year One in the books about how the football committee might view teams over the course of the season, without a title tilt, one can surmise the champion from the Big 12 better be undefeated.
The Horned Frogs inability to close out Baylor cost them and they know it, losing 61-58 as touchdown road underdogs. Head coach Gary Patterson believes steadfastly in his defensive system and while most would have played some zone against the Bears later in the contest, he chose not to.
The secondary will come into the season as a weakest area of the 4-2-5 defense and this again could decide their fate.
Offensively, quarterback Trevone Boykin is the Heisman favorite, after leading the "Air Raid" offense which averaged 46.5 points a game. With the senior signal caller and nine other returning starters, TCU should be ready and is a great choice for college football picks.
TCU will have to visit tough outposts like Minnesota, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and has Baylor as the last contest of their season on Black Friday, right after battling with the Sooners. Not easy, but going unbeaten seldom is.
Coach Art Briles brings back 17 starters, but has to introduce a new triggerman to run the attack. By all accounts fourth-year junior Seth Russell is the new quarterback and he could hardly be walking into more favorable situation. An outstanding offense line returns intact, led by All-American tackle Spenser Drago. Plus a 1,009-yard rusher (Shock Linwood) and a pair of 1,000-yard pass catchers (Corey Coleman and KD Cannon).
The linebacker position will have new faces, but the front four and secondary has ample talent and ability. The secondary in particular has to learn from its experience, as they too often gave up big plays against opponents who know how to throw the pigskin.
Briles recruits speed across the board, but despite a number of great campaigns, the Bears have wilted late in the season and in bowls, with a 5-3 and 2-6 ATS record in the last four contests the past two years.
It certainly will not be easier this season and most experts making college football picks are already on high alert with Baylor's closing schedule which reads this way: at Kansas State, Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State, at Baylor (just six days after Cowboys) and Texas. If Baylor goes unscathed through that gauntlet, they deserve a Final Four bid.
Bottom Line on the Horned Frogs and Bears
Neither team is enhancing their resumes with pretty soft non-conference foes and each will have an extremely rugged stretch to emerge with one or fewer losses. Nonetheless, we give the nod to TCU who appears stronger and has a somewhat more favorable schedule when comparing this two Big 12 bad boys.