FanHouse's 2010 Preseason College Football Poll -- No. 8 TCU
In the past two seasons, TCU has lost exactly three games -- all against top 10-ranked teams away from home: No. 6 Boise State in last year's Fiesta Bowl and to No. 10 Utah and No. 2 Oklahoma in 2008.
For a program that is 23-3 during the past two seasons with wins against Boise State, Utah, BYU, Stanford, Clemson and Virginia, TCU could argue it's been somewhat underrated during that time.
That certainly shouldn't be a problem this season.
The Horned Frogs are the nation's best BCS-buster candidates not named Boise State. TCU returns 16 starters off last year's 12-1 team, including seven on a defense that held high-powered Boise State 133 yards below its season average in the 17-10 Fiesta Bowl loss.
While TCU's defense, which has led the nation four times in the past 10 years, has historically been its strength, it's the firepower returning on offense that has the Frogs' Fort Worth fans fired up. Senior Andy Dalton returns for his fourth season starting at quarterback and is among the Frogs' massive 27-player senior class.
Dalton, with 29 victories as a starter, is one shy of surpassing legend Sammy Baugh as the school's winningest quarterback.
The defense might not measure up to past TCU standards -- having to replace defensive end Jerry Hughes and three other starters -- but the Horned Frogs will still be solid especially with a Tank at linebacker: junior Tank Carder.
THE BASICS: 12-1 last year, lost to Boise State 17-10 in Fiesta Bowl. Nine starters back on offense, seven starters back on defense. Coach Gary Patterson is 83-28 in nine years at TCU.
KEY PLAYER YOU PROBABLY DON'T THINK OF AS A KEY PLAYER: WR Jeremy Kerley. The Horned Frogs' 4-2-5 defense has earned plenty of praise and Dalton has rightfully received his props, but Kerley's contributions cannot be discounted. The senior not only led TCU in receptions last season (44 for 532 yards), but also was named the MWC's special teams player of the year after leading the conference in kickoff return average (26.6 yards) and punt return average (14.4).
FLY IN THE OINTMENT: If they survive early tests against Oregon State and Baylor, the Horned Frogs could enter their Nov. 6 contest at Utah undefeated. The Utes, in their final MWC season before moving to the Pac-12, will have plenty of incentive. Utah will be looking to avenge last year's 55-28 loss at TCU, the most points Utah allowed since 1990. If the Horned Frogs can somehow survive their last visit to Salt Lake City (and I don't think they will), TCU could find itself in the national title hunt.
DON'T MISS: Oregon State vs. TCU on Sept. 4 in Arlington, Texas. The Horned Frogs meet the Beavers (ranked No. 19 in FanHouse's preseason poll) at Cowboys Stadium. Last year in the same venue in a matchup between a MWC team and a ranked automatic qualifying BCS team (BYU vs. Oklahoma), the MWC registered a huge non-conference victory. The Horned Frogs hope they can repeat the same result.
PREDICTED RECORD: 11-1
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Contact FanHouse senior writer Brett McMurphy at firstname.lastname@example.org or please follow on Twitter @BrettmcmurphY