The Big 12 opens 2013 with a pair of neutral-site games against the SEC. Two of the league's title contenders -- TCU and Oklahoma State -- happen to be playing in them, but the Big 12's best returning defender will be on the sidelines.
Devonte Fields, the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, will miss TCU's season opener against LSU at Cowboys Stadium, and the Frogs' game against SE Louisiana "due to a violation of university and team policy." Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson announced the suspension in a news release.
Fields won the award as a true freshman after making 18.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. He also forced two fumbles and recovered one, as well as logging an interception.
The debate and comparisons between the SEC and Big 12 have raged all year long, but ultimately, you're only as good as your teams prove they are on the field. The two conferences played just twice last season, but the debate was sure to rage in advance of a hyped opening weekend with TCU facing LSU and Oklahoma State meeting Mississippi State in Houston.
LSU is likely to be a top 15-20 team and a tough matchup for the Frogs that gets a lot tougher without Fields. TCU's Big 12 title aspirations won't be affected very much considering Fields will return for the league opener in Lubbock on Thursday, Sept. 12, but losing him against LSU is huge for more than just Frogs fans. It's handicapped the Big 12's ability to earn a big win over one of the SEC's best teams and biggest brands. TCU, a top 15-20 team in its own right, can definitely still win, but it just became more difficult with Fields' suspension.
Junior Matt Anderson is behind Fields on the depth chart and may earn the start, but Patterson wasn't super happy with Fields when I visited with him earlier this spring. It's safe to say Fields' suspension isn't helping him get back in Patterson's good graces.