We're walking through each Big 12 team and identifying its most irreplaceable talent. He's the guy they can least afford to lose, and the guy to whom an injury or departure would have the most effect.
Let's wrap up with TCU.
Most indispensable player: QB Casey Pachall
2012 stats: Completed 64-of-97 passes for 948 yards, 10 touchdowns and an interception.
Why TCU can't afford to lose him: Haven't we been here before? There's a reason Pachall grabbed this label last year, and you saw what can happen when he takes a seat. TCU was 4-0 with Pachall in the lineup and finished 3-6 without him. Trevone Boykin did well filling in a tough spot, and he's improved this year, but I really think it's this simple: TCU can win a Big 12 title with Pachall. It cannot with Boykin.
By my count, TCU wins games against Texas Tech, Iowa State and Michigan State with Pachall in the lineup. Beating Oklahoma would have been close, too. Going 10-3 is a lot different than going 7-6. Might TCU be a preseason top 5-10 team if it hadn't lost Pachall last season? They'd definitely be the Big 12 favorite.
We saw up close what TCU would look like with Pachall, who's one of the most prudent distributors of the ball in the league when he's at his best. He threw just seven picks with 343 attempts in 2011 and just one in his 97 attempts last year. Boykin tossed 10 picks in just 292 throws last year.
The Frogs' receiving corps took a hit with the loss of Pachall's favorite target and workout buddy Josh Boyce, but Brandon Carter and LaDarius Brown could both be poised for breakout seasons this year. Last year, those two and Boyce were underrated across the league because Boykin struggled to get them the ball on target with consistency.
Pachall could provide, but even this designation requires a clarification: TCU's most indispensable player was the 2011 and 2012 version of Pachall. He naturally had rust after missing the final nine games of 2013 while seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. If he's not back to his old self, he's anything but the Frogs' most indispensable player.
I'm betting a summer of work getting back in the weight room and in 7-on-7 with the team will get him back in the swing, and a fall camp full of scrimmages will get him close enough to his old self to officially win his job back. We'll see just how close he is to the Casey Pachall we're used to seeing once TCU tees off its season opener against LSU in Cowboys Stadium.