Welcome to the Deadspin 25, a college football poll that strives to be more democratic and less useless than every other preseason poll. Leading up to the college football season kickoff, we will give you previews of the 25 teams that you, the readers, voted to be most worthy of writing about. Now, No. 8 TCU.

Everyone loves an underdog. When Boise State’s rise began in 2006, the nation cheered the Broncos on, eating up the blue turf and no-name players turned stars. But like any celebrity or new fad, the freshness wore off, and after a few years at the top, Boise State settled back toward the bottom half of the top 25 and lost the nation’s eye. TCU is determined not to let that happen.

Like Boise State, the Horned Frogs were never a cutesy mid-major team. Beginning in 2000, TCU dominated the Mountain West, regularly being the only team that could truly challenge the Broncos on a yearly basis. So in 2013, when TCU won just four games during its second season in the Big 12, there was no shortage of people saying, “Hurr, this is big-boy football. Mid-majors should stick to their mountains, hurr.” Thus began the era of TCU beating the shit out of the Big 12.

The Horned Frogs slapped the taste out of everyone’s mouth last year, save for Baylor, who nudged TCU in a 61-58 coma-inducing, high-art inspiring midseason clash. The Horned Frogs were notably left out of the playoff despite an 11-1 record, and so they got pissed off and held No. 9 Ole Miss to the same number of points as they allowed Iowa State to score in the regular season finale: three.

TCU has a great shot to “win” the Big 12 once again this year. But first, it’s going to have to plug some holes on defense. In addition to losing six starters from last year’s squad—including two starting linebackers and a stud defensive tackle—the Horned Frogs will also move on without long-time defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas, who retired in the offseason. A moment of silence for his awe-inspiring mustache.

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TCU will also need to replace safety Chris Hackett, who left early for the NFL after snagging seven interceptions in 2014. They probably won’t get the same production from safety Kenny Iloka and corner Ranthony Texada, but the pair will helm a capable group in the defensive backfield. Head coach Gary Patterson has always been defensive-minded, so don’t expect the unit to slip too far, but when you lose six starters and a coordinator, it’s tough to act like everything will be fine.

Now for the positives: the offense is stacked. The Horned Frogs return 10 starters on offense, so barring the plague striking Fort Worth, this unit is going to be among the most polished and explosive in the nation.

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Trevone Boykin is the No. 1 returning quarterback in the nation, and with him comes receivers Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee, a pair that combined to haul in 1,771 of Boykin’s 3,901 passing yards in 2014. Doctson in particular had a breakout campaign after hovering around 400 receiving yards in each of the previous two years, one of which was served at Wyoming before his transfer. There are obviously a ton of talented wide outs in the nation, so hailing Doctson as the greatest may be a bit premature. And yet...

A Guy To Know

Through his first two years at TCU, Trevone Boykin didn’t really impress anyone. He threw 22 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, and wasn’t even a sure starter through last offseason. Then 2014 happened.

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Boykin led the Horned Frogs to a 12-1 record while finishing in the top 10 in pass completions, yards, and touchdowns. He was No. 4 in the nation in total touchdowns, to boot. Had Marcus Mariota not been around to score a mind-exploding 57 touchdowns and effectively kill the conversation, Boykin would have been in the discussion for being the nation’s best quarterback, which is exactly where he finds himself heading into the 2015 season.

Can They Make The Playoff?

Absolutely. A lot of people who get paid to predict the playoff have the Horned Frogs in there, so picking them is certainly an excellent, educated decision. But I don’t think it’s necessarily going to happen.

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2015 can be the year Boykin makes good on his newfound hype and ascends with TCU to the top ranks of college football, Heisman and national championship trophy in-hand. The offense is certainly there, and the defense isn’t far behind despite losing Bumpas and six starters.

Then again, the Horned Frogs could end up right back where they were at the end of 2014: pissed off bowl-winners who were one game away from competing in the playoff. I’ve been back and forth on this for the majority of the preseason, but it’s Baylor, not TCU, that should be your favorite to win the Big 12 and go to the playoff. The two tied for the crown last season, and although the Bears don’t have a proven quarterback like the Horned Frogs, they are stronger at the skill positions, and return nine starters on both sides of the ball. (Also, Shawn Oakman destroys the home planet of those who bet against him.)

Honestly, the decision is a coin flip, because barring a major upset, which is obviously very possible, both of these teams possess the talent to stay in the top five all season. Like I said, you can choose TCU and I’d call it a smart decision; I just have more faith in the Baylor Bears.

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Is The Coach A Dick?

Gary Patterson has been at TCU since 2000, coincidentally when the Horned Frogs started to kick ass, and though he has a personal hydration valet, I’m going to place Patterson in my “Not A Dick” category, for now.

Will TCU Do It?

Probably. The Horned Frogs will more than likely prove me wrong by beating Baylor and every other team they play, and finally claim their spot in the playoff.

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Schedule

Sept. 3: @ Minnesota

Sept. 12: Stephen F. Austin

Sept. 19: SMU

Sept. 26: @ Texas Tech

Oct. 3: Texas

Oct. 10: @ Kansas State

Oct. 17: Iowa State

Oct. 29: West Virginia

Nov. 7: @ Oklahoma State

Nov. 14: Kansas

Nov. 21: @ Oklahoma

Nov. 27: Baylor

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