Preview: LSU and TCU Tangle in 5th Cowboys Classic

Despite its lack of deep history, one of the more anticipated games on the early college football schedule has become the Cowboys Classic. Now entering its fifth year (that was quick), the Classic is held on Labor Day weekend at the new, state-of-the-art Jerry Dome – also known as Cowboys Stadium.

This year’s match-up inside the biggest venue in American sports includes two high-caliber teams in LSU and TCU. It’s the SEC vs. the Big 12 for over-sized Texas bragging rights. Here’s a look at what to expect:

The LSU Tigers had high hopes for the 2012 season, but ultimately underachieved (especially in the postseason). After an appearance in the BCS Championship Game in 2011, the Tigers posted a 10-2 record during the 2012 regular season – good enough for second place in the South Division of the powerful SEC.

That 10-2 record earned LSU a spot in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Clemson, a team that boasted the same regular season record – and the same nickname. Did the LSU Tigers’ underestimate their Tiger counterparts from the “lowly” ACC? Sure looked that way as LSU lost 25-24. (Note: Then again, one could argue the SEC is perennially overrated.)

Although the LSU Tigers’ 2012 season ended in a Tiger trap, their roster looks promising for this upcoming season.

Les Miles will coach eight returning offensive players and five on defense. The returnees are led by sophomore quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who had mixed results last season. But he should play much better this year, especially with a full offseason to prepare and a more stable running game by his side. While the defense is highly inexperienced, it will be led by safety Craig Loston, who earned All-SEC honors last season.

LSU will need an experienced, confident leader like Loston to provide stability to a defense filled with untested talent. Off the field, LSU will benefit from the acquisition of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who was fired by the Baltimore Ravens three games before the end of the season. (Yes, he still go his Super Bowl ring.)

Look for Cameron to give LSU a fresh look this season and lead an innovative scheme against a defensively stacked TCU team.

Speaking of that TCU team, 2012 was a busy year. The Horned Frogs played their first season in the Big 12 Conference, a huge jump from their previous Mountain West home.

A tougher league brought on plenty of growing pains. TCU finished with an underwhelming 7-5 record, but did enough to earn a spot in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, where they lost 17-16 to Michigan.

All in all, both LSU and TCU had fairly disappointing seasons that ended in 1-point bowl game losses, making these teams more motivated to succeed in front of fans who buy Cowboys Classic tickets.

The Horned Frogs should benefit from a large amount of returning starters and talent. Ten starters come back on the defensive side of the ball, which means the Horned Frogs’ defense should be scary good. However, the more questionable part of this team is its offense. Nine starters return, but the unit won’t know the status of its starting quarterback until the beginning of the season.

Casey Paschall, who was suspended for all of last season, is fighting for reinstatement. He will need to compete against Trevone Boykin, who showed a lack of preparation last year, to earn his starting job back. Not knowing the true starting quarterback – heading into August practice – may hurt the cohesiveness and productivity of the offense.

This year’s Cowboys Classic between TCU and LSU should be compelling. The best story angle? Look for an experienced Horned Frogs’s defense trying to stop a talented Tigers’s offense.

Both teams are skilled. Both teams are motivated. Now it’s just a question of getting to game day.

Should be a Classic.