Bob Stoops has been fighting the good fight all offseason long but the rubber meets the road now that the season is starting.
Both Oklahoma State and West Virginia played in BCS bowls in the last few seasons but both are heavy underdogs to their ACC and SEC foes in Week 1.
So while the league’s non-conference record may look bruised following season openers against Florida State and Alabama, the contenders in this league should begin the year with success.
1. Florida St vs. Oklahoma St
8 p.m., ABC, Arlington
Mike Gundy has an excellent program rolling along in Stillwater. However, losing more than 30 players off your roster and facing a defending national champion that might actually be improved from a year ago isn’t a recipe for success. The Pokes are going to be hard pressed to stop the Noles in either facet of the game and their ongoing quarterback battle raises questions about Oklahoma State’s upside this fall. This was supposed to be a marquee season opener but could turn into a dud quickly.
2. North Texas at Texas
8 p.m., LHN
Charlie Strong makes his debut against an in-state opponent that won nine games a year ago. Does that mean the Mean Green will challenge the Longhorns? Unlikely. But the questions about David Ash’s health, the offensive line’s tenacity and the business culture behind the scenes are still hanging in the air down in Austin. A clean, dominant performance against North Texas would be a great way to begin to answer those questions. Especially, with BYU and UCLA looming.
3. West Virginia vs. Alabama
3:30 p.m., ABC, Atlanta
Much like Oklahoma State-Florida State, this game looked like a great season opener a few years ago. But like the Cowboys, the Mountaineers aren’t in a position to challenge one of the top two teams in the nation. Dana Holgorsen’s group could be improved and the secondary is good enough to challenge whichever signal-caller starts for Bama. That said, WVU's overall roster situation isn’t good enough to put Nick Saban’s squad into any danger whatsoever.
4. SMU at Baylor
Sun., 7:30 p.m., FS1
The Bears scored at least 69 points in each of their first four games last fall. Fans in Waco — the ones who will pack the newly minted McLane Stadium Sunday evening — should expect much of the same against the in-state Mustangs. June Jones’ squad returns six starters to a defense that allowed more than 33 points and 400 yards of offense a year ago. Baylor returns Bryce Petty and Art Briles. Enough said.
5. North Dakota St at Iowa St
The Bison don’t have their three-time national championship head coach any more (he’s at Wyoming) but they do have one of the longer FBS winning streaks in college football. Ninth-longest, to be exact. North Dakota State has won four straight against FBS opponents, including two against the Big 12 (Kansas, Kansas State). Paul Rhoads has improved Iowa State's roster to the point that this game should be a win for the Cyclones. But fans in Ames should be extremely wary of NDSU — the No. 2-ranked team in the FCS entering the season.
6. Louisiana Tech at Oklahoma
After an offseason full of Bob Stoops one-liners and national roster headlines, the Sooners finally get back on the field. And will do so without Frank Shannon, Joe Mixon or Dorial Green-Beckham. Against the Bulldogs, however, Crimson and Cream fans shouldn’t be worried. Trevor Knight should have plenty of room to operate and the defense should be dominant. There is a reason OU is favored by 38 points.
7. Samford at TCU
Gary Patterson has yet to decide on his starting quarterback as Trevone Boykin and Matt Joeckel are both expected to get plenty of snaps in the season opener. This battle is really the only reason to tune in to this one as the Frogs figure to pound the Bulldogs.
8. Central Arkansas at Texas Tech
Davis Webb begins his first full season as the starting quarterback in Lubbock against lowly Central Arkansas. The Bears, who were 7-5 last fall, allowed 38 in a loss to Colorado last year so Kliff Kingsbury’s offense should have no issues cruising in Week 1.
9. Stephen F. Austin at Kansas St
Bill Snyder is a genius and has an excellent team returning, including a proven starter at quarterback. Stephen F. Austin lost nine times last year (1-6 in the Southland Conference) and should pose little threat. Sorting out the Wildcats' running game and getting new defensive starters quality reps are adequate goals for this one-sided affair.
Listen to the Week 1 Cover 2 Podcast:
Big 12 Predictions:
Florida St (-17.5) vs. Okla. St
N. Texas (+25) at Texas
W. Virginia (+26) vs. Alabama
SMU (+32.5) at Baylor
N. Dakota St at Iowa St
La. Tech (+38) at Oklahoma
Samford at TCU
C. Arkansas at Texas Tech
SFA at Kansas St