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Big 12 Week 1 Predictions

Wendell Smallwood

Wendell Smallwood

Week 1 of the 2015 Big 12 season isn’t filled with must-see matchups. But there are a few games on the schedule to move the needle, including Texas-Notre Dame and TCU-Minnesota. Will the Longhorns improve in coach Charlie Strong’s second season? A win in South Bend would be a good place to start. Big 12 frontrunners TCU and Baylor are both on the road in Week 1, but both teams are double-digit favorites.

A few Big 12 teams have to be on upset alert this weekend. West Virginia hosts a dangerous Georgia Southern squad, while Iowa State plays in-state FCS foe in a must-win game for coach Paul Rhoads. New Kansas coach David Beaty inherited a massive rebuilding project, and Saturday’s game against South Dakota State is probably the only winnable game on the schedule this year. 

Athlon Sports offers its Big 12 Week 1 predictions from three editors: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), David Fox (@DavidFox615) and Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch).

Big 12 Week 1 Game Power Rankings & Predictions

1. Texas at Notre Dame

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: NBC

David Fox:

Expect some nasty defense in this one. Notre Dame has the experience on defense and a functional offense, making this an easy pick for the Irish.  

Notre Dame 24–10

Steven Lassan:

Great matchup in terms of name value. How far has Texas improved this offseason under coach Charlie Strong? This is a great barometer test for the Longhorns. Quarterback play for both teams will be under the spotlight with Malik Zaire (Notre Dame) and Tyrone Swoopes (Texas).

Notre Dame 27, Texas 17

Mitch Light:

Texas struggled last season, but it wasn’t the fault of the defense. The Horns ranked No. 2 in the Big 12 in total defense and No. 1 against league opponents. This could be a struggle for the Irish.

Notre Dame 20-13

2. TCU at Minnesota

Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: ESPN

David Fox:

Minnesota’s secondary had one of the better games against Trevone Boykin last season. If the Gophers had an above average offense, this would be more of a contest.

TCU 27–13

Steven Lassan:

Minnesota’s secondary could give TCU’s passing attack fits early on. However, can the Golden Gophers’ offense find enough firepower to match the Horned Frogs? Unlikely. TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin is the difference in this game.

TCU 34-17

Mitch Light:

Minnesota lost its two top offensive players in running back David Cobb and tight end Maxx Williams. The Gophers simply don’t have enough firepower to knock off the Frogs. 

TCU 30-13

3. Georgia Southern at West Virginia

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: FSN

David Fox:

For what’s supposed to be a good defense West Virginia got gashed in the run game A LOT last year. Does that worry anyone else?

West Virginia 27–17

Steven Lassan:

Georgia Southern is a dangerous opponent for West Virginia. The Eagles lost by one to NC State and by four to Georgia Tech last season. Starting quarterback Kevin Ellison is sidelined due to a suspension, but backup Favian Upshaw is a capable option. Having all offseason to prepare for Georgia Southern’s offense should benefit the Mountaineers. Keep an eye on the young West Virginia receivers and quarterback Skyler Howard.

West Virginia 38-24

Mitch Light:

Georgia Southern boasts one of the most potent running games in the nation but will be without standout QB Kevin Ellison, who is out with a suspension.

West Virginia 34-27

4. Baylor at SMU

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: ESPN

David Fox:

A neat game for head coaches who worked their way from Texas high schools to being offensive masterminds. Unfortunately, it won’t be close.

Baylor 56–14

Steven Lassan:

Chad Morris is the right coach for SMU, and the Mustangs will be better in 2015. However, Baylor simply has too much firepower. Expect a big debut from quarterback Seth Russell.

Baylor 51-17

Mitch Light:

This might end up looking like a decent win for the Bears if Chad Morris can work some magic in Year 1 at SMU.

Baylor 41-17

5. Northern Iowa at Iowa State

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: Cyclones.tv

David Fox:

Iowa State has lost back-to-back season openers against FCS teams and could make it three in a row. 

Northern Iowa 17–14

Steven Lassan:

This isn’t a guaranteed win for Iowa State. Northern Iowa knocked off the Cyclones in 2013 and lost by eight to Iowa last season. Getting receiver Quenton Bundrage back, along with better luck in the health department on the offensive line should help Iowa State in 2015. The Panthers make it interesting, but Iowa State avoids the upset.

Iowa State 27, Northern Iowa 20 

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Mitch Light:

The Cyclones have lost two of the last four to their friends from Cedar Falls. This is a game Paul Rhoads cannot afford to lose.

Iowa State 24-20 

6. Akron at Oklahoma

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: PPV

David Fox:

I’m ready to see the Baker Mayfield-Samaje Perine-Lincoln Riley dynamic at work.

Oklahoma 42–10

Steven Lassan:

Akron has a handful of talented transfers from Power 5 programs, but the Sooners should win this one with ease. With a road trip to Tennessee up next, it’s a good opportunity for new coordinator Lincoln Riley and quarterback Baker Mayfield to build confidence in the offense.

Oklahoma 48-17

Mitch Light

Former Texas Tech walk-on Baker Mayfield is running the show for new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley at OU. Akron continues to improve under Terry Bowden’s watch, but the Zips aren’t good enough to win in Norman. Oklahoma 43-20

7. Oklahoma State at Central Michigan

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: ESPNU

David Fox:

Every now and then Oklahoma State plays a weird road game. Every now and then, that road game bites the Cowboys (a 41–23 loss at Troy in 2007). That won’t happen here. 

Oklahoma State 31–10

Steven Lassan:

I’m interested to see how much sophomore quarterback Mason Rudolph has progressed for Oklahoma State since the end of last season.

Oklahoma State 41-20

Mitch Light:

Mount Pleasant will be rocking with Oklahoma State coming to town. Too bad Dan LeFevour isn’t under center for the Chips.

Oklahoma State 48-10

8. Sam Houston State at Texas Tech

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FSN

David Fox:

Might be time to get to know Sam Houston State coach K.C. Keeler, who has played in eight national championship games (FCS and Division III), winning one. His up-tempo offense will give new Texas Tech DC David Gibbs a test.

Texas Tech 41–21

Steven Lassan:

The Bearkats – ranked as a top-five FCS team – could be a pesky opponent for the Red Raiders. Will it be Davis Webb or Patrick Mahomes at quarterback for Texas Tech? The guess here is Mahomes starts and delivers a solid performance, while the defense shows progress under coordinator David Gibbs.

Texas Tech 50-24

Mitch Light: 

Sam Houston State lost 56–0 last September at LSU in its only game against an FCS opponent. Texas Tech has more than enough weapons to score 50 as well. 

Texas Tech 50-20

9. South Dakota State at Kansas

Kickoff: Noon ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: FSN

David Fox:

If Kansas wins one game this season, this will be it.

Kansas 27–10

Steven Lassan:

This is the best shot Kansas has at winning a game in 2015.

Kansas 27-20

Mitch Light:

David Beaty begins his tenure as the boss at Kansas with arguably the least-talented Power 5 conference team in the nation.

Kansas 21-17

10. South Dakota at Kansas State

Kickoff: 7:10 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: K-StateHD.tv

David Fox:

Kansas State wised up and played one of the lesser Dakotas after losing to North Dakota State two years ago.

Kansas State 28–10

Steven Lassan:

Bill Snyder’s team is a bit of a mystery with Jesse Ertz replacing Jake Waters at quarterback. South Dakota went 2-10 last year and shouldn’t provide too many problems for the Wildcats.

Kansas State 45-10

Mitch Light:

Kansas State has to find some answers on offense to be a threat in the Big 12 this season. 

Kansas State 31-7