By Steven Lassan and Mitch Light
Big 12 Week 1 Game Previews and Predictions
It's the first week of college football. Athlon will be breaking down each conference game. Here's the Big 12.
TCU at Baylor – Friday, Sept. 2
The defending Rose Bowl champs open up with a sneaky tough game against a Baylor team that boasts a ton of firepower on offense. Last year, TCU handled the Bears with ease, holding Robert Griffin & Co. to 263 yards (more than 200 below their season average) in a 45–10 victory in Fort Worth. Gary Patterson has proven over and over that he simply reloads on defense, but with only four starters back on that side of the ball, the veteran head coach has to be a bit concerned heading into the opener. Offensively, TCU will send out sophomore Casey Pachall for his first career start. Pachall has dealt with some shoulder injuries during preseason camp but should be fine for the opener.
TCU 28, Baylor 21
Miami (Ohio) at Missouri – Saturday, Sept. 3
These two teams played last season, with Missouri claiming a 51-13 blowout victory. However, things could be more interesting this time around. The RedHawks are the defending MAC champs and return 16 starters, including junior quarterback Zac Dysert. This matchup will feature the first start from Missouri quarterback James Franklin and is also the debut on the sidelines for Miami coach Don Treadwell. The Tigers have reloaded well at quarterback under Gary Pinkel, and Franklin will eventually be a solid passer for Missouri. It may take the Tigers a half to get Franklin settled into the game, but owning one of the Big 12’s top defenses is more than enough to prevent the RedHawks from scoring the upset.
Missouri 38, Miami (Ohio) 20
UL Lafayette at Oklahoma State – Saturday, Sept. 3
Although coordinator Dana Holgorsen departed to West Virginia, Oklahoma State should still have one of the best offenses in the Big 12 this year. Quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon form one of the top pass-catch duos in college football. Expect both players to have their way against the Ragin’ Cajun secondary, a group that ranked 90th nationally against the pass last year. This will be the first game for Mark Hudspeth on the sidelines for UL Lafayette. Hudspeth was a great hire, but the Ragin’ Cajuns lack the firepower to hang with Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma State 48, UL Lafayette 14
Northern Iowa at Iowa State – Saturday, Sept. 3
With the Big 12’s new round-robin schedule, there’s not much margin for error for teams like Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State when it comes to reaching six wins. Needless to say, this is a game the Cyclones cannot afford to lose. Northern Iowa finished 7-5 last year, but are a dangerous Week 1 opponent. Quarterback Tirrell Rennie is one of the top dual-threats in FCS play, rushing for 1,291 yards and 15 scores last year. The Cyclones will counter with their own dual-threat passer – junior college transfer Steele Jantz – who will be making his debut for Iowa State. Northern Iowa’s offense could give a solid Iowa State defense fits, but the Cyclones should find a way to pull this one off in the fourth quarter.
Iowa State 31, Northern Iowa 21
Eastern Kentucky at Kansas State – Saturday, Sept. 3
Kansas State is arguably the Big 12’s most mysterious team entering Week 1. Coach Bill Snyder keeps a tight ship on the information coming out of Manhattan and this offseason was no different. Collin Klein will start at quarterback and proved be a dangerous runner in playing time last season. Klein needs to show more ability as a passer for the Wildcats to threaten for a finish in the top half of the Big 12. The other concern for Kansas State will be the rushing attack. Although Bryce Brown entered with high expectations, he has struggled to crack the top spot on the depth chart. The Colonels lost their only game against a FBS foe last year, dropping a 23-13 decision to Louisville. With some kinks to be worked out on offense, the Colonels are the perfect Week 1 opponent for Kansas State.
Kansas State 40, Eastern Kentucky 17
McNeese State at Kansas – Saturday, Sept. 3
The Jayhawks had a disastrous opener last year, losing 6-3 to North Dakota State. Although the Jayhawks are far from an elite team, don’t expect another loss to a FCS team. Kansas will turn to sophomore quarterback Jordan Webb once again, but expect the rushing attack to lead the way for the offense. Sophomore James Sims should be a threat to get to 1,000 yards this year. The Cowboys are led by running back Andre Anderson, who posted 855 yards and five scores last year. Kansas struggled to stop the run last season and cannot afford to let McNeese State control the clock and build confidence early on.
Kansas 34, McNeese State 13
Texas State at Texas Tech – Saturday, Sept. 3
The second year of the Tommy Tuberville era kicks off with a matchup against the Dennis Franchione-led Bobcats of Texas State. The Bobcats will be joining the FBS ranks next year, and the trip to Lubbock won't be all that pleasant on Saturday. The Red Raiders will be breaking in a new quarterback (Seth Doege), but return a solid group of weapons and one of the Big 12’s top offensive lines. The Bobcats finished 2010 at 4-7 and lost 68-28 in their only matchup against a FBS opponent. As we’ve seen in the past from Texas Tech, new faces step in, but the offense keeps rolling along.
Texas Tech 55, Texas State 13
Rice at Texas – Saturday, Sept. 3
Last year’s 5-7 record didn’t sit well in Austin, prompting several changes by head coach Mack Brown. The Longhorns certainly have the talent for a quick turnaround, but significant question marks remain. Junior Garrett Gilbert was named the starting quarterback, but whether he finishes the year as the No. 1 passer is up for debate. The Longhorns need to jumpstart their rushing attack and they hope true freshman Malcolm Brown is the answer. The Owls held their own against Texas last year, losing 34-17 in the season opener. If the Longhorns get off to a slow start in this one, the Owls could put a scare into the crowd at Darrell K Royal Stadium. Rice is loaded with weapons on offense, namely running back Sam McGuffie and promising quarterback Taylor McHargue. The Longhorns need to get a good look at Gilbert, so expect lots of opportunities for him to air it out. Texas may start slow, but should pull away in the second half.
Texas 47, Rice 17
Tulsa at Oklahoma – Saturday, Sept. 3
The Sooners enter 2011 as heavy favorites to play for the national title, but will have to avoid a letdown performance against an upset-minded Tulsa team this Saturday. The Golden Hurricane suffered a blow last week, when receiver Damaris Johnson was suspended indefinitely. Senior quarterback G.J. Kinne is one of the best in Conference USA, but without Johnson and a new offensive coaching staff, there could be a few growing pains on Saturday. This is the Sooners only game before facing Florida State on Sept. 17. With a huge non-conference showdown awaiting Oklahoma in Week 3, Bob Stoops will want to get his starters some key reps. However, he also can’t afford any injuries, especially after linebacker Travis Lewis was lost for the first month of the season with a foot injury.
Oklahoma 48, Tulsa 17
SMU at Texas A&M – Sunday, Sept. 4
The school that really, really wants to be in the Big 12 meets the team that just announced its intention to leave the Big 12. SMU has not defeated Texas A&M since 1984 in the hey day of the Pony Excess days. And while this looks to be the best Mustang team since the program returned from the Death Penalty in 1989, SMU figures to have a tough time with a very talented Texas A&M club. The Aggies are loaded on offense, and they are very balanced. SMU should be able to move the ball, but it’s tough to envision its defense doing enough to win this game.
Texas A&M 38, SMU 20