A Big Week for the Big 12

Ranking Week 1 Games for the Big 12

Throughout the summer, Big 12 fans and sports media have been debating just how well the Big 12 Conference will match up to the other power conferences this year. The recently released AP Poll (and coaches poll) has shown that the nation does not believe that the elite teams in the Big 12 are not exactly up to par with other elite programs in other conferences. The SEC comes in with six teams in the AP Poll, with five of those schools in the top ten. Following the SEC are conferences Pac-10 and Big Ten, adding five schools each to the poll, and the Big 12 trails behind with four teams in the poll. Oklahoma State is the highest ranked team from the Big 12, coming in at 13.

The Big 12 will be looking to change this national perception this year. While Big 12 has been known for its parity and evenly matched conference members, the Big 12 is looking for a few elite programs to jump out and be considered for national title hopes early. The conference is also amidst search to continue its strong, record-worthy finish last year. In the previous year, Big 12 sent 90% of its teams to bowl appearances.

This change to national perception and continuance of conference prestige can change immediately, as the Big 12 opens with a few big games this season. Yes, the Big 12 is marked with the usual match ups against FCS teams but there are also a few games this upcoming week that could end up being the talk of nation come Sunday. Some of these games involve powerhouse conference SEC, a conference that was belittled by Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops in an interview over the summer.

Here is a full list of the Big 12 opening games in Week 1, ranking them from worst to best:

 

9. William and Mary (FCS) at West Virginia

Time: 11:00 (CST), Fox Sports 1

The Mountaineers open at home against William and Mary, an FCS school that went 2-9 last year. If the Mountaineers manage to lose this game, their reputation will drop even lower after last year’s fall, losing five straight games after starting off 5-0.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers are in need of starting the season off right. The redshirted junior transfer Clint Trickett looks to be filling in for the large hole left by Geno Smith, and needs to start with smart and consistent play. This could be a struggle seeing how West Virginia also lost last year’s leading receiver in Tavon Austin. The Mountaineer defense also looks to greatly improve, as only 6 starters are projected to return from a Big 12 defense that ranked last in scoring (allowed 38.1 ppg).

William and Mary: Last year, William and Mary lost 7-6 in Maryland’s home opener. After the great losing performance, William and Mary’s team looked to be successful for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Can William and Mary jump to a great start again by exploiting WVU’s awful defense?

 

8. Wofford (FCS) at Baylor

Time: 6:30 pm (CST)

Baylor opens the season at home against a strong FCS opponent in Wofford, who went 9-4 and finished 9th in the FCS rankings. Their lone FBS matchup was against South Carolina, losing 24-7. Baylor looks to be heavily favored, expecting win blowout fashion.

Baylor: Baylor has really weak non-conference schedule, so establishing Baylor’s high-powered offense is crucial early. Only four projected starters are returning from last year’s starting lineup and junior Bryce Petty looks to get comfortable early. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor’s starting running back, also made proclamations of challenging for the Heisman. Expect this game to be a stat-padder for Seastrunk.

Wofford: Losing to SEC team South Carolina 24-7 is honestly a lot better than other FCS/SEC matchups. Wofford is looking to buckle down and compete for the top spot in the Southern Conference now that Georgia Southern and Appalachian State are moving up to Division 1 football.

 

7. Northern Iowa (FCS) at Iowa State

Time: 7:00 (CST)

Here is another FCS opponent, this time against a weaker Big 12 team in Iowa State. The difference in this game is the in-state rivalry, as the last game played between these two finished 20-19, in ISU’s favor. This will be the first of two games against rivals for ISU, as they play Iowa the week after.

Iowa State: ISU only returns 9 starters overall from last year’s 6-7 squad. While ISU should actually improve on their offense production, their defense will most likely go through some growing pains in their first few games without Jake Knott and A.J Klein.

Northern Iowa: Get a win against an in-state rival. The last time they beat either ISU or Iowa was back in 2007, when Northern Iowa beat ISU 24-13. After the close game in 2011, Northern Iowa looks to add another win in the win column against the Cyclones.

 

6. New Mexico State (FBS Independent) at #15 Texas

Time: 7:00 pm (CST)

Texas opens the season against New Mexico State, a team that went 1-11 last year. Their lone win came against FCS school Sacramento State. Texas actually owns one of the tougher non-conference schedules in the Big 12 this year, playing no FCS teams and having to face BYU and Ole Miss after this game.

Texas: The Longhorns are looking to improve once again in the win column, entering a phase back into Big 12 dominance. This will need to be done though more consistent, as Texas was notoriously inconsistent last year, even in threat of losing games to the 1-11 KU Jayhawks. With 14 returning starters, this team looks to establish the chemistry needed to win out the rest of the year. They also find themselves working their way up from the same preseason poll ranking of last year, 15.

New Mexico State: Try to win a game? Their situation is much like KU’s situation last year, only winning a game against an FCS team. If they can find a way to be competitive against Texas, they should consider it a win for their team.

 

5. North Dakota State (FCS) at Kansas State

Time: 7:30 pm (Friday), Fox Sports 1

This FCS matchup actually has potential to be a great game. North Dakota State has a strong record against Division 1 teams, and could be a serious threat to Kansas State on their turf. This game also will get some national attention, getting aired on the new Fox Sports 1.

Kansas State: Every year, Kansas State is looked down upon by the national media, and are left of the AP Top 25 poll. While KSU returns 8 starters on offense from last year, including starting running back John Hubert, their defense only returns 2. KSU ranked first last year in the Big 12 for points allowed, at 22.1 ppg. In order for KSU to keep this number, a large number of untested starters will need to rise to the occasion.

North Dakota State: Continue its FCS (and FBS) dominance. NDSU is the two-time defending national champion of the FCS. They are the Alabama of Division 2. A great performance in this game sets them up for continuing success for the rest of the season.

 

4. Louisiana-Monroe (Sun Belt) at #16 Oklahoma

Time: 6:00 pm (CST)

Oklahoma also starts the reason with a not so modest non-conference schedule. Their easiest competition is this match-up against the ULM Warhawks. That does not mean this game should be taken lightly, as the Warhawks had impressive season last year with a win against Arkansas and close loses to Auburn and Baylor.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma looks to continue its strong offensive performance last year with its 7 returning starters. Oklahoma placed in the top 15 nationally in points per game, passing yards per game, and total yards per game. This kind of production will need to be established this week to prepare for their conference game next week against West Virginia. Especially since Oklahoma is returning only 4 starters on defense.

Louisiana-Monroe: After such an impressive winning season last year, the Warhawks are looking to improve on the previous season with another winning record. This game is the perfect opportunity for ULM to pick up on a credible win in their schedule for the bowl season. Other than Oklahoma, the only credible team they play is Baylor.

 

3. Texas Tech at Southern Methodist (AAC)

Time: 7:00 pm (CST), ESPN

This is the only ‘road’ game for the Big 12 this weekend, as the other two games are played at neutral sites. Texas Tech, now under new Head Coach Cliff Kingsbury, open the season on ESPN by traveling to SMU. This will be quite the debut for Kliff, as he shows his team to the whole nation against an in-state team on their turf.

Texas Tech: Kliff Kingsbury opens the Red Raider season with a big game. 8 returning starters on one of the better Big 12 defenses will help the offense that only returns 4 starters. Sophomore Michael Brewer will be depended on to continue on Kingsbury’s high-powered aerial attacks. This could be great game for Brewer to establish himself behind the line as the SMU defense ranked 110th last year in passing yards allowed per game.

SMU: Moving into the AAC, SMU needs as many wins as possible. SMU is looking to establish its brand in a new conference that comes with more national coverage. This kind of coverage comes with big games like this. In order to increase its presence in the state of Texas and help on the recruiting trail, the Mustangs need to win games like this.

 

2. Mississippi State vs  #13 Oklahoma State

Time: 2:30 pm (CST), ABC

This matchup is one the biggest games of the first week in college football. OSU is the Big 12 favorite to win the conference and has a major game to open up the season. A win against Miss. St. could be big for the Cowboys, along with the Big 12. This game is one of the few Big 12/SEC games of the season and definitely gives some insight on the comparison of the two conferences.

OSU: This is game is one of the most crucial games of the season for OSU. Their other two non-conference games are a piece of cake, but this game is a must win, as they don’t have a serious game again until October. Clint Chelf is expected to take the reigns

Miss St.: Miss. St. is looking to continue the winning record from last year and have the tools to do so. Returning a total of 11 starters and having Tyler Russell back to lead the offense, Mississippi State is looking to make a run for the SEC title.

 

1. #20 TCU vs #12 LSU

Time: 8:00 pm (CST), ESPN

This the number one game for the Big 12, and second most important game of the whole nation (behind Georgia vs Clemson). These two teams are looking for big years and a big run for conference titles. This is also taking place in Arlington, Texas, so it is practically a home game for TCU. Still, TCU will have make up for the loss of Devonte Fields (suspended for three games) in order to pull off the upset.

TCU: TCU is in the running at making a run for the Big 12 title, mainly because of the 14 returning starters this year. 8 starters are expected to return on the defensive end, a defensive team that is considered to be one of the best in the nation. Casey Pachall, senior quarterback returns after a rocky personal road, and is longing to prove that he is changed man on and off the field.

LSU: LSU is need of some serious rework on the defensive end. With a defense that placed in the top ten in several categories last year, Les Miles and defensive coordinator John Calvis will have to find a way to perform on the same level with only 3 returning starters. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger is one of 7 returning starters on the offensive that are in a serious need of sparking a passing game that ranked 11th in the SEC.

 

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Written by Mason Kilpatrick

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