WE’RE BACK FOLKS! Big 12 football kicks off tonight with Oklahoma State, and then continues all-day Saturday before Oklahoma faces Houston Sunday. I can’t think of a better way to spend the weekend! Let’s get right to it.
Oklahoma State @ Oregon State
Friday, August 30th 9:30 PM CT, FS1
Oklahoma State starts the Big 12 football season by traveling to Oregon State for a late, Friday night kickoff. Last year, Oregon State went 2-10 in a very forgettable season. Oklahoma State put together a 7-6 campaign, but they lose a lot of key pieces from that team including running back Justice Hill. The big question mark to watch will be how the Cowboys do with a new quarterback. Mike Gundy is refusing to name a starting quarterback before this game, but many think it will be redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders. Much of this season could rest on effective play from that spot. However, even if the play is mediocre they should be able to pick up a win here. The biggest difficulty might simply be the new quarterback playing in a Power 5 road environment for their first start. Nevertheless, Oklahoma State should open with a win.
28-17 Oklahoma State
#21 Iowa State vs. Northern Iowa
Saturday, August 31st 11:00 AM CT, FS1
#21 Iowa State enters the season with one of their highest preseason rankings ever, coming off an 8-5 season. The hype is incredibly high surrounding the Cyclones, with some like Desmond Howard even picking them to win the conference. Much of this hype lies on the shoulders of sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy. All those hopes have to be grounded though as the Cyclones host in-state FCS foe, Northern Iowa. Iowa State has actually had some difficulties with Northern Iowa in the past, losing on a few occasions. UNI REALLY gets up for this game. We also saw Iowa State almost choke to another instate FCS foe, Drake, last season. However, that game arose under weird circumstances and was played in miserable conditions. This isn’t the Iowa State team of years past... I think there is solid reason for optimism. The Cyclones prove that by dominating this game.
48-7 Iowa State
Kansas vs. Indiana State
Saturday, August 31st 11:00 AM CT, FSN
Kansas football is back with new coach Les Miles. This will likely go down as one of the most interesting experiments over the next few years. We all know Kansas has been terrible. Opinions of Les Miles’s coaching ability are split, but most would say he’s somewhere between good and great. Can he get the Jayhawks back on track after over a decade of terrible football? Maybe, but likely not in year one. Kansas finished last season with a 3-9 record. Indiana State was a decent FCS team last year, finishing 7-4. I would not put it past Kansas whatsoever to lose to Indiana State to start the season. However, I don’t think that happens. The Jayhawks do have some bright spots, even with Pooka Williams sitting out the opener. Kansas wins it but it might be a touch closer than Jayhawk fans would like.
West Virginia vs. James Madison
Saturday, August 31st 1:00 PM CT, ATSN
Yeah, I haven’t heard of that channel either (American Trigger Sports Network?). Which should be fine because West Virginia should handle this game just fine. New coach Neal Brown is looking to get to winning quickly. The Mountaineers had an 8-4 record last season, but have to replace NFL QB Will Grier along with other key pieces. I think the Mountaineers take a step back this season. Still, the Mountaineers should be able to handle business against an admittedly pretty good FCS team. If the Mountaineers do find a way to squander this game, that means things might really be taking a step back for Neal Brown. I don’t see that happening, though.
31-20 West Virginia
Texas Tech vs. Montana State
Saturday, August 31st 3:00 PM CT, FSN
Texas Tech begins its first season under head coach Matt Wells at home against FCS Montana State. The Red Raiders ended last season 5-7, ultimately leading to Kliff Kingsbury leaving for... the NFL? The main problem Tech had was injury at quarterback. They should have a healthy QB room this season which could change things for the better. Montana State posted a respectable 8-5 record last season, but Texas Tech should still be able to outscore this opponent, especially with incoming offensive guru David Yost at offensive coordinator.
63-38 Texas Tech
Baylor vs. Stephen F. Austin
Saturday, August 31st 6:00 PM CT, ESPN+
Hopes are high for the Baylor Bears after they finished the 2018 season with back-to-back wins, resulting in a 7-6 record. That’s a big turn around from the one win season just a year prior. If improvement continues on that trajectory this season, the Bears could be really special. And they’ve got the tools to be just that. Charlie Brewer returns as one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12. Matt Rhule typically gets improved defensive play each year he is coaching somewhere, so we should expect to see that this season with a two deep filled with juniors and seniors. All that to say, the Bears should be able to crush SFA who is coming off an abysmal 2-8 FCS record. Expect Baylor to put up some points in a hurry.
Kansas State vs. Nicholls
Saturday, August 31st 6:00 PM CT, ESPN+
Kansas State begins its first season without Bill Snyder as Chris Klieman takes over the head coaching spot. The Wildcats had a disappointing 5-7 2018 campaign. They look to improve as Skylar Thompson tries to stabilize in the quarterback position. Nicholls had a pretty solid season last year, going 9-4 with a win over Kansas. However, Kansas and Kansas State are on entirely different levels presently. KState should pick up this win, especially since Coach Klieman will not let his team overlook an FCS opponent given his previous position at North Dakota State.
24-7 Kansas State
TCU vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Saturday, August 31st 7:00 PM CT,
TCU opens their season the way it has the past few: question marks at quarterback. After a 7-6 record last season, the Horned Frogs are really hoping for consistency in whoever they go with for the season. Gary Patterson announced Alex Delton as the starting QB earlier this week but who knows if that will remain the case for the rest of the season. The defense ought to be terrific again, even with some key losses. That’s just the way Patterson teams are. Arkansas-Pine Bluff posted an abysmal 2-9 record in the FCS, so I have no doubt whatsoever TCU will cruise in this game.
#10 Texas vs. Louisiana Tech
Saturday, August 31st 7:00 PM CT, LHN
#10 Texas is receiving massive amounts of hype after a “back” 10-4 season. They have one of the conference’s elite quarterbacks in Sam Ehlinger to thank for much of that success. Now, can they replicate and improve in a conference where many teams seem to be on the uptick? That will be interesting to see play out. But they’ll need to focus and take care of business first against Louisiana Tech, a decent FBS team that posted an 8-5 record last season. That record included a respectable loss at LSU. I don’t think Louisiana Tech can get it done, but Texas CANNOT come into this game overconfident like they have with the past few season openers. Still, Texas ought to win this one by a couple scores.
#4 Oklahoma vs. Houston
Sunday, September 1st 6:30 PM CT, ABC
#4 Oklahoma enters the season in the same spot as the past few years: conference favorites. And it’s hard to argue with that. The Sooners had a 12-2 2018 season which included a playoff berth. However, for the second season in a row now, head coach Lincoln Riley has to replace a Heisman winner at quarterback. Luckily, the Sooners added transfer Jalen Hurts from Alabama. Their defense needs to improve drastically though, as they had the worst pass defense in the country. That side of the ball will certainly be tested by Houston, who posted an 8-5 record last year. They return QB star D’Eriq King, who was injured for the last couple games, and add new head coach Dana Holgorsen. Holgorsen has a head start on scouting Oklahoma after coaching against them annually during his tenure at West Virginia. Can he translate that into a win? I don’t think it’s likely. But this is certainly the most interesting week one game for the Big 12. I expect a shootout with Oklahoma breaking away somewhere in the 4th quarter.