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Big 12 Preview: A Particularly Juicy Week 1

Looking ahead to this week's games that don't involve a certain team wearing green and gold

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas State @ #8 Stanford
Stanford Stadium (Palo Alto, CA)
9/2, 8:00 PM CT, FS1
Line: Stanford (-15.5)

Bill Snyder is back for a 27th season on the sidelines at Kansas State but begins the season in the most un-Bill Snyder way ever. Snyder was every bit as infamous in the late 90s for his weak non-conference schedules as Baylor has been the past few years. So it's a bit alarming to see this game appear on the Wildcat slate. But alas, K-State has the unenviable task of trying to slow down superhuman Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey finished second in the Heisman voting last season behind Alabama's Derrick Henry and racked up over 2000 yards rushing, 600 yards receiving, and 1000 yards in kick returns in 2015. The defense appears to be the strength of Kansas State's team in 2016 with eight starters returning from last season's unit but it remains to be seen whether or not they can slow McCaffrey enough to make new Stanford QB Ryan Burns. K-State will also be working in a relatively new QB as Jesse Ertz won the starting nod by outplaying last year's starter Joe Hubener. Ertz was the starter for KSU in their opener last season but suffered a season-ending knee injury on the first series so you know he'll be chomping at the bit to get back out there. K-State is fairly unproven at the skill positions on offense and Stanford is typically pretty stout in the trenches so I think it will be key for the Wildcats to find some big plays in the passing game to have a chance to hang around with the Pac-12 favorites. These two teams play very similar styles but Stanford simply plays it more effectively and pulls away in the second half.

Prediction: Stanford 38 Kansas State 17

Missouri @ West Virginia
Milan Puskar Stadium (Morgantown, WV)
9/3, 11:00 AM CT, FS1
Line: West Virginia (-10)

Year 5 for West Virginia as a member of the Big 12 begins in Morgantown against a team that used to call the conference home, the Mizzou Tigers. WVU is coming off of an 8 win season that was marred by injuries and inconsistent quarterback play. And while Skyler Howard provided some hope of improvement with his play in the Cactus Bowl last year, the Mountaineers are already off to some bad injury luck in 2016 with the loss of safety Dravon Askew-Henry to a knee injury. WVU relied on its running game quite a bit last season but I expect Dana Holgorsen's offense to try and air it out a bit more this season with the talent that they have at the WR position. The Mountaineers might have more issues on the defensive side this year as they are replacing several impact players in their front seven and that was before factoring in the Askew-Henry injury. West Virginia will likely be tested by several of the Big 12 offenses that they will face later in the year. But in game 1, they will face a Mizzou team that scored a TOTAL of 73 points in their eight SEC games last season. For reference, Baylor put up 73 points in a single game against West Virginia in 2013. I expect the Tigers will be better offensively in a new scheme and with QB Drew Lock having a year of trials and tribulations under his belt. I also look for Oklahoma transfer Alex Ross to make an impact for MU this season. But the Mizzou offense is going to be a work in progress and I just don't expect them to be able to keep up with WVU's big play capability for 60 minutes.

Prediction: West Virginia 30 Missouri 19

#3 Oklahoma v. #15 Houston
NRG Stadium (Houston, TX)
9/3, 11:00 AM CT, ABC
Line: Oklahoma (-11.5)

The game of the week in the conference to start the season is goin down in H-Town as preseason-Big 12 favorite OU meets Tom Herman's Houston Cougars. The Sooners enter 2016 with national championship aspirations coming off of a playoff appearance last season and the return of a majority of their playmakers, including all of the three-headed monster backfield consisting of Baker Mayfield, Samaje Perine, and Joe Mixon. Oklahoma was able to run the ball at will on most opponents last season but they'll face a stiff challenge against a Houston front that didn't allow 4 yards/carry in any of their 14 games in 2015. Even though the American Athletic Conference didn't provide the stiffest challenges on a week to week basis, the fact that UH did this to teams like Louisville, Florida State and Navy was awfully impressive. But given the talent that the Sooners have and the tempo with which they operate on offense, they will be able to score on this Cougar defense. The real key in this game will be the performance of Houston QB Greg Ward Jr. who has game changing ability as a dual threat and the most NASCAR name imaginable. The Houston offense tends to go as Ward goes, and know that Herman will have some wrinkles in the playcalling to open up the field against an athletic OU defense. The Coogs are going to be seriously fired up to play this game as a team looking to crash the CFP party from outside the Power 5 and I look for them to start fast and grab an early lead. But in the end, I just think that Oklahoma has too much firepower for UH to be able to pull this off.

Prediction: Oklahoma 37 Houston 23

Southeastern Louisiana @ #21 Oklahoma State
Boone Pickens Stadium (Stillwater, OK)
9/3, 2:00 PM CT, FSN
Line: NL

Oklahoma State looks to build off of a 10 win season and a Sugar Bowl appearance as they open the season against Southeastern Louisiana of the Southland Conference. But that's not important hire. For all that is good and holy, the real story is clearly Mike Gundy's firm commitment to the mullet. I mean look at that thing. He's a man and he's like 49 or something now.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 48 Southeastern Louisiana 7

Rhode Island @ Kansas
Memorial Stadium (Lawrence, KS)
9/3, 6:00 PM CT, JTV
Line: NL

Since 2009, these two teams are a combined 31-132. They have a combined three road wins in that span. If you really want to waste 3 hours watching something terribly boring, I'm sure you can find Pearl Harbor (the movie) on Lifetime. This has been the Kansas-Rhode Island preview.

Prediction: Kansas 31 Rhode Island 14

South Dakota State @ #13 TCU
Amon G. Carter Stadium (Fort Worth, TX)
9/3, 7:00 PM CT, FSN
Line: NL

TCU opens the season at home against one of the top FCS programs in the country in South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits are a perennial playoff team at the FCS level and last year scored a win over a Big 12 team*** to open the season. But I'd look for Kenny Hill to try to make a statement in his first start as TCU quarterback and the Frogs roll.
*** - (it was kansas so does that even count)

Prediction: TCU 55 South Dakota State 10

Stephen F. Austin @ Texas Tech
Jones AT&T Stadium (Lubbock, TX)
9/3, 7:00 PM CT, FSN
Line: NL

I commend Stephen F. Austin trying to take on the task of slowing down Pat Mahomes but I'm pretty sure its going to take more than one single man to get some defensive stops against a Tech offense that was second in the country last season at 46.6 points/game. He can probably run for 250 yards on Tech's defense though.

Prediction: Texas Tech 69 Stephen F. Austin 23

Northern Iowa @ Iowa State
Jack Trice Stadium (Ames, IA)
9/3, 7:00 PM CT,
Line: NL

Direct message to Iowa State: STOP SCHEDULING FCS TEAMS THAT ARE GOOD AND THAT CAN ACTUALLY BEAT YOU. Northern Iowa is a top 5 FCS opponent and a team that has given the Cyclones fits in recent years, including a win in Ames in 2013. I expect this to be a tight game throughout but Iowa State's running game will be the difference to give Matt Campbell his first win as ISU head coach.

Prediction: Iowa State 28 Northern Iowa 20

#10 Notre Dame @ Texas
Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium (Austin, TX)
9/4, 6:30 PM CT, ABC
Line: Notre Dame (-3.5)

For at least like the sixth consecutive preseason, TEXAS IS BACK!!!!!! Or at least that's what we've been led to believe yet again. The Longhorns enter year 3 under Charlie Strong with several questions particularly on the offensive side of the ball as UT has gone to a power spread under new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, a former Art Briles protege. Gilbert will be working with a person at quarterback but it is still yet to be revealed as to who exactly that might be, but all indications are that true freshman Shane Buechele will see action on Sunday night. I expect the Horns to lean on RBs Chris Warren and D'Onta Foreman behind a young but talented offensive line to ease the pressure on whoever is taking snaps. Notre Dame's defense will be somewhat depleted after a string of arrests a couple of weeks ago resulted in multiple suspensions and the dismissal of projected starting safety Max Redfield. What I'm intrigued to see is how the offensive style change impacts the UT defense against a Notre Dame team that also hasn't named a QB starter between Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer. But both options are extremely skilled athletically and will test the UT front. This has an opportunity to be a showcase game for the Longhorns on a national stage to announce their return to prominance in Austin. I just think that I trust Notre Dame to make plays offensively in the 4th quarter to pull it out. Texas has the horses to win this game, but they've got to prove it to me before I buy in.

Prediction: Notre Dame 35 Texas 31