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Big 12 Preview: This Conference is Fun and also Bad

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A light schedule in Big 12 land this week

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

TCU @ SMU
Gerald J. Ford Stadium (Dallas, TX)
TONIGHT, 7:00 PM CT, ESPN
Line: TCU (-21.5)

The 96th battle for the Iron Skillet takes place tonight on the Hilltop as TCU treks across the metroplex to take on SMU. TCU has won the last 4 meetings between the two rivals and 13 of 15 since Gary Patterson took over in Fort Worth in 2000. But with the Frogs scuffling a little bit to begin 2016, Mustang fans have to feel a bit of confidence that they can run with TCU this time around. TCU was a 41-20 winner last weekend in their Big 12 opener against Iowa State, but again looked sluggish on what was a brutally hot afternoon in Fort Worth. I expect that Patterson's crew will come ready to play Friday night against what they claim is their biggest rival (insert lol here). SMU's chances in this game will largely depend on the play of their much improved defense which leads all of college football with 9 interceptions in the first 3 weeks of the season. Kenny Hill has been a solid dual threat for the Frogs when he has taken care of the football, but he certainly isn't without some erratic moments as well. If the Ponies can continue to force turnovers and convert on those opportunities, they have a chance of sticking around in this game. The other key to watch will be SMU WR Courtland Sutton against TCU's vulnerable secondary. Sutton is averaging over 110 yards/game and 25 yards/catch. He is SMU's big threat downfield and him getting touches early may open up everything else in the offense for young QB Ben Hicks. Hicks has the talent to make things happen but has struggled with turnovers in his own right, as was demonstrated two weeks ago when SMU lost in Waco. I think this has the makings of a surprisingly close game for a half, but TCU's talent will win out and the Frogs pull away. Side note: SMU is wearing special helmet stickers tonight to honor the Dallas area first responders and they are pretty dope if I do say so myself.

Prediction: TCU 45 SMU 27

San Jose State @ Iowa State
Jack Trice Stadium (Ames, IA)
11:00 AM CT, FSN
Line: Iowa State (-7)

Iowa State wasn't exactly predicted to do big things in 2016, but I don't think anyone foresaw the garbage that they've spewed through the first 3 games. The Cyclones look to put one in the win column for the first time this season against San Jose State in Ames. ISU would ideally like to get its running game going as the staple of its offense but so far that has been the equivalent of repeatedly ramming an F-150 into a brick wall. The hope going into the season was that Mike Warren and Joel Lanning would make for a strong power running game but the Cyclones are averaging under 3 yards/carry thus far. If Iowa State can't run the ball, their offense basically becomes Allen Lazard and that's about it. And as bad as they've been on the ground offensively, it's an even bleaker story defensively as the Cyclones give up 5.8 yards/carry. Fortunately this week, they take on a SJSU team that is equally as offensively challenged. The Spartans rank near the bottom of the statistical rankings in most major offensive categories when stacked up against FBS competition. I think this might be an ugly game to watch in terms of overall execution but Iowa State does enough offensively to get off the snide.

Prediction: Iowa State 24 San Jose State 20

BYU v. West Virginia
FedExField (Landover, MD)
2:30 PM CT, ESPN2
Line: West Virginia (-7)

In what might be the best matchup in all of college football this season in terms of polar opposite fanbases, West Virginia and BYU are playing...in Maryland? Sure! A neutral site game that is significantly out of the way for both fanbases in a cavernous NFL stadium for no apparent reason is the most 2016 college football thing ever! On the field, this appears to be a defensive battle in the making. BYU has played 3 games this season and neither BYU nor their opponents have surpassed the 20 point mark in any game the Cougars have played thus far. BYU QB Taysom Hill has struggled thus far coming off of a season ending foot injury in the 2015 season opener. BYU has struggled to run the ball as a unit and Hill is not as much of a threat with his arm as he once was with his feet. Should he struggle early in this game, I would not be surprised to see backup Tanner Mangum, who is the better pure passer of the two. But BYU's defense has kept them in games this season mainly by forcing turnovers, and that may be a real weapon against Skyler Howard and the WVU offense. Howard has looked solid in the first 2 games of 2016 and has had a bye week to heal his strained ribs that he suffered in West Virginia's season opening win over Missouri. Rushel Shell and Justin Crawford have been a nice combination in the Mountaineer backfield and if WVU can consistently move it on the ground, Howard can lift the top off of BYU's defense by taking shots down the field to West Virginia's multitude of weapons on the outside. I suspect that this will be a slugfest of a game, but I trust West Virginia's offense to get a few explosive plays that will make the difference. And boy does the Big 12 ever need a halfway decent non-conference win.

Taysom Hill does get high marks on this blog for screwing with Texas though.

Prediction: West Virginia 23 BYU 17

Missouri State @ Kansas State
Bill Snyder Family Stadium (Manhattan, KS)
6:00 PM CT, K-StateHD.tv
Line: NL

K-State looks to build off a strong 63-7 showing against Florida Atlantic last week as they host Missouri State in Manhattan. All you have to do is take "State" out of both teams' names and you have BORDER WAR but alas we must settle for this instead. Despite the 1-1 record, the Wildcats appear to have a bit more explosiveness on offense this year, mainly due to the fact that key cogs in the unit haven't gotten hurt at the alarming rate that they did a year ago. Missouri State is a team in the state of Missouri and I really don't know much about them other than they won a close game against Murray State last week. K-State wins this big.

Prediction: Kansas State 49 Missouri State 14