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Big 12 Week One Football Preview

Big 12 football is BACK with a full slate of nonconference games this week, starting tonight!

NCAA Football: Albany at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Kent State @ UCF

Thursday, August 31st 6:00 PM CT, FS1

UCF, one of the conference newcomers for this year, kicks off the Big 12’s football season by hosting Kent State on a Thursday night. UCF had a pretty decent season last year, going 9-5 with a Military Bowl loss to Duke. However, Big 12 competition is going to be a significant ramp up from the AAC schedule they played a season ago. So starting off with a strong performance against Kent State, a MAC program that went 5-7 last year, will be critical. And while I have little doubt UCF should take care of Kent State, the 34.5 point line at the time of this writing feels way overblown. Kent State hung within 25 of Washington, 30 of OU, and 17 of Georgia last year. So I have UCF winning by a good margin, but not covering.

38-14 UCF

Missouri State @ Kansas

Friday, September 1st 7:00 PM CT, ESPN+

Kansas is fresh off of their best football season in over a decade. And with coach Lance Leipold still at the helm and breakout star quarterback Jalon Daniels back behind center, there’s a lot of optimism surrounding the Jayhawks heading into this season. Like many other teams on this list, they’ll be looking to get off to a strong start against inferior competition as they host Missouri State. The Bears are an FCS program, and weren’t even a particularly good one last season, only amassing a 5-6 record with nothing close to a notable win. In years past, this would still be a potentially concerning game for Kansas, who has lost their fair share of games to what should be much inferior competition. However, with all the momentum the Jayhawks have coming into this season, I suspect them to win and win handily.

53-7 Kansas

Colorado @ #17 TCU

Saturday, September 2nd 11:00 AM CT, FOX

The first of a few truly intriguing Big 12 games, #17 TCU hosts future Big 12 foe Colorado. TCU is coming off of one of their best seasons in program history (runner ups in the Big 12 and CFP). With a lot of losses on both sides of the ball, they’ll look to reestablish themselves this year with new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles. Colorado is likewise looking to redefine themselves under first year head coach Deion Sanders. Sanders made massive roster changes during the offseason, so looking at Colorado’s 1-11 record from a year ago doesn’t tell us a whole lot. That being said, whether or not Sanders can turn things around for the Buffaloes, I suspect it will take more than one offseason to get them up to the caliber of a program trending high like TCU. The Horned Frogs are 20.5 point favorites at the time of this writing, which feels maybe a touch too high.

35-17 TCU

Arkansas State @ #20 Oklahoma

Saturday, September 2nd 11:00 AM CT, ESPN

#20 Oklahoma had a highly disappointing first season under Brent Venables. As they now begin their final season in the Big 12, the Sooners will be looking to do much better than their 6-7 record from last year in order to enter the SEC on stronger footing. That starts with the Sooners hosting Arkansas State. The Red Wolves were pretty abysmal last season, only amassing a 3-9 record against an overall very weak schedule. I have no doubt that Oklahoma can beat on Arkansas State, and whatever that outcome is probably won’t tell us a whole lot. However, similar to UCF’s line above, a 33 point spread in favor of Oklahoma feels a tad high. Then #3 Ohio State beat Arkansas State by exactly that much last season, and I don’t suspect OU will be better than Ohio State this year.

42-17 Oklahoma

Northern Iowa @ Iowa State

Saturday, September 2nd 1:00 PM CT, ESPN+

Iowa State has had one of the worst off seasons I can think of in recent memory. They’ve lost their starting quarterback, starting running back, starting tackle, starting tight end, and starting nose tackle all to a gambling probe. So unless the Cyclones have uncharacteristic depth at all of those positions, they are going to suffer from both the loss of those players and the distractions surrounding those investigations. Honestly, this is one of the worst teams Iowa State could be opening their season with given those issues, as Northern Iowa plays their hardest against the Cyclones and has beaten them a few times in recent history. The Panthers went 6-5 last season in FCS play, while the Cyclones only amassed a 4-8 record last year without all of the gambling investigation issues. While I am not bold enough to pick an outright upset of the Cyclones, I suspect this game to be closer than many might suspect. And honestly, a UNI win with everything going on would not surprise me.

23-20 Iowa State

Rice @ #11 Texas

Saturday, September 2nd 2:30 PM CT, FOX

#11 Texas has plenty of preseason hype entering this year after an 8-5 2022 campaign that ended in a bowl loss (unfathomable Texas hype after an average year, where have I seen this before??) Nevertheless, Texas will be looking to start their season off strong by hosting Rice. By their standards, Rice actually had a somewhat decent season last year, putting together a 5-8 record (which included a bowl appearance that they got into due to their high APR score). Texas should win this game just fine given all their returning starters, but as with some of the other entries, the 35 point spread in favor of the Longhorns feels pretty steep.

42-7 Texas

Eastern Kentucky @ Cincinnati

Saturday, September 2nd 2:30 PM CT, ESPN+

Cincinnati is another one of the fresh faces in the Big 12 this season. After a 9-4 season a year ago, which ended in a bowl loss to Louisville, the Bearcats look to make the jump into tougher competition in the Big 12. That starts with Scott Satterfield’s first game as the Cincinnati head coach, as the Bearcats host Eastern Kentucky. The Colonels put together a 7-5 record last year at the FCS level. While Cincinnati has a lot of question marks on their roster, they should be able to handle Eastern Kentucky with relative ease.

38-10 Cincinnati

Southeast Missouri State @ #16 Kansas State

Saturday, September 2nd 6:00 PM CT, ESPN+

#16 Kansas State looks to follow up its Big 12 championship season from a year ago with another stellar campaign in 2023. That starts by hosting Southeast Missouri State. The Redhawks were actually a pretty formidable FCS team last year, putting together a 9-3 record, including a perfect conference resume. So while the Wildcats should be able to handle SEMO just fine, this could be a bit more productive of a tune up game than some other FCS foes.

31-10 Kansas State

Texas State @ Baylor

Saturday, September 2nd 6:00 PM CT, ESPN+

Baylor looks to improve off of a somewhat confusing 2022 season, which saw the Bears going 6-7 with a bowl game loss to Air Force. The Bears looked pretty good in the earlier parts of their season, before falling apart down the stretch with four straight losses. The Bears’ hopeful bounce-back year begins with Texas State, a team Baylor beat 42-7 last season. The Bobcats were only able to put together a 4-8 season last year. And while maybe new head coach G.J. Kinne can get things turned around for the Bobcats, that turn around likely won’t be quick enough for this to be much less than a beat down by Baylor. I’ve got Baylor covering the current 26 point spread.

38-10 Baylor

UTSA @ Houston

Saturday, September 2nd 6:00 PM CT, FS1

Houston, another one of the four new members of the Big 12, begins their new season in a new conference by hosting UTSA. This is actually a very dangerous game for Houston, as UTSA went 11-3 last season, with an overtime loss to Houston. The Cougars are trying to improve off of an okay, 8-5 season, which saw a bowl victory against Louisiana. This game could definitely come down to the last minute either way, which makes sense given that the line for this game is dead even at the time of writing. I like Houston with the homefield advantage and recruiting edge, but this could be a sleeper of a must-watch game for Big 12 fans.

38-35 Houston

Central Arkansas @ Oklahoma State

Saturday, September 2nd 6:00 PM CT, ESPN+

Oklahoma State had kind of a similar 2022 season to Baylor: they started off looking really promising with five straight wins, before losing five of their last six games. So the Cowboys really need to get themselves refigured out early this season. Central Arkansas provides a great opportunity for the Cowboys to do just that. Central Arkansas put together a 5-6 record at the FCS level last year, with no real notable wins. OSU should handle them just fine and work on regrouping after a tough end to last season.

42-13 Oklahoma State

West Virginia @ #7 Penn State

Saturday, September 2nd 6:30 PM CT, NBC

Arguably the marquee matchup of the day for the Big 12 slate, West Virginia travels to Happy Valley to take on #7 Penn State. The Mountaineers (and especially head coach Neal Brown) are in do or die mode this year, as they have put together a string of disappointing seasons, including a 5-7 record last year. A win on the road against top 10 Penn State would certainly help with that effort by Brown and the Mountaineers. However, defeating the Nittany Lions, who went 11-2 with a Rose Bowl win last season, feels like too tall of an order for a WVU squad that I just don’t think is going to be all that good this year. 20.5 points in favor of Penn State feels about right.

35-13 Penn State

Texas Tech @ Wyoming

Saturday, September 2nd 6:30 PM CT, CBS

Texas Tech has a LOT of dark horse buzz entering this season. While I think they could be a very solid squad this year, I think some of that hype is overstated, given that three of the Red Raiders’ 8 wins from last year came in overtime. If a few of those games went the other way, we’d be having a completely different conversation about Texas Tech. Regardless, the Red Raiders open their 2023 season on the road at Wyoming. The Cowboys have been one of the better teams in the Mountain West, posting a 7-6 record last year. So while Texas Tech should be the better team on paper, this is a potentially dangerous season opener, especially on the road. I have Tech winning, but 14.5 points in favor of the Red Raiders seems high.

28-17 Texas Tech

Sam Houston @ BYU

Saturday, September 2nd 9:15 PM CT, FS1

BYU, another one of the four new conference members, rounds out the first week of Big 12 football action with a late game, hosting Sam Houston. BYU had somewhat of a disappointing 2022, where their preseason hype far exceeded their eventual 8-5 record. Similar to the other new Big 12 additions, the Cougars are looking to prepare themselves for a more daunting regular season. However, that starts with what should be an easy tune up against newly-minted FBS foe Sam Houston. The Bearkats put together a 5-4 record in 2022 against an FCS schedule, with no notable wins and their only really notable game being a 31-0 loss to Texas A&M. Now, Sam Houston jumps up to the FBS level as a new member of Conference USA. There will be a lot of growing pains with that transition for the Bearkats, and as such, I have BYU covering their spread, as they are favored by 21.5 points.

42-17 BYU