The Big 12 has plenty of warm-up, paycheck games to open up the season, but there are a few massive showdowns that’ll define the conference right away. Who’ll win the Week One games? Check out the way-too-early picks for each Big 12 game.
Friday, September 2
Northwestern State at Baylor
6:30 PM McLane Stadium, Waco, TX
It’s the first game of the rest of Baylor’s life. You don’t think the Bears are going to want to make a massive statement to show that it’s business as usual on the field with Jim Grobe at the helm? Baylor squeaked by the Demons 70-6 in 2014. It might not take it so easy this time around.
Line: No Line
June Prediction: Baylor 65, Northwestern State 6
Kansas State at Stanford
8:00 PM FS1 Stanford Stadium, Stanford, CA
Something is missing here. Granted, the market remembers what Stanford did in the Rose Bowl against Iowa, and it’s hard to get too fired up over a Kansas State team going on the road after a punchless 2015, but be careful. The Cardinal have to replace just about everyone other than Christian McCaffrey, Kansas State has a loaded defense that should come out roaring, and there’s one other key factor – the quarterbacks. The Wildcats have one after losing their top two options early last season. It’ll be tight.
Line: Stanford -15.5
June Prediction: Stanford 24, Kansas State 20
Saturday, September 3
Northern Iowa at Iowa State
Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
New Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell will get a free pass for a little while. After all, he’s taking over a program that needs to be rebuilt and needs an overhaul. However, there are games you can lose as the new guy, and there are games you can’t. Iowa is better than Iowa State – Campbell can lose that one. Northern Iowa is good – the Panthers stunned the Cyclones in the 2013 opener – but ISU pulled off the 31-7 win to open up last season. The running game will be enough to get by – and then comes the trip to Iowa.
Line: No Line
June Prediction: Iowa State 30, Northern Iowa 17
Stephen F Austin at Texas Tech
Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, TX
It was a rocky year for the Lumberjacks, and they don’t quite have the defense to hold down a Texas Tech offense that should put a huge number on the board. With a trip to Arizona State to follow, this is the warm-up act for the Red Raider passing game getting a shot to show off. Obviously it’s a new year and new personnel, but SFA lost to TCU 70-7 last season.
Line: No Line
June Prediction: Texas Tech 52, Stephen F. Austin 24
Missouri at West Virginia
11:00 AM FS1 Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV
Can Missouri’s defense hold down the experience West Virginia attack? Yeah, but there’s still a major question mark about whether or not the Tigers can actually score after a disastrous 2015. New head coach Barry Odom will have a better team than the one that struggled so much last season, but the Mountaineers are just experienced enough to come up with the tough win at home.
Line: West Virginia -13
June Prediction: West Virginia 26, Missouri 17
Oklahoma at Houston
11:00 AM ABC NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
It’s about as big as a Group of Five vs. Power Five showdown can be. Oklahoma still has Ohio State to deal with in the near future – this isn’t it for the non-conference fun. Lose to the Cougars, and all of a sudden the pressure is on the defending Big 12 champs to be perfect the rest of the way or any hope of getting back to the College Football Playoff goes kaput.
Meanwhile, all that’s riding on one of the biggest games in Houston football history is a chance to make a CFP statement of its own. There’s a date with Louisville in mid-November, but a win over the Sooners makes the Cougars one of the biggest stories in college football for at least two months. If they’re really good enough to beat OU, they’re good enough to wipe up everyone on the slate until getting to the Cardinals.
The line is a little thick – it’ll end up around eight by the time the season rolls around. OU will come out angry after all the hype surrounding Houston, but it’ll still be an interesting shootout. Neither defense will come up with a stop until the Sooners take over in the fourth.
Line: Oklahoma -10
June Prediction: Oklahoma 38, Houston 30
Southeastern Louisiana at Oklahoma State
2:30 PM Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK
Oklahoma State is taking it nice and easy to start the season against a SE Louisiana team without an offense. The Cowboys should be able to put this away after two drives, but they’ll need to be tuned up for a – don’t laugh, really – possible shootout against Central Michigan to follow. Then it’s Pitt, then it’s the Big 12 opener at Baylor. Give OSU credit for being smart enough to schedule a scrimmage to kick things off.
Line: No Line
June Prediction: Oklahoma State 62, Southeastern Louisiana 13
Rhode Island at Kansas
6:00 PM ESPN3 Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, KS
Somehow, Rhode Island found an opening game against an FBS team coming off a worse season than it had. Finally, Kansas head coach David Beaty will get a win after his 0-12 2015 campaign, and if he doesn’t, back up truck and start the program over from scratch. How bad were the Rams last year? They went 1-10 without scoring more than 21 points and only coming up with more 17 twice. Rock Chalk Catharsis.
Line: No Line
June Prediction: Kansas 45, Rhode Island 13
South Dakota State at TCU
7:00 PM Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
While most of the Big 12 vs. FCS opening day games are nothing more than light breezes, TCU might have to work a wee bit for this one. The Jackrabbits got to the FCS playoffs last season with one of the nation’s best defenses, making this the perfect opener for the Horned Frog offense that needs a little retooling. It’ll be tested, but not that hard.
Line: No Line
June Prediction: TCU 38, South Dakota State 13
Sunday, September 4
Notre Dame at Texas
6:30 PM ABC Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, TX
Every major college head coach is under enormous pressure in every game, but this is a bit different. For Charlie Strong, Texas needs to come up with something special on national TV after getting pantsed in the loss to Notre Dame in South Bend to open things up last season. Win, and the Longhorns might prove to be real, live players again on a national scale.
Pressure for Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly is all about having to be close to perfect. Lose to the Longhorns, and there’s no margin for error the rest of the way. With no conference title to play for, this is it. It’s an interesting schedule, but there’s nothing to worry about on the road until the regular season finale against USC.
The thunder of the Texas running game, along with a jacked up performance from the defense on its home turf, will be enough to control the clock, control the game, and control the tempo. It’ll be an efficient and effective performance by a Longhorn team that’ll start out looking like the real deal.
Line: Notre Dame -3.5
June Prediction: Texas 23, Notre Dame 20