Picks, Predictions and Prognosis for Every Week 1 Big 12 Football Game
After roughly eight grueling months of wandering through the offseason desert, we've finally reached our civilization.
As of Thursday, there will no longer not be football for the next several months. In other words, you can stop watching GIFs of Miley Cyrus at the VMAs.
(Or not, if that's your thing. We're not here to judge you. Sort of.)
So what's on tap for the Big 12 in Week 1? That would be a whole bunch of non-conference games, some of which are uninteresting while a few others are quite compelling.
Let's get to the picks, shall we?
(All rankings reflect the Associated Press poll.)
Ben Kercheval is the Lead Writer for Big 12 football. You can reach him on Twitter @BenKercheval. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
Texas Tech at SMU
Friday, Aug. 30 at 8:00 p.m. ET
I don't care what Vegas says, the under for this game has been set at LOLOLOLOLOL. Hopefully, anyway.
Kliff Kingsbury begins his tenure as Texas Tech's head coach with an intriguing non-conference game against SMU, which now has June Jones as its head coach and Hal Mumme as its offensive coordinator.
Navigating this potential Run 'n' Shoot-Air Raid mashup is Garrett Gilbert, the former Texas quarterback who is now in his final year. Gilbert's had his share of ups and downs, but he can get off to a good start in 2013 with a veteran receiving group that includes Jeremy Johnson and Der’rikk Thompson.
Defensively, we found out last year during the Hawaii Bowl that Al Gore was right: ManBearPig is real and his name is Margus Hunt. However, he's gone and so are some serious pass rushing capabilities.
The Red Raiders will have to find an answer at quarterback. Michael Brewer is out with a back injury, meaning freshmen Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield will continue to share snaps until one emerges. Though playing at SMU may feel more like a neutral site game than a true road game, it'll be the first college game for both players.
Score Prediction: Texas Tech 48, SMU 41
North Dakota State at Kansas State
Friday, Aug. 30 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Jake "Smoke on the" Waters was named Kansas State's quarterback on Monday by Bill Snyder. The wizard of college football coaches explained during his Monday teleconference that it was consistency and leadership that led him to pick the first-year JUCO transfer from Iowa Western over Daniel Sams.
Waters will begin his career with the Wildcats against North Dakota State of the FCS. The Bison aren't your run-of-the-mill lower tier team, though; they've won the past two NCAA Division 1 national championships and their past three games against FBS opponents: Colorado State (2012) Minnesota (2011) and Kansas (2010).
It pretty much goes without saying that K-State is a much better team than any of those three, however. And, if Waters does struggle, he has plenty of help around him, from running back John Hubert and receiver Tyler Lockett, to defensive star Ty Zimmerman.
Score Prediction: Kansas State 37, North Dakota State 14
William & Mary at West Virginia
Saturday, Aug. 31 at 12:00 p.m. ET
The Mountaineers are understandably getting buried in this year's Big 12 preseason polls. This is an offense that must find an answer for the production lost when quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey departed for the NFL. On top of that, defense will be considered a liability until it proves otherwise.
But there are plenty of returning starters from last year's defense (is that a good thing?), including Karl Joseph, a star in the making at the safety spot. This is a unit that should be able to do enough to keep William & Mary from making it a game.
And whether it's Paul Millard or Clint Trickett (or both) at the QB helm, WVU's offense should find its rhythm relatively quickly. Expect Houston transfer Charles Sims to strap on a figurative jet pack and tally up 1,000 yards of total offense by himself before strapping on a literal jet pack and launching out of the stadium.
Score Prediction: West Virginia 54, William & Mary 16
Mississippi State vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State in Houston, Texas
Saturday, Aug. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET
A majority of the Big 12 focus on Saturday will be on LSU and TCU, and for good reason. But don't sleep on an underrated Big 12-SEC game in Week 1 between Mississippi State and No. 13 Oklahoma State in Reliant Stadium in Houston.
The Cowboys will use two quarterbacks: Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh, both of whom played last year with success and nearly identical stats.
The matchup to watch in this game will be the Oklahoma State passing game against the secondary of Mississippi State. That's a unit which lost two key cornerbacks to the NFL draft: Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay. Whoever gets matched up against OSU wide receiver Josh Stewart is going to need your prayers.
Another battle to watch will be in the trenches. The Oklahoman reported earlier this week that OSU lost offensive lineman Devin Davis, likely for the season, with an ACL tear. While Mike Gundy has yet to confirm that report, it will likely be done for us when Saturday rolls around.
Still, this feels like a game that Oklahoma State should win and do so convincingly.
Score Prediction: Oklahoma State 35, Mississippi State 20
Louisiana-Monroe at No. 16 Oklahoma
Saturday, Aug. 31 at 7:00 p.m. ET
Oklahoma is going to start some redshirt freshman named Trevor Knight who has definitely not received any publicity over the past week and most definitely hasn't been compared to Johnny Manziel at all.
There's plenty of intrigue surrounding Oklahoma's offense with Knight in charge. (In case you missed it, our own Michael Felder does a fantastic job of breaking down how the Sooners offense figures to look with the redshirt freshman taking the snaps.) How will Knight look? Will Blake Bell still be used and how much? Will Jalen Saunders step up in the passing game now that Kenny Stills and Justin Brown are gone?
Another big question mark for OU is the defense, and Louisiana-Monroe lit up some scoreboards last year with not one but two quarterbacks. On the field at the same time.
[/Prays for two-quarterback offense from both teams the entire game]
Score Prediction: Oklahoma 42, Louisiana Monroe 28
Wofford at Baylor
Saturday, Aug. 31 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Baylor has offense for days and looks to be the most exciting team in the Big 12 this year. The Bears have a preseason Heisman candidate in running back Lache Seastrunk and a senior receiver in Tevin Reese who had nearly 1,000 yards receiving last year.
But, oh, fear the mighty Terriers of Wofford, who have given both South Carolina and Clemson fits in recent years. Get this: Wofford had at least 500 yards rushing in two games last year. The Terriers racked up 500 yards flat on the ground in a win over Elon and 590 (!!!!!!) in a victory over Western Carolina. The passing yards for the Terriers on those games? Sixteen and five, respectively.
Score Prediction: [NSFW, but Baylor wins]
Northern Iowa at Iowa State
Saturday, Aug. 31 at 8:00 p.m. ET
For the second time in three years, Iowa State will open up the season against FCS opponent Northern Iowa. The last time these two teams met, the Cyclones squeaked out a 20-19 victory.
Sam Richardson returns as ISU's starting quarterback after finishing out the 2012 season. This is a team that has a lot of improving to do on the offensive side of the ball but especially in the ground game. Last year, James White and Shontrelle Johnson combined for just a touch over 1,000 yards on the ground as the two leading rushers.
The defense needs to find new leaders in the linebacker unit with the departures of Jake Knott and A.J. Klein. However, Paul Rhoads did say earlier this week on the Big 12 coaches teleconference that he was impressed with the leadership qualities of linebacker Jeremiah George.
This should be a win for Iowa State, but it doesn't have the elements of a particularly interesting matchup.
Score Prediction: Iowa State 30, Northern Iowa 10
New Mexico State at No. 15 Texas
Saturday, Aug. 31 at 8:00 p.m. ET
Well, Texas. This is the year to get back to the top of the Big 12 and a BCS bowl—at least. If not this year, then when?
The road back to a 10-win season (at minimum) begins Saturday with a home game against New Mexico State. There really isn't much to look for here, though the number of wide receivers suited up and ready to play for the Longhorns may be on the low side.
Not that it will matter, Texas is far too talented and this has an Oklahoma State-Savannah State sort of feel to it.
Score Prediction: Texas 63, New Mexico State RIP :(
No. 12 LSU vs. No. 20 TCU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington
Saturday, Aug. 31 at 9:00 p.m. ET
Now we're talking.
A mostly boring first week of games for the Big 12 ends in the highly-anticipated matchup between TCU and LSU. More than anything, and mainly for TCU, there's a lot of national respect riding on this game.
Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson says he plans to use both quarterbacks, Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin, against the Tigers. How much or how little each will play remains to be seen. Patterson is also allowing sophomore defensive end Devonte Fields to suit up for the game, though he's still suspended for an offseason violation of team rules according to Patterson.
The matchup to watch will be TCU's speedy defense against LSU's big, powerful offense. In addition to Fields sitting on the sidelines, the Horned Frogs lost linebacker Joel Hasley when he left the team during fall camp. But TCU does have arguably its best defensive player, cornerback Jason Verrett, in the lineup.
TCU's ability to get pressure on Zach Mettenberger and turn him into an average quarterback would give the Horned Frogs a big-time advantage in this game.
This one feels like it'll be close.
Score Prediction: LSU 24, TCU 23