Many of us have been counting down all summer for the start of another college football season, and it’s finally here. The Big 12 kicks off its 2013 today, with defending conference co-champion Kansas State hosting North Dakota State, the two-time defending NCAA Division I FCS chamption, and Texas Techtraveling to Big D to take on SMU.
The remainder of the league, with the exception of Baylor and Kansas, whose first games aren’t until Sept. 7, opens the season on Saturday.
This should be an exciting season in the Big 12, with seven teams sporting new starting quarterbacks and no consensus favorite to win the conference crown. Oklahoma State, Texas and TCU have all been picked by one football prognosticator or another to come out on top when all the dust settles 15 weeks from now, and, as it is in basketball with Kansas, you can never count out a Bob Stoops’ coached Oklahoma team that has won eight Big 12 titles in 17 seasons, by far the most of any school in the league.
The Big 12 opens the 2013 season with four teams ranked in the nation’s top 25 and two others receiving votes. This is the earliest start of the season since 2008, although Big 12 teams have opened in August in 12 of the 17 seasons since the conference was formed in 1996. Big 12 teams are 38-18 in games played in the month of August.
Universally known as an offense-heavy league, the Big 12 has had one or more teams ranked in the top-five nationally in 14 of its 17 years. Offense may be Job 1 in the Big 12, but the conference is no slouch, either, when it comes to defense. The conference has had a team ranked in the top eight in the country in 12 out of 17 seasons.
Another stat of note when it comes to defending the Big 12′s honor in football: The Big 12 has had five Heisman Trophy winners in 17 seasons, and the conference ranks second to the SEC, with seven appearances in the BCS National Championship game (four by Oklahoma, the most of any team in the BCS era).
Beginning this week and every week through Dec. 7, I will preview the Big 12 football schedule and the spotlight game of the week, pointing out strengths and weaknesses and what to look for in the game, as well as pick the outcome of all of the games on the dockett for that week.
This week’s pick game is TCU vs. LSU, a battle of nationally ranked teams from the Big 12 and the SEC, in the season-opening Cowboys Classic at AT&T Stadium (formerly Cowboys Stadium) in Arlington, Texas. The Big 12 actually has two shots at the SEC on the opening weekend, as Oklahoma State and Mississippi State square off at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
TCU vs. LSU
Cowboys Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas
TCU head coach Gary Patterson says he will not name his starting quarterback until right before the game, but everyone expects it to be former starter Casy Pachall, who sat out all but the first few games last season to go through substance-abuse treatment. The Horned Frogs are 15-2 with Pachall at quarterback, and he has an impressive 35-to-8 touchdown to interception ratio. TCU also has senior running back Wayman James, who led the team in rushing in 2011, back for the 2013 season. He was injured the second week of the season a year ago and missed the remainder of the year.
Patterson’s team went 7-6 in its debut season in the Big 12, but better things are expected from the Horned Frogs this season. TCU has a veteran team, with more than half of its starters juniors and seniors. TCU’s strength is on defense, but it will be without the services of Preseason All-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Devonte Fields. The sophomore defensive end and Freshman Defensive Player of the Year in the conference last season is suspended for the first game.
This may not be the best LSU team of the past few seasons, but the Tigers (ranked 13th in the USA Today Coaches Poll) still have loads of talent on both sides of the ball and, as is the case with most SEC teams, they are expecially big and tough on defense, so it would not be surprising to see a low-scoring affair in this showdown of elite college teams.
LSU has won the last five meetings between the two teams and owns a 2-5-1 record in the overall series. The two teams have not played each other, though, since 1968. TCU is 13-4 against nonconference BCS schools.
Prediction: LSU 27, TCU 21
Other Big 12 Picks for Week 1
North Dakota State 27 @ Kansas State 31 (Friday)
Texas Tech 34 @ SMU 27 (Friday)
New Mexico 13 @ Texas 42
William & Mary 10 @ West Virginia 35
Northern Iowa 10 @ Iowa State 24
Louisiana-Monroe 17, @ Oklahoma 38
Oklahoma State 41, Mississippi State 24 @ Reliant Stadium in Houston