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What's In Store In 9 Big 12 Openers
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By Wendell Barnhouse | wendell@big12sports.com
Big12Sports.com Correspondent

A year ago, Baylor opened the season on a "non-traditional" date (a Friday) on national television (ESPN) and defeated a former Southwest Conference opponent (TCU). That victory helped fuel a 10-win season and jump-started the Heisman Trophy success of quarterback Robert Griffin III.

The 2012 season-opening scenario is similar. The Bears will face SMU (a former SWC foe) on a non-traditional date (Sunday) on television (FSN). The biggest difference is that the Horned Frogs were ranked and coming off a Rose Bowl victory. The Mustangs are unranked and closed their season with a triumph in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

Coach Art Briles said this week that even though it's just one game on the 12-game schedule, the season opener is important. His players agree and understand.

"It's huge," said Baylor senior Nick Florence, who replaces RG3 as the team's quarterback. "It sets the standard for the season. We've got to come out and execute. We've got to be prepared and ready and set the season right."

"We know we have to make a statement," Baylor junior nickelback Ahmad Dixon said. "We know everybody's wondering how the offense is going to be without Robert, and how our defense is going to be. We've got to execute on every cylinder and do what we have to do to get a W."

While TCU was in an upset-seeking mode last season, that will be SMU's mindset Sunday night. The Mustangs also defeated TCU last season so they're comfortable with the idea of knocking off a former SWC rival.

SMU will start Garrett Gilbert at quarterback. He was the starter for Texas last season but was injured and lost playing time. He decided to transfer and he completed enough academic work at UT to go into graduate work at SMU and become immediately eligible.

Wide receiver Darius Johnson made 79 catches for 1,188 yards and eight touchdowns for the Mustangs last season, while running back Zach Line has rushed for 2,718 yards and 27 touchdowns in the last two seasons.

"Gilbert is a real good fit for them," Briles said. "They've got an excellent back who is valuable to their scheme. He can run and make yardage. They're also very good on the defensive side of the ball."

Big 12 Previews
(All times CST)

Marshall at West Virginia
Need to know: 11 a.m., Milan Puskar Stadium, FX.
Records (2011): West Virginia 10-3, 5-2 (Big East Conference); Marshall 7-6, 5-3.

Scouting Marshall: This is the 11th meeting between the teams and the Thundering Herd has yet to post a victory. The teams have met each of the previous six seasons with the Mountaineers holding a 199-77 scoring edge. Marshall defeated Florida International in the St. Petersburg Bowl. The Thundering Herd's last victory over a ranked opponent came in 2003 when they knocked off sixth-ranked Kansas State, 27-20.

Scouting West Virginia: New Big 12 member West Virginia opens its season against in-state rival Marshall. The Mountaineers are ranked 11th and feature a high-powered offense triggered by senior quarterback Geno Smith. Dana Holgorsen, a former offensive coordinator at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, starts his second season as West Virginia's coach. The Mountaineers' defense has switched to a new 3-4 scheme and needs to replace last year's top pass rushers.

This and that: This game is known as the Friends Of Coal Bowl but the series ends after this game. ... Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato and wide receiver Aaron Dobson should contend for Conference USA honors. ... West Virginia co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForrest wants his unit to force at least three turnovers per game.

Tulsa at Iowa State
Need to know: 2:30 p.m., Jack Trice Stadium, FSN.
Records (2011): Iowa State 6-7, 3-6; Tulsa 8-5, 7-1.

Scouting Tulsa: Cody Green, a transfer from Nebraska, has earned the starting quarterback job for the Golden Hurricane and replaces three-year starter G.J. Kinne. Tulsa returns its top two rushers (juniors Ja'Terian Douglas and Trey Watts) and top two receivers from a team that averaged 33.1 points last year.

Scouting Iowa State: Senior Steele Jantz, who started seven games last season, was named the starting quarterback two weeks ago. The offense wants its passers to complete 60 percent of their throws to make the attack efficient. The Cyclones' running game has three solid backs in James White, Jeff Woody and Shontrelle Johnson. The defense is anchored by senior linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein; both are three-year starters.

This and that: Tulsa has won 44 games over the last five seasons, tied for 20th nationally, and has appeared in seven bowl games since 2003. ... Tulsa is opening on the road for the sixth consecutive season. ... This is the second time these teams have met; the other meeting was in 1961.

Missouri State at Kansas State
Need to know: 6:10 p.m., Bill Snyder Family Stadium, K-StateHD.tv.
Records (2011): Kansas State 10-3, 7-2; Missouri State 2-9, 2-6.

Scouting Missouri State: The Bears went 2-9 last season, and even though they return 14 starters, they're predicted to finish tenth in the Missouri Valley Conference. Quarterback Kierra Harris is a capable passer and he's the best hope for the Bears to make some noise offensively. Ashton Glaser, who transferred from Missouri, could also see action at QB. Missouri State is coached by Terry Allen, a former coach at Kansas.

Scouting Kansas State: Senior quarterback Collin Klein spent the offseason working on his passing skills. In last season's opener, Klein and the offense struggled but that's not likely to happen Saturday. Running back John Hubert gained 900-plus yards last season and could be a big factor in this game.

This and that: Teams coached by Bill Snyder have won 19 consecutive season openers. ... Since 1990, K-State has won 62 of their 69 (.899) regular season nonconference games under Snyder. ...The Wildcats return 14 starters, the most since 2006. ... Since 1990, Kansas State is 149-5 when leading at halftime.

Northwestern State at Texas Tech
Need to know: 6 p.m., Jones AT&T Stadium, FSSW-Plus.
Records (2011): Texas Tech, 5-7, 2-7; Northwestern State 5-6, 3-4.

Scouting Northwestern State: The Demons were one of the worst FCS offensive teams last season and scored a total of 10 points against LSU and SMU - the two FBS teams they played last season. Northwestern State has 20 starters returning, including quarterback Brad Henderson. The defense has a terrific safety tandem in Jamaal White and Brashard Booker.

Scouting Texas Tech: Senior quarterback Seth Doege will be in control of an offense that should be able to move the ball and score points at an efficient rate. Running back Eric Stephens, who was on pace for a 1,000-yard season before suffering a knee injury, is expected to see action. The defense was the worst in school history but a new defensive scheme plus some newcomers are expected to make a difference.

This and that: Texas Tech is 1-0 all-time against Northwestern State as the Red Raiders handed the Demons a 75-7 whipping back on Sept. 29, 2007. ... Texas Tech is 9-0 all time against the FCS since 2005, when Division I-AA was reclassified. ... The Red Raiders hold a 58-26-3 all-time record in season openers and are 65-18-3 all-time in home season openers.

South Dakota State at Kansas
Need to know: 6 p.m., Memorial Stadium, Jayhawk Network.
Records (2011): Kansas 2-10, 0-9; South Dakota State 5-6, 4-4.

Scouting South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits have the flexibility to play odd and even fronts without switching personnel on defense and they use both spread and pro-style formations on offense. South Dakota State's offense will feature spread formations but also line up with two tight ends and play power football. Quarterback Austin Sumner, last year's Missouri Valley Conference freshman of the year, is dealing with a thumb injury on his throwing hand.

Scouting Kansas: The Charlie Weis Era starts at KU and Jayhawks fans are anxious to see the differences in his program. Quarterback Dayne Crist, who transferred from Notre Dame, has become a team leader and is expected to trigger an offense that has potential. A defense that was the nation's worst in points and yards allowed has been bolstered by a number of newcomers.

This and that: Weis' successor, Turner Gill, lost his first game as KU's coach to an FCS foe. ... Weis was 35-27 in five seasons as Notre Dame's coach. ... Since last season, seven Jayhawks have changed positions; five involved linemen.

Wyoming at Texas
Need to know: 7 p.m., Darrell K Royal/ Texas Memorial Stadium, LHN.
Records (2011): Texas 8-5, 4-5; Wyoming 8-5, 5-2.

Scouting Wyoming: Dave Christensen, a former offensive coordinator at Missouri, is in his fourth season as the Cowboys' coach. Wyoming played in the New Mexico Bowl last season, losing to Temple 37-15. Quarterback Brett Smith started last season as a freshman and had a solid season. The 6-3, 195-pounder threw for 2,622 yards and 20 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. He's a strong runner, gaining 710 yards and scoring 10 TDs on the ground.

Scouting Texas: Sophomore David Ash starts at quarterback and there will be plenty of focus on the Longhorns' offense. Coach Mack Brown wants an improved passing game and more explosive plays. Expect Texas to establish the running game and use three running backs - sophomores Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown plus freshman Jonathan Gray. The defense returns seven starters and is expected to be nasty.

This and that: In its 5-7 season in 2010, one of UT's victories was a 34-7 decision over Wyoming. ... The Cowboys were 115th against the run last season. ... In Mack Brown's 14 openers at Texas, the Horns have outscored their opponents by an average of 46.6-11.6.

Savannah State at Oklahoma State
Need to know: 6 p.m., Boone Pickens Stadium, FCS
Records (2011): Oklahoma State 12-1, 7-1; Savannah State 1-10, 1-7.

Scouting Savannah State: Savannah State, an FCS school, has a 2-20 record the last two seasons and this is the first time it has played an FBS school. Last season the Tigers were awful on offense, scoring 138 points in 11 games. Quarterback Antonio Bostick has good mobility, but he struggled to be productive because of a below average offensive line.

Scouting Oklahoma State: The defending Big 12 champions will take the field with freshman quarterback Wes Lunt running the offense. He's 18 years old; last year's starter was Brandon Weeden, who was 27. The 19th-ranked Cowboys have an outstanding running back in junior Joseph Randle but need to find a go-to receiver to replace Justin Blackmon. Oklahoma State's defense led the nation in turnovers last season.

This and that: Savannah State has had five football coaches in the last eight years. ... Savannah State's athletic budget is $5.1 million and the school is receiving $385,000 to play Oklahoma State and will get $475,000 from Florida State for next week's game. ... Oklahoma State's average starting field position last year was its own 36-yard line, thanks to forcing 27 of its 44 turnovers and productive kickoff returns.

Oklahoma at UTEP
Need to know: 9:30 p.m., Sun Bowl, FSN.
Records (2011): Oklahoma 10-3, 6-3; UTEP 5-7, 2-6.

Scouting Oklahoma: Senior quarterback Landry Jones declined a chance to enter the NFL Draft. He's in charge of a talented attack that will depend on a solid offensive line that lacks depth because of injuries. Mike Stoops, brother of the head coach, has returned as defensive coordinator. He has shuffled the secondary with four players in different positions than last season. Replacing the top pass rushers from 2011 is a concern.

Scouting UTEP: The Miners like to throw it around and throw it deep. Quarterback Nick Lamaison, who was first-team Conference USA last season, completed 40 passes of at least 20 yards last season. Michael Edwards and Jordan Leslie are the top receiving targets. The Miners defense, which struggled to stop the run last season, must replace seven starters.

This and that: Oklahoma is opening on the road for the first time since 2002 (a 37-0 victory at Tulsa). ... Freshman Trey Metoyer and Justin Brown, a transfer from Penn State, are listed as starters on the Sooners' depth chart. ... Mike Price is the second coach in school history to lead UTEP to three bowl games.

SMU at Baylor
Need to know: 5:30 p.m., Floyd Casey Stadium, FSN.
Records (2011): Baylor 10-3, 6-3; SMU 8-5, 5-3.

Scouting SMU: The Mustangs will start Garrett Gilbert at quarterback. He was Texas' starting QB last season, lost the job and transferred to SMU, where he is eligible to play this season. Coach June Jones is known for developing quarterbacks and for his productive passing game. The Mustangs' top receiver is Darius Johnson while running back Zach Line is a 230-pounder who runs tough between the tackles.

Scouting Baylor: The Bears start the post RG3 Era with senior Nick Florence at quarterback. Other than Florence, Baylor's biggest issues involve finding a No. 1 running back a go-to receiver plus getting improved play from its defense. Baylor's defense will try to pressure Gilbert by attacking an SMU offensive line that has five new starters.

This and that: Baylor's seven-game home winning streak is the longest in the Big 12 and fifth-longest in the nation, behind Northern Illinois (15), Michigan State (14), Arkansas (11) and Michigan (8). ...Baylor is just 7-9 in season openers in Big 12 history. ... SMU's Zach Line led Conference USA in rushing and was seventh nationally, averaging 122.4 yards per game before missing the last three games with a foot injury.

 

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