By Wendell Barnhouse | email@example.com
When a Big 12 football team makes a non-conference road trip, sometimes it's like the circus has come to town.
Last Saturday, Texas Tech visited Texas State, a program new to FBS. The school had upgraded its stadium to seat 30,000 and a standing-room only crowd showed up for the biggest sports event in the history of San Marcos, Texas.
Next Friday, Baylor will make a 335-mile trip to North Central Louisiana to face Louisiana Monroe. The Warhawks stunned No. 8 Arkansas in overtime last Saturday, play at Auburn Saturday and the town of nearly 50,000 will be buzzing for the visit of a Big Time Football Program accompanied by ESPN.
No. 12 Texas will face Ole Miss for the seventh time and the first since the 1966 Bluebonnet Bowl when the Longhorns play the Rebels at 8:15 p.m. Saturday. It will be UT's first visit to Oxford, a town accustomed to visits by Southeastern Conference rivals but not that familiar with games against iconic programs.
Oxford, Miss., is a quintessential Southern town of 40,000 but it will be Football Fevered Saturday. Hotels in Oxford and nearby Tupelo (yes, home of Elvis) have been booked for over a year. There was a rumor – since debunked – that UT alum and actor Matthew McConaughey shelled out $250,000 to rent out the famed City Grocery and Taylor Grocery.
"I'm positive we've never seen anything like this weekend," Oxford resident and Ole Miss graduate Campbell McCool told ESPN.com, who noted that a friend rented his house for $20,000 for the weekend. "There's never been another game that's remotely approached that. The demand for housing for this thing is clearly unprecedented for a game around here. I knew that to be the case, but I was still surprised at how strong and how high it's going."
Texas fans making the trip will get to experience SEC football and the No. 2 "sport," tailgating. The Grove is almost as famous around Ole Miss as legendary quarterback Archie Manning (the speed limit on campus is 18 – Manning's uniform number).
"I am so fired up about going to the Grove, seeing the game and going through that atmosphere," UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds, who received a tailgate invitation Manning, told the Austin American-Statesman. "I hear that's one of the best atmospheres in college football. I've never been there."
The game? Ah, yes. Texas will try for a 3-0 start for the sixth consecutive season. The Longhorns, though, have just a few seniors who play major roles. Any prime-time road game at an SEC venue can be challenging, even for a veteran team.
The Rebels are 2-0, averaging over 500 yards offense per game and are ninth nationally in rushing yardage. First-year coach Hugh Freeze is an up-and-comer who was the high school coach of Michael Oher, whose path to football led to the book and movie "The Blind Side."
And the Ole Miss quarterback is Bo Wallace, a name familiar to Longhorns fans. During the off-season, the junior-college transfer met with UT offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin and there was brief speculation that Texas would go the JUCO route to bring in a quarterback with more experience. Instead, the Horns stayed with who they had. Moore led East Mississippi Community College to a 12-0 record and the NJCAA national title.
Wallace's play-making abilities, the 2-0 start and UT's visit have the Rebels dreaming big.
"It's been a long time since we've been in a good spotlight," senior fullback H.R. Greer said. "A lot of times there's been a lot of negativity around the program. It's great for the fan base and the university to be in a positive spotlight.
"It'd be a big-time win. They're a great team, and it would really spark us for the rest of the year."
Deep Breaths … Relax … Have Fun
In his first two games at quarterback for Kansas, Dayne Crist has thrown more interceptions (three) than touchdowns (two) while completing just over half of his passes. The Jayhawks, following last week's last-second loss to Rice, are 1-1 going into Saturday's Big 12 opener with TCU.
Crist, who transferred from Notre Dame with a single-season shot at being a winning quarterback, says the player KU fans have seen in two home games is not The Real Dayne Crist.
"It was clear watching myself on film that I just wasn't having enough fun out there," Crist said. "That's why I play the game. It was a little frustrating and confusing that the two weren't going hand in hand.
"I plan on having a lot more fun from here on out and just relaxing and being one of the guys and helping manage the offense."
Crist saw it in watching film from the first two games and the message was affirmed by coach Charlie Weis. Kansas needs more from its passing game to compete in the Big 12 but it also needs its quarterback to understand how he fits in the overall scheme.
"You don't have to bear all the weight on your shoulders," Weis told Crist. "The bottom line is we need to be much better in the passing game if we're gonna have a chance."
Texas senior wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, who competed in the long jump in the Summer Olympics, left campus Thursday to visit President Obama at the White House, along with the rest of the U.S. Olympic team. Goodwin will rejoin the Longhorns on Friday. The Longhorns are staying in Memphis Friday before playing at Ole Miss Saturday.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen hasn't decided if sophomore running back Dustin Garrison will play this season or be redshirted. Garrison led the Mountaineers in rushing with 742 yards last season but suffered an ACL injury in practice before the Orange Bowl. He didn't play in the opener. "It will come around to a point that if we need him, he'll play and if not, he won't," Holgorsen said.
Texas has a four-game series scheduled with Notre Dame – home-and-home in 2015-16 and 2019-2020. The Atlantic Coast Conference announced this week that Notre Dame would join it in all sports but football and as part of the affiliation would play five games each season against ACC teams. UT athletic director DeLoss Dodds said he hasn't heard from Notre Dame if its deal with the ACC would change its future schedules. Notre Dame starts a two-game home-and-home series with Oklahoma that starts with this year's game in Norman on Oct. 27.
Oklahoma running back Damien Williams has touchdown runs of 65 and 89 yards in the first two games and is averaging an other-worldly 12.95 yards per carry.
Since 1999, Texas has the second-best record in road/neutral site games. The Longhorns are 66-23 for a .742 winning percentage in games away from Austin. Boise State (66-62) has a winning percentage of .750 in away games.
TCU will be playing its inaugural Big 12 game Saturday at Kansas. It will be the fourth different conference for the Horned Frogs since 1996.
West Virginia is facing James Madison, ranked No. 4 in the FCS, Saturday at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. West Virginia will make a reported $2.3 million for playing the neutral-site game.
Texas Tech gained 186 yards on 23 rushing attempts (8.1 yards per carry) against Texas State. In the season opener, the Red Raiders rushed for 179 yards on 46 attempts for an average of 3.9 yards per rush.
Baylor quarterback Nick Florence:
"We think we're at the place where we can win the Big 12, but we've got to prove it. It's one week at a time, but we think we can do it. We've thought that all summer, and now we have to go out and try to win each game and prove ourselves every week."
Texas coach Mack Brown on Saturday's game at Ole Miss:
"We won't take them lightly, because they look good on video and they're undefeated. That is the thing that helps you going in. I think the thing is that the SEC winning the national championships, as of late, has made them a 'media darling.' So our players hear nothing but SEC all the time."
New Mexico coach Bob Davie on Texas Tech, his team's opponent Saturday:
"If you watch them against Texas State, quite honestly, they were on fire. That's as good as I've seen them play. The quarterback was hot. They've got a couple big, tall receivers … they've got some speed receivers … They really, really are good. They've punted one time all season. They've been up about 36-6 at halftime of their two games."
Kansas coach Charlie Weis on TCU, his team's opponent Saturday:
"I just watched them play 49 snaps of defense, played the same front and coverage 46 times, and gave up about two yards (70) in the game. I saw the quarterbacks throw the ball 17 times and they completed 17 passes. That's what I'm looking at."
TCU coach Gary Patterson after Saturday's victory that gave him more wins than any coach in school history:
"This happened because of a whole lot of people and not just because of me. To watch all this happen is just spectacular. … Fort Worth raised me as a head coach. There were a lot of people in my past to help get me to that point, but Fort Worth raised me. I was emotional. There's a lot to it."