The Big 12 Conference opener for both Texas and Oklahoma State offers numerous story lines. When the 10th-ranked Longhorns take on the Cowboys in Stillwater Saturday night, each team is seeking its identity for this season.
Plus there's intrigue regarding Oklahoma State's starter at quarterback. Coach Mike Gundy's policy is to announce the day before the game if any player is questionable or unable to play. In the Cowboys' last game on Sept. 15, freshman Wes Lunt suffered a knee injury. He was replaced by redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh, who led the team to a school record for total yards.
"We have to run our plays," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "You can't wholesale change the offense based on who's the starting quarterback, even though there's some variation in their ability. I don't think Texas is concerned one bit (about who plays quarterback)."
Lunt won the job of replacing Brandon Weeden during spring practice. He played well under tough circumstances at Arizona in the Cowboys' loss. When Lunt was injured against Louisiana Lafayette on Oklahoma State's first offensive series, Walsh made his collegiate debut by posting 420 yards of total offense; he passed for 347 and rushed for 73.
The Cowboys are the defending Big 12 champions. This season's race for the top already has taken a turn as Oklahoma, the pre-season favorite to win the title, lost to Kansas State last week. Both Oklahoma State and Texas would like to start league play 1-0.
"The goal is to win the conference," Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. "You want to win the conference? This is the first step."
Jeffcoat is part of a defense that has the potential to be dominant. The last two seasons, UT's defense has been among the nation's best but its offense has struggled. In three victories, sophomore David Ash has proven himself as he's third in the Big 12 in passing efficiency. The Longhorns are averaging 49 points and 513 yards per game.
"It's been a long time around here since people were pleased with what they saw offensively," UT coach Mack Brown said.
The Oklahoma State game starts a difficult stretch of games. The Longhorns will be at home against West Virginia on Oct. 6, face Oklahoma in Dallas on Oct. 13 and then be at home against Baylor on Oct. 20.
"I want to see our toughness," Brown said of the upcoming schedule. "I want to see how good we are nationally. We're going to see that here soon."
"Soon" will start Saturday night.
All times Central
Baylor at West Virginia
Need to know: 11 a.m., Milan Puskar Stadium, FX.
Records: Baylor 3-0; West Virginia 3-0.
Scouting Baylor: The No. 24 Bears have been rolling on offense under the leadership of senior quarterback Nick Florence. He leads the Big 12 in total offense with 388 yards per game. Receivers Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese are among the top targets in the Baylor passing game. The defense is allowing nearly 30 points per game but has forced 10 turnovers.
Scouting West Virginia: The seventh-ranked Mountaineers hope to make their Big 12 debut successful. Senior quarterback Geno Smith leads the Big 12 in passing with 357 yards per game and is second in total offense. Like Baylor, West Virginia has two game-breaking receivers in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. The defense continues to adjust to a new scheme and new coaches.
This and that: West Virginia is facing Baylor for the first time and is 9-4 against current members of the Big 12. ... Baylor has won nine consecutive games dating back to last season. ... The Bears have allowed 492.7 yards per game, which ranks 116th out of 124 FBS schools.
Texas Tech at Iowa State
Need to know: 6 p.m. Jack Trice Stadium, FCS.
Records: Texas Tech 3-0; Iowa State 3-0.
Scouting Texas Tech: After 2011 imploded thanks to defensive woes, the Red Raiders have successfully retooled. Early in the season they lead the nation in total defense. If the defense continues to stop people, Texas Tech can be dangerous because of its explosive offense. Senior quarterback Seth Doege has thrown for 12 touchdowns and has several receivers from which to choose. Running backs Kenny Williams and Eric Stephens combine to rush for nearly 160 yards per game.
Scouting Iowa State: The Cyclones have relied a solid offense and an unyielding defense led by senior linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein. Iowa State allows 280 yards and just under 11 points per game. Senior quarterback Steele Jantz has a tendency to turn it over but if he takes care of the ball the Cyclones' offense can control the clock.
This and that: Texas Tech opens conference play on the road for the sixth time in the last seven seasons and 13th overall. The Red Raiders are10-6 in Big 12 openers. ... The Cyclones have started 3-0 in consecutive seasons for the sixth time in school history and the first since 2000 and 2001.
TCU at SMU
Need to know: 6 p.m., Ford Stadium, FSN.
Records: TCU 3-0; SMU 1-2.
Scouting TCU: The 14th-ranked Horned Frogs hope to close out non-conference play with a perfect record. Junior quarterback Casey Pachall leads the nation in passing efficiency but TCU's offense has been inconsistent because of turnovers and penalties in the red zone. Sophomore linebacker Joel Halsey is leading a defense that has just one senior starter.
Scouting SMU: The Mustangs have two losses have come to former Southwest Conference foes (Baylor and Texas A&M) and will try to avoid a third loss to another SWC expatriate. SMU allowed 107 points in those two losses and is last in FBS allowing 388 yards passing per game. Former Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert transferred to SMU and won the starting job.
This and that: The schools have met 91 times, most as members of the defunct Southwest Conference. ... SMU won in overtime last season in Fort Worth. ... TCU threw for 300 or more yards in consecutive games for the first time since the opening two contests of the 2004 season. ... In its three games thus far, TCU has more passing yards than rushing yards.
Texas at Oklahoma State
Need to know: 6:30 p.m., Boone Pickens Stadium, FOX.
Records: Texas 3-0; Oklahoma State 2-1.
Scouting Texas: The 10th-ranked Longhorns can continue the process of re-establishing themselves as a Big 12 and national power with a victory in Stillwater. Sophomore quarterback David Ash is third in passing efficiency in the Big 12. Thanks to an active and talented defense, Texas is plus-six in turnover margin.
Scouting Oklahoma State: The Cowboys lead the Big 12 in scoring offense, total offense and third-down conversion percentage. Redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh is expected to start at quarterback for the injured Wes Lunt. Oklahoma State has defeated Texas in Austin each of the last two seasons. The defense led the nation in forcing turnovers last season but has forced just three so far this season.
This and that: During Big 12 play, Texas has lost only once in Stillwater (1997). ... Texas has won 35 of its last 42 true Big 12 road games. The Horns are 39-9 in league road contests under Mack Brown. ... Oklahoma State enters the Texas contest with a nine-game winning streak against Big 12 members from the state of Texas dating back to 2009. ... The Cowboys are one of just three FBS schools yet to allow a sack in 2012.