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Big 12 2016 Football Previews - Week One: Not All Pushovers for League Teams

Some very interesting match-ups, including three against Power Five schools and another against a Top 15 foe, highlight what we’ve all been waiting for. It’s kickoff time in the Big 12 Conference!

THE NOTES

The Big 12 opens the season as the only Power Five conference with three week 1 non-conference games against top 15 opponents. Two of the three will be played away from home. Additionally, the league is one of two P5s which has 30 percent of its openers will be against ranked non-conference teams. Included in that number is Kansas State, which faces off against its highest-rated road foe in an opener in school history in the form of Stanford.

Remember, when comparing conferences, to look at the percentage of the total number of league teams as opposed to just the raw numbers – that makes a difference in getting the true picture of league achievement.

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Any conference with Bill Snyder in it is going to fare well in the longevity department, but the Big 12 has the market cornered on coaches with wins at their current posting. The only three active FBS head coaches with 143-plus wins at their current school are Snyder (K-State) 193, Bob Stoops (Oklahoma) 179 and Gary Patterson (TCU) 143.

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In evaluating Big 12 teams, which ones are the toughest to get a handle on? Two stand out – Baylor and TCU. The Bears have the talent, but as noted, one of their biggest questions is if they will be affected by all the off-the-field ugliness of the offseason. TCU brings back a ton of defensive talent, but will transfers make their offense good enough to justify their Top 15 ranking? Either team could finish near the top of the league, or in the lower division.

THE PICKS

Baylor embarks on its annual demolition of lower division schools that are as challenged on their levels as the Bears used to be in Division I. It's a total guess as to how numbers-challenged BU will respond to the hideous scandal that engulfed the program. Will it rally and play well, or will the lingering aftereffects cast a pall that will take more time to recover from? We won't find that answer out until October, because BU won't be challenged until the league schedule starts. Baylor rolls over Northwestern State in a Friday night opener.

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Kansas State gets one of several tough openers the league faces as it travels to Stanford for a Friday evening showdown with a Heisman Trophy hopeful. The Wildcats should be better offensively after weathering a terrible run of QB injuries last year, and are expected to display their usual fundamental soundness, but that won't be enough to overcome a Cardinal team that has high aspirations in the Pac-12.

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West Virginia hosts Missouri in what is already shaping up as a battle of attrition. Both teams lost players during fall camp, and both are attempting to reload in the face of tough league competition. The Mountaineers are 10-point favorites in some quarters, and while that's a big margin that they might not meet, the pick is for WVU to defend the home turf and get a quality win.

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Oklahoma meets Houston in enemy territory as the Cougars set up for their stab at higher national notice. UH did plenty to merit respect and praise in 2015, and a win over OU would send it higher on the crest of that national wave. Were it any other Big 12 team, we'd give the Coogs a real chance, but there are just too many Sooner stalwarts to pick an upset. Houston will play respectably, but Oklahoma nabs what could wind up as a very impressive win for its resume.

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Oklahoma State checks in with a warm-up win over Southeastern Louisiana in Stillwater. There's just not much else to say about this one, which amounts to an officiated scrimmage for the Cowboys.

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It's time to get excited about Kansas – at least, relatively speaking. The Jayhawks have a couple of early games that they can be reasonably expected to win, and coach David Beaty is getting a handful of players via recruiting and transfer that will be competitive in the Big 12. What that means in conference play, we'll wait to see, but it's enough to knock off Rhode Island and give the Jayhawks a winning start to 2016.

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TCU, like OSU and Baylor, eases into the season with an outmatched foe. South Dakota State won't be able to do much against the excellent Horned Frog defense, so even if the rebuilding offense isn't in high gear, it won't matter.

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Texas Tech gets a visit from Stephen F. Austin, which will be looking for another signature win over a Big 12 school after its hoops squad bounced West Virginia from the first round of the NCAA tournament in March. That doesn't happen here, though, as Patrick Mahomes and his offensive mates chop more wood than the Lumberjacks can hope to match.

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Iowa State, under new head coach Matt Campbell, has energy and optimism as it opens what it hopes is a new era of Cyclone football. Northern Iowa won't be a pushover, and a couple of preseason losses, combined with a youth movement, combine to make this game a bit dicey. Still, Campbell pushes his team to an opening day win.

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Texas hopes to reverse a 38-3 drubbing at the hands of Notre Dame a year ago, and is pinning its hopes on a strengthened defense, a freshman quarterback and a home crowd advantage. Somehow, the Longhorns are pegged as favorites in this one – is this just a matter of the usual kowtowing to the name, or an accurate prediction? UT may be better, but enough to close the gap from a year ago? All logic dictates against it, but the Horns are the pick.


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