Monday, July 14, 2014
Ranking Big 12 games: Part I
By Jake Trotter
This week, the Big 12 football season begins (sort of) with Big 12 media days in Dallas. We’re ranking all 75 games in the league, both in conference and out, from worst to first.
Factors include quality of opponent, interest level and expected competitiveness.
We’ll get started with the bottom 15, then work our way to the top.
No. 75: Northwestern (Louisiana) State at Baylor (Sept. 6): The only compelling storyline in this one is whether Bryce Petty can get the Bears to 100. Last year, Northwestern State had the 74th-ranked pass defense -- in the FCS.
No. 74: Southeast Missouri State at Kansas (Sept. 6): Kansas coach Charlie Weis is guaranteed one win this season, and this is it. Southeast Missouri State is coming off a 3-9 record playing in the Ohio Valley Conference.
No. 73: Missouri State at Oklahoma State (Sept. 6): Missouri State is just the tonic the Cowboys will need after their opener with Florida State. As an aside, these two teams staged the first regular-season overtime game in college football history, with Oklahoma State escaping with a 23-20 victory in 1996.
No. 72: Central Arkansas at Texas Tech (Aug. 30): While West Virginia and Oklahoma State will be facing powers Alabama and Florida State, Tech QB Davis Webb will be getting warmed up against the Bears, who went 7-5 in the Southland Conference last year.
No. 71: Samford at TCU (Aug. 30): The Horned Frogs get a chance to test their new up-tempo offense against a middling FCS team. This will also be an opportunity for defensive end Devonte Fields to work his way back without much pressure after missing virtually all of the 2013 season because of a broken foot.
No. 70: Stephen F. Austin at Kansas State (Aug. 30): This game is mildly interesting, only because K-State lost last year’s opener to FCS school North Dakota State. Then again, Stephen F. Austin was among the worst teams in the FCS last year, while North Dakota State was the best.
No. 69: UTEP at Kansas State (Sept. 27): K-State could be coming off an emotional letdown after its clash with Auburn the week before. Of course, UTEP’s only two wins last season came against 1-11 Florida International and 2-10 New Mexico State.
No. 68: Louisiana Tech at Oklahoma (Aug. 30): This will be QB Trevor Knight's first appearance since shredding Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, so it'll be the first glimpse at whether Knight will be able to carry that level of play into this season.
No. 67: Kansas at Baylor (Nov. 1): In 2007, the Jayhawks hammered Baylor 58-10 on their way to the Orange Bowl. The Bears didn’t win a game in the Big 12 that season. How times have changed.
No. 66: Towson at West Virginia (Sept. 6): Games against Alabama and Maryland are why West Virginia’s nonconference schedule is considered the toughest in the league. But the Mountaineers had better not overlook Towson, which is coming off an appearance in the FCS national title game.
No. 65: Baylor at Buffalo (Sept. 12): The Bulls don’t have linebacker Khalil Mack anymore.
No. 64: Central Michigan at Kansas (Sept. 20): Central Michigan has 19 returning starters, but this is a winnable game for the Jayhawks, and probably a must-win if Kansas is to build off last year’s win total of three.
No. 63: Kansas at Oklahoma (Nov. 22): The Jayhawks gave Oklahoma a game in Lawrence last season. But since Bob Stoops’ arrival in 1999, the closest Kansas has ever gotten is a two-touchdown loss.
No. 62: Toledo at Iowa State (Oct. 11): This could be a dangerous game for the Cyclones, who are rebuilding on defense and revamping on offense. The Rockets return 16 starters and are a contender in the MAC.
No. 61: UTSA at Oklahoma State (Sept. 13): J.W. Walsh's best performance of 2013 came against UTSA. Maybe the Roadrunners can get the Oklahoma State QB cooking again.