Big 12: Vai Tuia
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
There are several obvious games that are already noticeable that should carry an extra bit of trepidation for Big 12 teams as they prepare for the upcoming season. Even with Big 12 teams likely to be solidly favored in these games, here are five games that should come with a warning label considering the opponent and the circumstances of the game.
North Dakota State at Iowa State, Sept. 3: Craig Bohl will have the Bison fired up for their game in Ames. And he knows a little bit about beating the Cyclones, considering his history as a defensive coordinator at Nebraska.
This game has all the marking of one to worry about for the Cyclones. It's Paul Rhoads' first game as a head coach. The Bison have been tough in other road games at FCS teams in recent seasons, losing by three points at Wyoming last season, beating Minnesota and Central Michigan on the road in 2007 and losing by one point at Minnesota and beating Ball State on the road in 2006. Even with the talent disparity, this game might be closer than expected.
Rhoads should ask Colorado coach Dan Hawkins how much losing to an FCS team in your first game at a Big 12 school can ruin your first season. That 2006 opening-game loss to Montana State was a particularly bad start for Hawkins' coaching tenure there.
Houston at Oklahoma State, Sept. 12: This game is coming at a tricky time for Oklahoma State, which will be coming back for a second game after a huge emotional opener against Georgia the week before. The Cougars will have 5,000-yard passer Case Keenum along with 1,000-yard rusher Bryce Beall and 1,000-yard receiver Tyron Carrier among a group of 15 returning starters.
And not only do the Cougars return a lot of experience, but they also have a modicum of confidence against OSU. Houston led the Cowboys last season, 16-7, late in the first half before the Cowboys' offense blitzed them for four touchdowns in a span of barely 7½ minutes. If Houston can do a better job defensively this season, it could make Mike Gundy sweat against the preseason Conference USA West Division's favorites.
Kansas at UTEP, Sept. 12: The trip to the Sun Bowl might be a little more harrowing than expected for the Jayhawks.
UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe threw for 33 touchdown passes and 3,274 yards last season. The Miners also surround him with 14 other returning starters. If Vittatoe can stay protected, he might be able to singe the Jayhawks' questionable linebacking corps and perhaps win a shootout. Stranger things have happened -- particularly playing in front of what should be a sellout crowd at the Sun Bowl.
And here's a statistic to keep in mind before the game: The Jayhawks have lost their last three true nonconference road games and haven't claimed a nonconference road game since winning at Wyoming in 2003. Their trip to El Paso won't be a picnic.
Wyoming at Colorado, Sept. 19: On paper, this looks like a game the Buffaloes should easily win. But a couple of trends might prove to benefit new Wyoming coach Dave Christensen, who will be playing his first road game.
Christensen was the offensive coordinator of a Missouri team that beat Colorado by a combined margin of 113-10 over the past two seasons, including a 58-0 victory last season. He won't have Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin or Chase Coffman in this game, but he still has confidence of being successful against Colorado's defense.
The Cowboys won at Tennessee last season so they aren't intimidated by hostile road environments. They have 17 starters back, including eight defensive players who will be facing Colorado's defense with some confidence after strong play late last season.
Colorado has a history of struggling as a big favorite in previous nonconference home games, winning by seven against Eastern Washington last season and losing at home to Montana State in Hawkins' first game in 2006. The signs point to this being a game where the Buffaloes potentially could struggle.
Missouri at Nevada, Sept. 25: This Friday night game will set up nicely for veteran Nevada coach Chris Ault and the Wolf Pack, who will showcase their program on national television in this game.
Nevada has the explosive Pistol offense keyed by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the returning Western Athletic Conference player of the year who will be looking to make a national name for himself with a big performance. Also back are 2008 WAC leading rusher Vai Taua and 2007 leading rusher Luke Lippincott, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in the second game last year. And they'll be facing a retooled Missouri defense.
The Wolf Pack still remember a gadget pass for a touchdown by Missouri wide receiver Tommy Saunders when they were behind 45-17 midway through the third quarter of a game they eventually lost 69-17 in Columbia last season. Could revenge spur a better effort at home? It will be interesting to see if the Wolf Pack can similarly make the Tigers sweat in a game played at high altitude at Reno.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
RENO, Nev. -- The promised offensive battle between two of the nation's four most prolific offenses hasn't materialized after one half as Texas Tech maintains a 14-9 halftime lead.
Both teams have struggled with mistakes. Tech was stopped on downs on its own 30 on its first possession and Graham Harrell was intercepted on the next drive.
Nevada struggled with three holding penalties, a blocked punt late in the first half and a critical sack that cost after they had a second-and-one at the Tech 4.
Here are some other items that caught my attention in the first half.
Nevada's offense has been more proficient than Tech's rolling up 243 yards on 95 yards rushing and 148 passing.
Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick might be one of the most underrated college quarterbacks. He reminds me of the poor man's Randall Cunningham the way he can run and roll out. He's kept the Red Raiders flummoxed by his rushing and passing skills, completing 15 of his first 19 attempts.
Nevada's own mistakes are the biggest reason the Wolf Pack are behind. Three holding calls bogged them down in the first half. They were forced to settle for a field goal after Tech DE Bront Bird's sack after they advanced to the Tech 4 midway through the second quarter.
Tech was struggling getting its passing game going. Harrell had several uncharacteristic bad passes and struggled hitting open receivers throughout the half. He finished the half by missing his final three passes as he hit only 10 of 25 passes for 119 yards.
Leaching Nevada rushing Luke Lippincott was carted off the field with his left knee injury early in the second quarter. That injury placed Vai Taua into the featured back, although Kaepernick became the focal point of the rushing attack with 42 yards on six carries.
Game officials had their own gaffe late in the first half after Lance Fuller had blocked a punt by Nevada's Brad Langley. Referee Jon Bible, a Big 12 official, originally ruled that Fuller had roughed the punter on the play before reversing his call.
Tech freshman kicker Donnie Carona struggles continued after his first two games. His 28-yard field goal attempt was blocked late in the first half. It was third blocked kick - two field goals and an extra point - in his short college career.