Thursday, September 2, 2010
What to watch in the Big 12: Week 1
By David Ubben
The season's opening weekend is always a little overwhelming. After all the scrimmages, practices and NFL preseason games, it's hard to believe meaningful football will be arriving as early as tonight.
Here's what to keep an eye on in Week 1 across the Big 12:
1. The triple option has new meaning in Lincoln. Who knows who will take the first snap for the Huskers? Well, Bo Pelini seems to have a pretty good idea, for one. The safe bet is Zac Lee, but fan momentum and preseason murmurs lean toward redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez over Cody Green. It's a pressing matter, but the Huskers Week 1 starter might not be the same guy as its starter for the conference opener, a tough Thurday night road game against Kansas State on Oct. 7.
2. Missouri moves on without a captain. In the most impactful story of the week across the conference, Missouri euphemized the exit of starting running back and captain Derrick Washington, calling it a "permanent suspension." Regardless, he's gone and the spotlight will be on co-starters Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore against Illinois on Saturday.
3. Potts calling shots for the black. Taylor Potts beat out Steven Sheffield to win the starting job in Tommy Tuberville's first season at Texas Tech. A big opener in a losable game against SMU will help him regain some of the fan support he lost last season.
4. He's back. Robert Griffin, that is. Baylor's quarterback is itching to get back on the field after missing nine games last season with a torn ACL, and he'll finally get his chance on Saturday, albeit in an untelevised game against Sam Houston State.
5. The Air Raid heads east. The Cowboys open up against Pac-10 doormat Washington State, and will debut their version of the Air Raid implemented by new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. First-year starter Brandon Weeden will run the show.
6. The return of the Wrecking Crew? Stephen F. Austin will be a poor gauge for growth, but holding the Lumberjacks to single digit points will be a good sign for Texas A&M. The Aggies will debut Tim DeRuyter's oft-blogged 3-4 from Air Force on Saturday.
7. Pressure on for the Cyclones. Northern Illinois isn't the sexiest opening opponent, but there isn't a team in the Big 12 who needs a win more in Week 1 than Iowa State. Drop their Thursday debut, and a 1-3 nonconference record is in play with Utah and Iowa looming. Win, and a 3-1 start becomes a possibility.
8. Rice is no Alabama. Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert's test this weekend will be just a bit different than his first, an unplanned first-quarter entrance into the national title game against one of college football's best defenses. Hopes are high and signs out of Austin have been nothing but positive since the spring. Gilbert's legend could continue on Saturday.
9. A better start for Snyder? Kansas State's began last season with a tight win over UMass before suffering losses to Louisiana-Lafayette and another this year's Week 1 opponent, UCLA. It still managed to win six games and played for a North title in their 2009 finale. Winning six games -- and beyond -- will be easier if the Wildcats can get on track for a 4-0 nonconference record with a win over the Bruins in Manhattan.
10. An improved Colorado? Colorado needed to improve on both sides of the ball after a disappointing 3-9 season in Dan Hawkins' fourth season. Anything near that will likely bring the Buffaloes a new coach in 2011. Their attempt for the first winning season under Hawkins will begin with a rivalry game at Invesco Field in Denver, where Colorado State knocked off its rivals a year ago.