NCF Nation: South Dakota State Jackrabbits

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The season finally arrives tonight in the Big 12 and not a moment too soon.

A rare chance in the spotlight will be provided tonight for South Division basement dweller Baylor and their counterparts from the North, Iowa State.

Baylor will kick off the season with a difficult matchup against No. 23 Wake Forest tonight in Waco. The game is interesting for a several reasons. Art Briles will start his coaching career at Baylor after leading Houston to four bowl appearances in the last five seasons. Both schools are Baptist-affiliated. And Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe was a finalist for the Baylor job when the Bears hired Guy Morriss back in 2002.

The Demon Deacons have shown that football transformations are possible, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference two seasons ago and making another bowl trip last season for the first back-to-back postseason appearances in school history. Baylor is only dreaming about that kind of success.

And Iowa State will start the season against Division I-AA South Dakota State in a game where coach Gene Chizik will play with 27 freshmen and sophomores in his two-deep roster. Included among those are sophomore quarterbacks Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates, who both will receive snaps tonight against the Jackrabbits.   

I can't wait for the start of the season -- even if it means a three-hour drive to Waco this afternoon to get to Floyd Casey Stadium. But I actually think the journey along Interstate 35 will go by quickly because of my anticipation and the new Jimmy Buffett CD that my wife got me for our anniversary.    

So until then, here are some morning links to satisfy your hunger pangs before kickoff.

  • Briles is looking to become the first football coach since 1993 to win his first game at the school. Chuck Reedy was the last Baylor coach to win his first game, stunning No. 25 Fresno State, 42-39.
  • Former Miami QB Kirby Freeman has seen the transformation in the Wake Forest program after notching a 47-17 victory over the Demon Deacons as a freshman in 2005. "They've come a long way since then," Freeman told the Waco Tribune-Herald.  "I saw some of those guys three years ago and now they're seniors. They're a mature football team and won't be rattled."
  • Iowa State coaches are bracing for a big change as they try to keep up with the new 40-second clock in the Cyclones' opener tonight against South Dakota State. "You've got to stay a play ahead," Iowa State defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt told the Des Moines Register. "It's going to be interesting to see what happens. It's a different game."
  • Revelers at Kansas' Memorial Stadium will pay $20 per car this season for a parking space in a tailgate-friendly area that had been free last season, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.
  • Lincoln Journal-Star reporter Brian Christopherson writes about the career gamble that Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini took five years ago to transition from being a successful high school coach into one who now is working in college football.
  • Former Nebraska standout WR Irving Fryar will be on the sidelines for Western Michigan's game with his old school. But Fryar will be on the opposing sideline, watching his son, CB Londen Fryar play with the Broncos. "I took a DVD [of Londen playing high school football] and put it in the hand of Coach [Bill] Callahan," Irving told the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Gazette. "I never got a call. ... I was very disappointed with the way Coach Callahan handled that."
  • The Dallas Morning News releases its innovative college football preview, complete with a picture of Dallas-area standouts Michael Crabtree and Graham Harrell of Texas Tech. The picture must have been taken early, because Harrell still shows the remnants of his early-summer Mohawk.
  • The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jimmy Burch writes about what to expect and not expect around the Big 12 this season.
  • Texas coach Mack Brown got to practice on his 57th birthday Wednesday -- and the chance to visit with media members again.
  • Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News writes that the NFL could be in Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee's future.
  • Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman writes about the transformation of Oklahoma LB Mike Balogun from a construction worker who didn't play his junior or senior years in high school to a college football player. Interesting story indeed.
  • Tom Shatel of the Omaha World Herald has an interesting take on Bo Pelini's emerging legendary status at Nebraska -- even before starting his first full season directing the Cornhuskers.
  • Take a look at the Omaha World Herald's video version of "Big Red Today" with analysis by their army of reporters who cover the Cornhuskers. It's the best video production by a newspaper I've seen.
  • Missouri's experienced defense is giving them a chance to attack offenses with a combination of line shifts, zone blitzes and innovative coverage schemes, Columbia Daily Tribune beat writer Dave Matter writes.
  • Colorado WR Josh Smith has some big plans -- hoping for his own clothing line "Josh Fly" and shoe line "PF Fly's" and a record deal. But his biggest immediate aim is to score his first touchdown for the Buffaloes.
  • The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel writes about Oklahoma State's intention to live up to its "Finish" slogan after struggling in several fourth-quarter meltdowns last season.
  • Kansas State's defense has made its primary focus attacking the spread offense with speed, Wichita Eagle/Kansas City Star reporter Jeffrey Martin writes.

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