Big 12 previews: West Virginia, Oklahoma State heavy underdogs; Baylor set to christen new stadium

08/29/2014 8:58 AM

11/12/2014 8:21 PM

North Dakota State at Iowa State (11 a.m. Saturday, FS1): The Cyclones hope to improve from last season, where they finished 3-9 overall and were second to last in the Big 12 (ahead of Kansas) with a 2-7 conference record. Iowa State started 2013 with a loss to Northern Iowa, an FCS team, and wants to avoid a similar fate Saturday against FCS North Dakota State, which has won four straight games against FBS teams — Kansas (2010), Minnesota (2011), Colorado State (2012), and Kansas State (2013).

No. 2 Alabama vs. West Virginia (2:30 p.m. Saturday, WFAA/8): Alabama is a massive favorite in this kickoff game in Atlanta, but the Crimson Tide have many question marks. Alabama lost its final two games last season, to Auburn to end the regular season and Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, and gave up a combined 79 points in those losses. Will the Crimson Tide defense be dominant or continue its struggles against a West Virginia offense that has big-play potential? But if Alabama blows out the Mountaineers, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen could be coaching for his job early this season.

Louisiana Tech at No. 4 Oklahoma (6 p.m. Saturday): All eyes will be on Oklahoma sophomore quarterback Trevor Knight, who emerged as a start to lead the Sooners past Alabama in last season’s Sugar Bowl finale. His performance in that game has carried over and brought high expectations for the 2014 Sooners. But for much of last season, Oklahoma’s quarterbacks struggled. Can Knight pick up where he left off? The good news for Knight and Oklahoma, Louisiana Tech will provide an excellent warm up for the Sooners’ second game, a rivalry matchup at Tulsa.

Central Arkansas at Texas Tech (6 p.m. Saturday): Texas Tech might break the scoreboard at Jones AT&T Stadium. Expect quarterback Davis Webb — and his backup if the game gets out of hand — to throw the ball more than 50 times against an FCS defense that gave up more than 50 points twice in its conference play last season. If the Red Raiders defense can get quick stops, this one should be over quickly.

Stephen F. Austin at No. 20 Kansas State (6:10 p.m. Saturday): North Dakota State shocked Kansas State in the first week of the 2013 season with a 24-21 win to spoil the Wildcats’ season opener which started with a dedication ceremony of a massive renovation to Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Don’t expect Kansas State to be caught off guard for two straight years. Snyder will have his team ready to roll against Stephen F. Austin, which will be the Lumberjacks’ first with new coach Clint Conque.

No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State (7 p.m. Saturday, WFAA/8): There’s no doubt that Florida State should beat Oklahoma State in the Cowboy Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Seminoles, who became the first non-SEC team to win a national championship in eight years by defeating Auburn in the title game last season, have seven returning starters on both sides of the ball — including reigning Heisman trophy winner, sophomore quarterback Jameis Winston. But don’t count out the Cowboys. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has a knack for getting the most out of his team, and his young players have great talent and potential.

SMU at No. 10 Baylor (6:30 p.m. Sunday, FS1): Sure, the Bears are a Top 10 team with an offense capable of running any defense off the field. And a matchup against SMU, a former Southwest Conference foe, is juicy. But this one is all about McLane Stadium, Baylor’s new home on the Brazos. Expect to see a constant stream of wide-angle camera shots showing McLane’s beautiful waterfront location on the edge of campus. Baylor’s stadium is finally as flashy as its offense — and the Bears will be amped to christen it with a huge win.

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