Week 2: Big 12 Previews & Predictions

BYU (1-0) at Texas (1-0) Sept. 6, 7:30, Fox Sports 1 

Here’s The Deal: Mack Brown did phenomenal things for the University of Texas football program. He brought it back from the doldrums, made it a perennial Big 12 and national title contender, and he made the school gobs and gobs and gobs of money. But for all the greatness, including a national championship, the end of his legacy will be marked – at least a little bit – by September 7th, 2013, when his Longhorns went to Provo and gave up 550 rushing yards and four touchdowns in a stunning loss to BYU. Texas actually went on to have a decent season, up until the final few games, but that all but sealed the deal that the program had to go another coaching direction. Charlie Strong’s team looked the part in Week One with a dominant effort against North Texas, but now comes the measuring stick. Allow fewer than 550 yards on the ground, and the team will have shown improvement. 

Texas is still Texas, and beating Texas is a tremendous win for the resume no matter what – and BYU needs it. This is the fifth time the two programs have met with BYU up 3-1. If it becomes 4-1, the rest of the schedule isn’t bad with the toughest games on the road at UCF, Boise State and California, so if it can somehow get out of Austin with a terrific street cred victory, all of a sudden, welcome to your College Football Playoff deep sleeper. 

Why BYU Might Win: David Ash and Dominic Espinosa. Not having the starting quarterback is a big deal – obviously – but Texas is also going to have to start Tyrone Swoopes without an all-star center paving the way. The Longhorn line wasn’t a weak spot coming into the season, but it was young and needed some work, and Espinosa was supposed to be the leader and steadying force. Now it’ll be up to a redshirt freshman – Jake Raulerson – to handle the quarterbacking duties up front, and it won’t help to lose tackles Desmond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle, who were suspended for the dreaded violation of team rules. Swoopes will try to get through the trial-by-fire of dealing with a BYU defense that came up with four sacks and seven tackles for loss last week against UConn.
Why Texas Might Win: This isn’t Uncle Mack’s defense anymore. Brown put together some killers over the years with some of the best talent in college football, but his D was his downfall at the end, unable to find the right coordinator fit and with a group that seemed to like to bounce off of ball-carriers more than beat them up. Against North Texas – a legitimately solid Conference USA team and bowl contender – Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford released the hounds, and all of a sudden, this looked like a much different, much nastier D holding the Mean Green to just 94 yards of total offense including a 3-of-17, 15-yard, four pick day from the quarterbacks. So while the focus of the game will be on Swoopes and whether or not he can be ready for primetime, BYU needs a huge day from … 
Who To Watch Out For: Taysom Hill. With RB Jamaal Williams suspended for the opener, Hill did a little of everything against UConn, completing 28-of-36 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns while leading the team with 97 rushing yards and two scores. Last year, he tap-danced through Texas for 259 yards and three scores on just 17 carries, running in, around and through a linebacking corps that always seemed a half-step behind whatever the Cougar backfield was doing. This year, though, expect Texas to make it personal and make sure he’s not running wild again, and that means he has to be razor-sharp in his decision making as a passer. He’s a veteran who knows what he’s doing, but he’ll have to be ready for a whole different Longhorn D. 
What’s Going To Happen: Expect a night-and-day difference from the Texas defense after last year’s debacle, but BYU’s defense is going to dial in, too. It’s not going to be the most aesthetically pleasing game offensively, but the Longhorn ground game will pound its way to a tough win, overcoming some key Swoopes mistakes along the way. 
Prediction: Texas 23 … BYU 17 
Line: Texas -1 o/u: 47 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 4 

Oklahoma (1-0) at Tulsa (1-0) Sept. 6, 12:00, ABC 

Here’s The Deal: Tulsa and No. 4 Oklahoma meet for the 27th time in a series that’s been dominated lately by the latter. The Sooners began their quest for a Big 12 title—and more—with an easy victory over Louisiana Tech. They’ve got this game at Chapman Stadium before the season hits a new gear with a visit from Tennessee. The Golden Hurricane is ecstatic with its start, coming from behind to defeat Tulane for a conference win. The comeback could prove to be a turning point for a team that won just three times in 2013. 
Why Oklahoma Might Win: Three, maybe four. That’s the number of Tulsa players that might start in Norman. The Sooners enjoy an edge everywhere, but especially on defense this year. This is a tough spot for Hurricane QB Dane Evans, who’s inconsistent and operating behind a green line. He’ll spend much of his afternoon dodging the pressure of LB Eric Striker, DE Charles Tapper and DT Jordan Phillips. 
Why Tulsa Might Win: The Hurricane is a more seasoned and experienced group than it was at this time last year. It returns ten defensive starters, including all-league contenders Derrick Alexander, Trent Martin, Michael Mudoh and Demarco Nelson. While Oklahoma has unquestionable talent on offense, the unit will need a few more weeks to gel. 
Who To Watch Out For: The Sooners have to like their chances of running the ball after watching the film of Tulane’s Sherman Badie gash Tulsa on the ground. Oklahoma is employing multiple backs these days, getting complementary from Samaje Perine, Keith Ford and Alex Ross. 
What’s Going To Happen: The Tulsa crowd will be fired up … until QB Trevor Knight leads the Sooners to touchdowns on his first two drives. The Hurricane is ill-equipped to rally against this week’s opponent, with Evans being flustered and hurried every other time he drops back to throw. OU won’t be seriously threatened after halftime. 
Prediction: Oklahoma 48 … Tulsa 20 
Line: Oklahoma -24.5 o/u: 57.5 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton … 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 2.5 

Kansas State (1-0) at Iowa State (0-1) Sept. 6, 312:00, Fox Sports 1

Here’s The Deal: Welcome to the meeting of the I Got Tagged By North Dakota State In The Home Opener club. NDSU is the three-time reigning FCS national champion and obviously good enough to beat decent teams at the FBS level, but still, it’s not a positive to start the season with a loss to a top minor league club. Kansas State lost to the Bison in a shocker to start last season, but at least that was a thriller that went down to the wire. Iowa State was ripped up 34-14, and now it’s going to take a few big upsets to get through the first part of the season without dealing with a total disaster. With road games at Iowa and Oklahoma State around a home date with Baylor, the Cyclones desperately need this win. Kansas State was sluggish in its layup over Stephen F. Austin, and with Auburn up next, this is the game to sharpen up. If the Wildcats really are Big 12 title contenders, this is a game they need to win in a walk. 
Why Kansas State Might Win: If Iowa State plays like it did against North Dakota State, there shouldn’t be a problem. The Cyclones couldn’t convert on third down, couldn’t get the passing game going, and couldn’t stop making mistakes. Now without its best receiver, Quenton Bundrage, who’s out for the year with a torn ACL, the ISU offense has even less pop to open up the offense. Defensively, the Cyclones were ripped to shreds by the Bison on big play after big play – the Kansas State O line should pop things wide open. 
Why Iowa State Might Win: Kansas State might have beaten SFA 55-16, but there were a few problems. The running game was fine, but Charles Jones and DeMarcus Robinson weren’t totally dominant – splitting hairs considering Jones cranked out almost seven yards per carry – but if it’s possible to be that good and that amazing statistically, and not quite look it on the field, that was it. Iowa State came out and played well for the first 15 minutes against NDSU, but the floodgates opened after an 80-yard John Crockett touchdown run. If the Cyclones can keep the KSU big plays to a bare minimum and force several 2nd and sevens and third and longs, they’ll have a shot. 
Who To Watch Out For: It’s Ryan Mueller’s time to shine. The All-America-caliber Wildcat defensive end owned Iowa State last season with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss, but he didn’t turn it loose against Stephen F. Austin – he didn’t have to. Any disruption whatsoever in the Iowa State backfield will shut things down cold, and now it’s up to Mueller to take over. 
What’s Going To Happen: Kansas State looks like a team about to do really, really big things. Iowa State doesn’t. 
Prediction: Kansas State 34 … Iowa State 14 
Line: Kansas State -11.5 o/u: 58 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 2 

Missouri State (1-0) at Oklahoma State (1-0) Sept. 6, 3:30, FSN 

Here’s The Deal: All those who thought Oklahoma State was going to get its doors blown off by Florida State raise your hand. The Cowboys are really, really young, but they’re really, really fast and athletic, able to keep pace with the defending national champions and look the part of a potential Big 12 title contender. Now comes the easy part with a decent Missouri State team up this week followed up by UTSA before getting a week off to prepare for Texas Tech. MSU has FCS top 25 potential, but it didn’t really show it last week in a 34-27 win over Northwestern State. Even so, it has a good passing game and could hang around for a little bit if the Cowboys aren’t quite over their close call. 
Why Missouri State Might Win: This really is a good enough team to challenge for the Missouri Valley Conference title with a nice set of defenders who can pop – led by Andrew Beisel and Caleb Schaffitzel – and it has a solid pitch-catch combination in Kierra Harris and Julian Burton to push the Cowboy secondary a bit. But for this to be entertaining at all, the Bears have to catch the Cowboys napping. Getting up early is a must – catch OSU while its head is still thinking about Jameis. 
Why Oklahoma State Might Win: Missouri State might have a nice defense, but it gave up close to 500 yards to Northwestern State last week including 318 through the air. Oklahoma State is going to want to run the ball throughout, but it might be able to hit a few home runs early and put the game away instantly if Tyreek Hill and the speedy receiving corps can get free. Blink, and it could be 14-0 early in the first quarter against this Bear secondary. 
Who To Watch Out For: This is the week Oklahoma State gets the running backs moving. Florida State keyed on Desmond Roland and didn’t let him breathe, allowing just 28 yards and a score on 12 carries, but he’s going to get more work along with Rennie Childs, who ran ten times for 47 yards. QB J.W. Walsh can’t lead the team in rushing again. 
What’s Going To Happen: Missouri State is 1-29 all-time against FCS teams – beating UNLV in 1990 – but it did push Oklahoma State into overtime in 1996. The Cowboys will open it up. 
Prediction: Oklahoma State 52 … Missouri State 14
Line: No Line o/u: No Line 
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 1

SE Missouri State (0-0) at Kansas (0-0) Sept. 6, 7:00, ESPN3

Here’s The Deal: It’s the Jayhawk opener while SE Missouri State is coming off a 77-0 pasting of Missouri Baptist that took a while to get going because of weather, but then the fun kicked in. The Redhawks are starting out a tough stretch, dealing with KU this week and them having to be ready to roll for a key game against Southern Illinois, while the Jayhawks are simply looking to start the season off with something positive before going to Duke. With the way SEMO threw the ball last week, this should be a good tune-up to get ready for the Blue Devils.
Why SE Missouri State Might Win: Will the Kansas offense actually work? A disaster throughout last year, the Jayhawks have to break in a new attack. Kansas is moving more towards a spread attack under offensive coordinator John Reagan, and this becomes the test game to see if it all worked – there’s a chance it won’t, at least early on. If SEMO can use its hot passing game keep the pressure on and make the KU offense start to press, there could be problems.
Why Kansas Might Win: The Bears aren’t that big and aren’t going to generate much of a pass rush, if any. There’s only one player on the O line over 290 pounds, and while the group relies on its quickness, it’s not going to barrel away against the KU defensive front. The Jayhawk secondary has the potential to be the team’s biggest strength, and while bombing away against Missouri Baptist is one thing, the big plays won’t come this week.
Who To Watch Out For: Montell Cozart, you’re it. Jake Heaps was supposed to be the main man when he came in from BYU, but that didn’t work out and now he transferred to Miami after Weis anointed Cozart the starter – it’s sink-or-swim time. Can Cozart start to throw a bit better? More of a runner so far, he failed to throw a touchdown pass in his limited time, but he finished third on the team in rushing. If he fails, there will be a new coaching staff in 2015.
What’s Going To Happen: 1-18 all-time against FBS teams, SEMO isn’t going to pull off the upset, but it’s going to have a few moments in the first half when it’ll look like it could. The Kansas offense isn’t going to be humming, but it’ll run well in the second half.
Prediction: Kansas 31 … SE Missouri State 14
Line: No Line o/u: No Line
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 1

Towson (0-1) at West Virginia (0-1) Sept. 6, 3:30

Here’s The Deal: Coming off a terrific 13-3 season, Towson started out a bit of a rebuilding year with a clunker, losing 31-27 to Central Connecticut State to start out its season. This is still a good, sound program that has the potential to be stronger as the year goes on, but it’s going to take a little bit before it starts to come together to be at the 2013 level. West Virginia came up with a strong performance in the 33-23 loss to Alabama, throwing well and hanging around until the Crimson Tide ground game took over. With a road trip at Maryland and the Big 12 opener against Oklahoma up next, this is workout time. The Mountaineers have to show up, but this is where they get the ground game working.
Why Towson Might Win: While the defense didn’t generate too much pressure against CCSU in the opener, the Tigers have the blitzing, attacking scheme that might be able to get to Clint Trickett just enough to throw off the passing attack. The defense had big problems last week, but the ground game worked well with Darius Victor and Connor Frazier combining for 185 yards and three scores, helping the team averaged 5.6 yards per carry. The goal will be to run first, run often with an offense that returned just three starters going into the opener, however …
Why West Virginia Might Win: After dealing with the Alabama running game, Towson’s will be a piece of cake. The Tigers have a little bit of size up front, but there’s not much in the way of depth and there’s no size at linebacker – their outside linebackers are built like slot receivers. West Virginia doesn’t do much with the power game, but this week, the pressure should be off Trickett and the air show and right on …
Who To Watch Out For: The Mountaineer running backs. Pitt transfer Rushel Shell had one nice run last week, but there wasn’t any room to move for a ground game that finished with just 28 yards on 24 carries – but that’s Alabama. Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood and Dustin Garrison will all be a part of a ground game that should easily blow past the 200-yard mark.
What’s Going To Happen: West Virginia’s offense is going to enjoy not having to go against a slew of NFL-caliber defenders. It’ll be over at the half.
Prediction: West Virginia 49 … Towson 14
Line: No Line o/u: No Line
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 1

Northwestern State (0-1) at Baylor (1-0) Sept. 6, 3:30

Here’s The Deal: There’s no question that Baylor is going to win the game, but how’s it going to happen and who’s going to be under center? Star QB Bryce Petty says he’s okay after suffering an injured back, but is he needed to beat a Demon team coming off a loss to Missouri State? Baylor has to go on the road for the next three weeks against Buffalo, Iowa State and Texas, and everything appeared to be finely-tuned against SMU, but every coaching staff likes to tune things up and every player wants to be out there. This week, Baylor can call its shot, but it might be a chance for the backups to show what they can do.
Why Northwestern State Might Win: The Demons had Missouri State in trouble, but the defense couldn’t hold on. The passing game was terrific with Zach Adkins throwing for 318 yards and showing enough explosion to potentially keep up for a little while if Baylor’s defense isn’t focused.
Why Baylor Might Win: The Bear defense allowed just 67 yards of SMU offense last week – it’s locked int. The Demons blew it last week by being sloppy with turnovers and poorly timed play from the defense. It took a while for Missouri State to wake up, but if Baylor can play like it did last week when it kicked things off with 24 first quarter points and a big scoring drive to start out the season, this might be over in five minutes.
Who To Watch Out For: Petty is saying all the right things about wanting to start, even with the two cracked bones in his back, but even if he was 100% healthy, the Bears would come up with a backup plan. Seth Russell appears ready to be the next man up in terms of Baylor high-powered quarterbacks, completing 13-of-23 passes for 124 yards and a score against SMU. Russell, a 6-3, 215-pound sophomore, is a terrific athlete with tremendous speed and a nice arm – all that’s missing is time. Considering Petty is already hurting, there’s a chance Russell could be the key to the 2014 Big 12 season. He needs to be prepared, and this is the game for it.
What’s Going To Happen: Baylor isn’t going to let up now. It’s a focused team on a mission, and Northwestern State will be just a speed bump.
Prediction: Baylor 52 … Northwestern State 7
Line: No Line o/u: No Line
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton – 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 1

Texas Tech (1-0) at UTEP (1-0) Sept. 6, 11:00, Fox Sports 1

Here’s The Deal: If defense moves your needle, go out late Saturday night. Texas Tech and UTEP figure to post gaudy offensive numbers this weekend, with both teams traveling up and down the field. The Red Raiders dodged a Week 1 bullet, courtesy of a sloppy effort and a good effort from Central Arkansas. Tech will try to fix its problems against a Miner team that also started with a seven-point win. UTEP held off rival New Mexico for the fast start coach Sean Kugler desperately needed.
Why Texas Tech Might Win: UTEP is ill-equipped to slow down Kliff Kingsbury’s attack. The Miners house one of the nation’s worst defenses, bad news with the Air Raid swooping into town. QB Davis Webb is comfortable in the system, and his receivers are coming along. Tech might also consider a bigger role for RB DeAndre Washington since UTEP is so ineffective against the run.
Why UTEP Might Win: The Red Raiders are going to score. The Miners are liable to keep pace, especially since Tech is struggling on defense. QB Jameill Showers can make the ball whistle, but it’s the UTEP backs that’ll keep Tech on its heels. Aaron Jones and Nathan Jeffery form a productive tandem on the ground. Jones is especially lethal, shredding the Lobo defense for 237 yards and three scores on just 22 carries a week ago.
Who To Watch Out For: Jones is going to be handful for Conference USA defenses in 2014. Texas Tech, too, is worried about the sophomore. Someone will need to monitor Jones at all times, including on swing passes. Red Raider LB V.J. Fehoko, a Utah transfer, could be called upon to keep No. 29 from getting to the edge.
What’s Going To Happen: A Sun Bowl shootout is inevitable since both teams possess weapons and a dearth of defensive stoppers. Jones is a game-changer, but his efforts will fall short, as the Miner D wilts in the face of the Red Raider passing game.
Prediction: Texas Tech 47 … UTEP 27
Line: Texas Tech -20.5 o/u: 63.5
Must Watch Factor: (5: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton … 1: Hacked and Leaked Photos of Kate Upton and Justin Verlander) … 2