Big 12 faces a week of big-time matchups after a tough start to the college football season
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — There are some heavyweight matchups for Big 12 schools in Week 2 of the college football season, headlined by the big one in ‘Bama, where No. 11 Texas visits the No. 3 Crimson Tide for a showdown of future SEC rivals.
It’s a good chance for the league to bounce back from an embarrassing start.
Baylor is coming off a loss to Texas State and gets No. 12 Utah, which just beat Florida in its opener. Texas Tech is coming off a field-storming loss of its own at Wyoming to face No. 13 Oregon. Iowa State tries to beat Iowa for just the second time in the past eight seasons, and Kansas gets a Friday night visit from Illinois in another tangle with the Big Ten.
Throw in the River City Rivalry between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, Oklahoma State’s trip to future Big 12 foe Arizona State and UCF playing Boise State on the Smurf turf and it becomes a statement week for Commissioner Brett Yormark’s conference.
“We’re focused on what we need to do,” said Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian, whose team narrowly lost at home to Alabama a year ago. “The moment you start focusing on what the outcome could be, what the result could be, the game hits you in the mouth and you could lose. So we needed to focus on what we need to do.”
There probably isn’t a whole lot of Big 12 pride for the departing Longhorns, especially after Yormark publicly told Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire that he “better take care of business” when the Red Raiders play Texas later this season.
The rest of the league has pride, though, and it took a beating a week ago.
In the highest-profile game of the weekend, College Football Playoff runner-up TCU lost at home to Colorado — entirely rebuilt by Deion Sanders after winning once a year ago. Baylor was heavily favored to beat Texas State but lost in lopsided fashion, and the Red Raiders were a trendy pick to play in the Big 12 title game before they were waylaid by Wyoming in double-overtime.
Even some of the wins were nail-biters: Oklahoma State scuffled to a 27-13 win over Central Arkansas, BYU beat Sam Houston 14-0 and fellow newcomer Houston had to hold on in the fourth quarter to beat UTSA, 17-14.
Not exactly the start to the season that the new-look Big 12 had in mind.
“It’s been a hard couple of days looking at tape, seeing what went wrong, where plays could be made,” Baylor coach Dave Aranda said. “I think there’s been honest and open conversations and discussion on things we did wrong, that we could do better.”
It won’t be easy against the Utes, who easily put away the Gators even without star quarterback Cam Rising, who is working his way back from a torn ACL that he sustained in a Rose Bowl loss to Penn State in January.
The Bears lost their own quarterback, Blake Shapen, after he hurt his MCL in the loss to the Bobcats.
“It was a disappointing loss for Baylor, I’m sure,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We don’t expect the same team we saw on Saturday, that we’ll see on tape, in that game. They’ll fix things. They have good coaches and will get the ship corrected.”
That’s probably what Oregon’s coaches are saying about Texas Tech this week.
“The message is really, ‘Don’t let Wyoming beat you twice,'” McGuire said earlier this week. “No matter what happened Saturday, we cannot allow next Saturday to affect us, other than learning, right? … Oregon is going to be a great opportunity. That’s a word we use a lot, even before the Wyoming game. We have a great opportunity in front of us.”
That goes for the entire Big 12 this week.
Iowa State ended a long losing streak to Iowa last season by shutting down the Hawkeyes’ inept offense in a 10-7 victory. But the Cyclones haven’t beaten their biggest rivals in consecutive years since 2012 — Matt Campbell’s second season in charge.
Kansas faces the Illini while aiming for a perfect non-conference schedule for the second straight year. Cincinnati and Pitt once played annually but will be meeting for the first time since 2012. Oklahoma State could win its eighth straight non-conference road game by beating Arizona State. UCF faces the prospect of playing at Boise State, where the Broncos are 130-15 over the past 22 seasons, the second-best winning percentage behind Oklahoma in major college football.
“It just happens to be one of the toughest places to play in college football, but we’re looking forward to it,” Knights coach Gus Malzahn. “It will be a good test to see where we’re at.”
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