Before I get into my Big 12 weekend predictions, there's a rumor (started by KC 810 WHB this morning) that starting cornerback Joshua Moore was not on the plane to Auburn today. No details or confirmation at this point, so take that for what it's worth.
Ok, on to the actual games...
Kent State 23, Iowa State 14 (Ames, Iowa)
Ok so I cheated by waiting until Friday and am predicting a game that has already been played. You'll find that is necessary to me having a decent year predicting games, because I don't get very many correct. This loss hurts the national perception of the North and just isn't good for the conference overall. Granted, not much was expected of Iowa State this year, and Kent is a possible contender in the MAC, but Big 12 teams should be able to beat MAC teams, generally.
And as to certain fans of a certain team that wears "scarlet and cream" (whatever the hell that is), this loss really isn't funny. For one thing, I can't figure out what Iowa State has really done to anybody in this conference to incur such wrath. Second, merely looking after your own interests is too narrow a view of your conference. Just wait, one of these days one of the top Big 12 teams (probably a North team) is going to run the table in conference but won't get any respect if Iowa State, Colorado and KU don't improve their national perception. And it will be more than a lack of respect, it could be the difference between certain bowl games.
Colorado vs. Colorado State (Denver)
For some reason I have a feeling about this game, which is why I'm picking CU to win. I have no idea why; I don't like CU, they weren't very good last year, they're starting a redshirt freshman at quarterback, and CSU generally brings it for this game while the Buffs kind of act like their weed-mellowed fans. Still, CSU went 4-8 last year and is a shadow of its former self.
But in a manner similar to my fanhood of Iowa State last night, we need Colorado to win this game. The strength of this conference was originally based as much on K-State, Colorado and Nebraska as it was on Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M. It's a small step, but a win over the Rams will be a step toward CU reemerging as a respectable team.
Buffaloes 18, Rams 10
Mizzou vs. Illinois (St. Louis)
This is quite a step up in first-game play for Mizzou as they opened up with Murray State (the one that got beat 73-10 by Louisville yesterday) last year.
Or not. Illinois went 2-10 last year and 2-9 in its first year under Ron Zook. Zook is starting to get some semi-exciting recruits in, but at Florida he had all the talent in the world and couldn't win with it. He may be meeting his match in Gary Pinkel, who has done less with more than any other coach in the Big 12.
Surprisingly I don't think this one is going to be all that close, unless Mizzou's questionable defense gives up more than it should.
Tigers 34, Illini 14
Nebraska vs. Nevada (Lincoln, Neb.)
There has been some hype around this game because Nevada was considered a pretty good team last year. True, they went 8-5 and made the glamorous bowl trip to Boise, Idaho. (who the hell wants to go to Boise in December?). But they lost there to Miami, who I shouldn't have to tell you, wasn't exactly the 'old Miami' last year. In addition, the Wolfpack gave 4-8 Fresno State one of its four wins last year.
Nebraska has some questions coming into the year as well. The defensive line and secondary is questionable, while the linebackers will be solid. On offense, we'll have to see if they can keep any running backs healthy and if Sam Keller can connect with a football and his receivers like he connected with a girl's car and a plastic cup. I'm guessing he does, at least against the other NU. However, Callahan will probably limit the playbook to avoid giving away anything to Wake Forest and whomever Nebraska is playing in week three.
Huskers 31, Wolfpack 17
Texas vs. Arkansas State (Austin, Texas)
I really hope you're not relying on my breakdown of this game, because you're not getting any analysis. Nice tuneup for a scary week two game with TCU.
Longhorns 63, State (don't know or care what their mascot is) 3
Oklahoma vs. North Texas (Norman, Okla.)
Good God, South division. Did you think you were the NFL and got to schedule preseason games?
Sooners 49, Mean Green 7
Texas A&M vs. Montana State (College Station, Texas)
Can Montana State be giant slayers two years in a row?
Aggies 38, Bobcats 7
Baylor vs. TCU (Fort Worth, Texas)
I'll give the Bears this much...they should have a decent defense this year. But they don't have a quarterback. Actually they have four, but Guy Morriss is playing it quite coy and won't name his starter until tomorrow. For complete coverage of the situation, not to mention a game preview of prodigious length and breadth, check out BearMeat.
Did I give the impression I was going to pick Baylor? Oh, sorry.
Horned Frogs 27, Bears 9
Texas Tech vs. SMU (Dallas, Texas)
Ahh, the rich party kids from the Dallas suburbs versus the middle-class party kids from the South Plains. SMU has actually improved, but considering where they started from (i.e. dead, after the death penalty) it's hard to go anywhere but up. Still, 6-6 was pretty good last year. Alas, Leach has a proven quarterback and SMU doesn't have enough firepower to keep up.
Party Kids (Red Raiders) 38, Rich Kids (Mustangs) 24
Oklahoma State vs. Georgia (Athens, Ga.)
I'm sure I'll get roasted for this prediction, but if the offseason demonstrated one thing and one thing only, it's that I have a huge man-crush on Bobby Reid and Oklahoma State. They're my surprise team in the South, blah, blah, blah. Still, this is going to be a monstrous test for them. Georgia is a good team, and the Pokes are going to be walking into an insane atmosphere tomorrow evening, but Georgia is not invincible and I don't think crowds intimidate other players as much as the fans would like to think. If Okie State protectst he football, they can win this game.
Cowboys 31, Bulldogs 27
K-State vs. Auburn (Auburn, Ala.)
I've discussed this game at excessive length here, which is kind of required considering I blog about the Cats. For me, watching last night's Mississippi State-LSU game was instructive. Run through this comparison with me...
K-State is a better team than Mississippi State. LSU is probably a better team than Auburn. Now, if our quarterback can manage not to turn the ball over six times (actually, it needs to be a lot less than that, like once max), we have a chance in this game. Remember how that game was going with about five minutes left in the first half? LSU was up 10-0, and MSU had already turned the ball over something like three or four times.
Josh Freeman does NOT have to win this game for us tomorrow. He just has to make sure he doesn't lose it, and along with that we have to make sure the coaches don't lose it with a poor game plan. If Freeman has to make seven-step drops every time, he's going to get killed and he's going to turn the ball over. I hope to see as much run as possible with a bunch of quick-drop, short passes to help the offense get in a rhythm. On top of that, we're going to need help from the defense (stops and turnovers) and a big special teams play (not necessarily a touchdown, just a long return to set up good field position) would help.
I realize that's asking a lot, and I'm not making any bones about it. We are going to have to play almost flawlessly and get a couple breaks to win this game. In the end, I suspect we won't get everything we need, Auburn will wear down our defense and pull away to win a slugfest.
Tigers 21, Wildcats 10
Don't know about y'all, but as of about 9 a.m. tomorrow, I will be in front of a bigscreen, breakfast taquito in one hand and screwdriver in the other, preparing for the wonder that is the first Saturday of college football season. Enjoy it folks!