Some things to watch during the opening weekend of the season in the Big 12 Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 21 Texas vs. No. 23 Louisiana-Lafayette. A new era begins for Texas even before its future move to the SEC, with new coach Steve Sarkisian, new starting quarterback Hudson Card and preseason AP All-America running back Bijan Robison. The Longhorns had winning records and won bowl games in each of coach Tom Herman’s four seasons, but it has been 12 years since they won a Big 12 title. Sarkisian is coming off a national championship as Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator at Alabama last season. His first game as Texas coach comes at home against a Sun Belt team that opened last year with a 31-14 win at then-No. 23 Iowa State, which went on to be the Big 12 runner-up and finish in the Top 10. The Ragin’ Cajuns carry a seven-game winning streak into their first game ever as a Top 25 team against another ranked team.
Kansas State plays Stanford in a matchup of Power Five teams featuring breakout running backs at AT&T Stadium in North Texas, site of the Big 12 title game and a College Football Playoff semifinal this season. Deuce Vaughn was K-State’s top rusher and receiver as a freshman last season, and one of only three players nationally with at least 600 yards rushing and 400 yards receiving. Austin Jones ran for 550 yards and a Pac-12 high nine TDs in a six-game season, and his 21 catches were the second-most for Stanford.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
No. 7 Iowa State made its first Big 12 title game last season and now has its highest ranking in school history. The Cyclones are one of four Big 12 teams opening at home against FCS teams, against Northern Iowa. The others are Oklahoma State (vs. Missouri State); TCU (vs. Duquesne) and Kansas (vs. South Dakota on Friday night). … Both Big 12 running backs that averaged more than 100 yards a game last season are back. National rushing leader Breece Hall averaged 131 yards per game for Iowa State. West Virginia’s Leddie Brown ran for 101 yards per game. … Baylor opens at Texas State in its first regular-season non-conference game in 715 days, since a win at Rice on Sept. 21, 2019. The Bears had multiple attempts at non-conference games canceled because of COVID-19 issues last year in coach Dave Aranda’s first season.
Tulane opened as a nearly four-TD underdog against second-ranked and six-time defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma. And that was even before the game got moved this week to Norman from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. The Green Wave will be the designated home team and will retain all net proceeds from ticket sales at the stadium that seats more than 86,000. Capacity at Tulane’s home stadium is 30,000.
Transfer quarterback Tyler Shough takes over as the new quarterback at Texas Tech. The 6-foot-5 junior threw for 1,703 yards and 16 TDs in seven games last season to help lead Oregon to its second Pac-12 championship game victory in a row. He had backed up NFL first-round draft pick Justin Herbert before that.
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