Asked how he was doing, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder gave a predictable response on Monday, given his weekend.
“I’ve had better days,” he said, complete with his trademark deadpan delivery.
He might as well have been speaking for the entire Big 12. The league had realistic hopes of a 9-0 opening weekend. It finished 6-3, with a pair of losses to FCS teams.
Snyder’s Kansas State team was the first, going down to two-time defending FCS national champion North Dakota State, who capped an almost nine-minute drive with a go-ahead touchdown with 28 seconds to play. Saturday night, Iowa State followed suit with a 28-20 loss to Northern Iowa.
“We were distraught,” Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads said.
TCU struck out with a 37-27 loss to LSU, missing out on a chance to hit a home run for the Big 12 in primetime of college football’s first weekend.
The lone bright spots were Oklahoma’s 34-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe and Oklahoma State’s 21-3 win over Mississippi State.
“That was a huge win for Mike and the Big 12,” Texas coach Mack Brown said Monday.
I’d disagree that the preseason Big 12 favorite beating a team picked to finish above one team in its division is “huge,” but the Pokes convincing win avoided further worsening a rough weekend across the league. The Big 12 lost one fewer game in Week 1 than it did in 30 regular season nonconference games in 2012. There’s no denying the conference’s image took a hit nationally, and missed out on a big chance to earn some respect. Even though TCU missed out, here’s a closer look at some future opportunities for the Big 12 to earn back some of the good will it lost in Week 1.
1. No. 16 Oklahoma at No. 14 Notre Dame: This may change if Michigan or Michigan State hand the Irish a loss before the Sooners arrive in South Bend for a Sept. 28 clash. If Notre Dame survives, though, it’ll be a chance for Oklahoma to log a road win against a top 10 team. It doesn’t get much more impressive than that.
2. No. 15 Texas vs. Ole Miss: The Rebels impressed with an emotional, entertaining road win at Vanderbilt on Thursday, and made the nation take notice of their hyped group of freshmen, headlined by defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and receiver Laquon Treadwell. A lopsided win might be required to truly impress, but Texas will play the third game between the Big 12 and SEC on Sept. 14.
3. Iowa State vs. Iowa: Both teams lost their openers, but Northern Illinois made a BCS bowl last year. Northern Iowa, uh, won their last three games against Western Illinois, South Dakota and Missouri State to reach 5-6. Winning this game is the surest way to re-establish any idea that the Big 12 is college football’s deepest conference.
4. West Virginia vs. Maryland: Neither team in the top half of their conference, but like Iowa State, WVU can grab a quality win for the bottom half of the Big 12.
5. No. 15 Texas at BYU: The Cougars lost their opener against Virginia, but BYU’s still a relatively big-name opponent who won eight games a year ago. It’s also on the road. That’s a quality win any way you slice it.