Imperfect Big 12 start even after all 10 teams win openers

September 5, 2019

The Big 12 is off to an imperfect start, even though every team won its opener for the first time since 2012.

West Virginia got outgained by James Madison, and Kansas needed a touchdown in the final 2 ½ minutes to beat another FCS team in Les Miles' return to coaching. Iowa State, ranked in the AP preseason poll for the first time since 1978 and a trendy pick by some to make the Big 12 championship game, needed triple overtime to avoid a third loss in seven seasons to instate FCS team Northern Iowa.

"If it was different where it was an attitude issue or an effort issue, then I think there would be a great concern," Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. "Maybe there's some detail things that weren't right that you're still able to overcome the lack of detail with attitude, effort and leadership, and making some plays when you needed to make them. It's certainly great to be able to teach from that and grow from that."

Even though TCU won by 32 points and scored on all seven chances inside the 20, the Horned Frogs had to settle for field goals six times against a SWAC school coming off a two-win season with a porous defense.

Fourth-ranked Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were suspect at times on defense, both allowing more than 30 points. Houston's 241 yards rushing against the Sooners were 69 more than any other Big 12 team allowed. The Cowboys, the only team that played a Power Five opponent, allowed 448 total yards and five touchdowns to Oregon State, which won only three games the last two seasons.

All that ultimately mattered was that every team won, and all 10 coaches got to see how their teams responded in a game.

"You've got so much that you can coach off of, and all of the different situations that come up, and you learn so much about your team," Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. "The other thing is everybody's going to overreact to good and bad in the first week. ... The key, whether it was great or whether it was terrible, or somewhere in between, is just continuing to improve."

No other FBS or FCS conference had every team start 1-0.

The Big 12 became a 10-team league in 2011, and the opening weekend that year was the only other time every team played and won on the same weekend. In 2012, the first season of the current 10-team structure when TCU and West Virginia came into the league, all nine teams that played on the first weekend won, and the Horned Frogs won their opener at home the next week.

Iowa State and TCU now have an early open date and time to address issues before playing again Sept. 14, both against Big Ten teams. The Cyclones host Iowa, and TCU goes to Minnesota.

"We would be foolish to even remotely put any time into our thoughts of game two, when it's so early in the season and there's so much good videotape from this past Saturday," Campbell said.

Kansas, after a 24-17 win over Indiana State, is home again Saturday against Coastal Carolina, a Sun Belt Conference team displaced this week by Hurricane Dorian

"At this point, it's a lot easier to teach off of those experiences where you came close to finishing second, but you won," said Miles, who won a national title with LSU before taking over a Jayhawks team that won only 23 games without a winning season the previous decade.

After six Big 12 teams opened against FCS teams, the number of lower-division opponents drops to two this week. Oklahoma hosts South Dakota, and Oklahoma State plays its home opener against McNeese State.

There are two games Saturday against the SEC — a top 10 matchup when No. 6 LSU travels to No. 9 Texas. West Virginia goes to Missouri after the Mountaineers had conference lows of 20 points, 34 yards rushing and 294 total yards in their first game under new coach Neal Brown.

"We did not play very well in a number of positions, in several different categories, but we did find a way to win. I think that's important. I think it says something about our kids," said Brown, a former offensive coordinator at Texas Tech and Kentucky. "We've got to learn from the mistakes we made, because we'll get exposed versus the rest of our schedule if we do some of the same things."

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