Big 12 teams prep for tough, high-profile openers
MANHATTAN, KS -- Kansas State's Bill Snyder let a slight chuckle when asked if playing a season opener at No. 8 Stanford was the sign of a change in scheduling philosophy for the veteran coach.
"Well, not in mine," Snyder said Monday. "But it's kind of the nature of the conference wanting everybody to play Power Five conference schools. So we've fallen in line with that."
The Wildcats are one of three Big 12 teams opening against a top-15 opponent, making the smallest of the Power Five leagues the only one with so many high-ranked non-conference openers. K-State's opener is Friday night, with third-ranked Oklahoma against No. 15 Houston in the home stadium of the NFL's Texans on Saturday, and Texas at home Sunday night against No. 10 Notre Dame.
Plus, West Virginia is home against SEC member Missouri, a former Big 12 team.
"It's a high-profile game. There's a lot of high-profile games here this weekend, and I think that's where college football is headed," Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said during the first Big 12 coaches teleconference. "We're going to continue to do that kind of scheduling here. And hopefully everyone else does that kind of scheduling as well."
The Big 12 late last year said its teams would be required to play at least one non-conference game each season against a team from one of the other Power Five leagues (ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 or SEC) or Notre Dame, though the requirement didn't affect existing non-conference game contracts at the time. Still, No. 23 Baylor and Kansas are the only Big 12 teams that won't play against one of the peer conferences this season.
Kansas State is playing a true road non-conference game against a Power Five school for only the seventh time since 1989, Snyder's first season with the Wildcats in a tenure that included a three-season gap (2006-08) when he retired before returning to coach again. Stanford is the highest-ranked non-conference opponent K-State has ever played in a season-opening road game.
"My only issue with it is the fact that in all reality, you don't get to play all the younger guys that you have. We're a program that's going to need every guy we've got," Snyder said. "When you play a team like Stanford, in all reality, that's not going to take place."
Some other notes from the first Big 12 teleconference of the season:
-- Oklahoma is the overwhelming favorite to win its 10th Big 12 title after last season becoming the league's first team to make it to the four-team College Football Playoff.
But is there any added motivation for the Sooners after losing 37-17 to Clemson in one of the national semifinals?
"That's a long time ago, man, we're on to 2016," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "You want to win them all. That's what you try to do at Oklahoma."
-- While Texas Tech has lost its top rusher (DeAndre Washington, 1,492 yards and 14 TDs) and top receiver from a year ago (Jakeem Grant, 1268 yards and 10 TDs), coach Kliff Kingsbury sounds confident about the skill players that will be around quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Kingsbury said junior running back Justin Stockton (five TDs on 61 carries last season) is an explosive back. And he said he's got the most depth at receiver he's ever had as a play-caller with some talented youngsters looking to show what they can do.
-- Snyder announced Jesse Ertz as K-State's quarterback after a three-man race in preseason camp, but Texas coach Charlie Strong and Kansas coach David Beaty wouldn't say who would take the first snaps in their openers.
Strong said he knows will start for the Longhorns, but isn't saying yet if it will be freshman Shane Buechele or senior Tyrone Swoopes. Strong said both will play against Notre Dame.
At Kansas, sophomore Ryan Willis started eight games as a true freshman last season after taking over when Montell Cozart got hurt. Beaty said Monday that the Jayhawks are "still in competition mode" with those guys and the starter would be revealed when one of them runs out on the field against Rhode Island.