August 30, 2007

Conference capsule: Opening statement?

Call it ambitious, a roll of the dice, whatever. But for the first time since 1997, three Big 12 Conference teams will open the season against a nationally ranked opponent. Outside opinions vary, but the strategies and intentions of Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and Kansas State coach Ron Prince couldn't be more similar as the Cowboys and Wildcats invade SEC country Saturday...

Prince signed a two-game agreement with Louisville. In a four-month span prior to last season, he also inked two other home-and-home contracts against BCS opponents. K-State will play at UCLA in 2009 with a return date in 2010 and then at Miami (Fla.) in 2011 with a return date in 2012.

Shortly after K-State finished its season with a 37-10 loss to No. 16 Rutgers in the Texas Bowl, Prince lined-up an agreement with Auburn. The Wildcats will finish their regular season at Fresno State.

"It's good for college football," Prince said. "It's good for us being the kind of program where now we can have an opportunity on both coasts this year to play very, very good teams. Those opportunities give us just from a branding and recruiting standpoint, and for all of the fans, television execs and bowl execs, a chance to see the Powercat and have it behind those talking heads nationally.

"We think that's something that's very valuable for Kansas State."

As for putting the Wildcats' streak of 17-straight wins in season openers on the line at Auburn, which is 21-2 against non-conference opponents at home since 1999?

Prince understands the numbers. He believes the Wildcats had a focused offseason and were dutiful in preparation. Win or lose, the meeting could pay dividends during the season.

"We're not joking ourselves here," Prince said. "We know Auburn is a terrific team with a great tradition and one of the best coaches in college football. At the same time, we have a terrific opportunity in winning these kinds of games and playing well to get ourselves in position to win the North, which is our ultimate objective.

"You obviously can't play four of these games in the non-conference, but we think this is a good opportunity for us."

Fifth-year Baylor coach Guy Morriss remains firm in his scheduling philosophy. The Bears and Horned Frogs will meet for the 105th time Saturday, extending the longest series in Baylor history. Morriss scoffed at the notion of scheduling a big-time BCS opponent in the event the program were to gain better footing down the road.

"Our fans obviously would like to see us plays some of those kinds of people, but with the strength of the Big 12 being what it is, I don't know if there's an advantage to it or not, really," Morriss said. "I bet if you ask (Gundy and Prince), they'd probably agree with me."

Or maybe not.

With an eye toward the future, Gundy and Prince hope tangling with a couple of SEC monsters will serve their teams well down the road.

CONNECT THE DOTS… KANSAS Although Mark Mangino released the depth chart, he said nothing would be finalized until kickoff. As for the QB position? "A done deal. Todd Reesing comes every day ready to go. He's just a feisty guy. He competitive spirit is easy to see." … OKLAHOMA Bob Stoops said RB Allen Patrick was able to run late last week, but indicated Patrick could be questionable for kickoff. "He seems to be improving each day. It'll just be through the week what percentage of speed he is." … OKLAHOMA ST Defensive coordinator Tim Beckman has the chore of cleaning up a unit that ranked in the bottom half of the Big 12 for a third straight year and gave up no fewer than 24 points in the final 10 contests in '06. Gundy likes what he sees so far. "Honestly, we don't know how it will impact us game wise until we get into games and see how the player adjust to the terminology. Effort, tackling, discipline and structure has been really good." … KANSAS ST Left guard was a major concern for Prince. He decided on Brock Unruh, who started four games at right guard a year ago. "He's got good strength and athleticism. He's done a really nice job developing himself to be our left guard." … MISSOURI Gary Pinkel knows MU is favored to win the North, but he wouldn't call it a breakthrough. "The term 'breakthrough,' I've never heard that before. We have our own goals internally. One thing we all know in this business is you go one game at a time. We're trying to focus on the process." … TEXAS TECH No secret Mike Leach and Phil Bennett exchanged words immediately after Texas Tech's 35-3 win, in which the Red Raiders kept throwing late in the game. Leach didn't remember it that way. "First of all, there was really nothing to it from the beginning. There was a scuffle after the game and Coach Bennett is one of my favorite people in coaching and has been from the beginning, so there isn't anything to it." … BAYLOR Morriss still hasn't decided upon a quarterback between Blake Szymanski and Tyler Beatty. When will he decide? "Probably Saturday. I don't think there's any point in making any kind of announcement. I don't see any reason to make it public." … IOWA STATE Gene Chizik will enter his first game as head coach with a clear mind and a depth chart that looks about how he expected weeks ago. "I wouldn't say anybody is going to surprise us and jump out at starter who we didn't think in the beginning could help us. Everything panned out about the way we thought it would leaving spring practice. … TEXAS A&M Dennis Franchione felt the aftermath of Colorado's loss to Division I-AA Montana State in his own locker room this week. "There isn't any doubt that their ears perked up (Sunday) night when I talked about the game and read some of the comments from the Colorado coaches and players about them. This is a program you have to get ready to play because of what they did last year." … TEXAS The Associated Press reported the new contract extension UT Regents unanimously agreed upon for Mack Brown will give him a $250,000 raise to $2.91 million this season, including a "special payment" of $100,000 to be paid Saturday. Brown, whose contract now runs through 2016, could cash in on big bonuses, too, including $1 million if he stays through 2008 and $2 million if he's on staff New Years Day 2010. … COLORADO Hawkins said he hadn't given much thought to the fact his son, Cody, will start at quarterback. But the coach/dad understands Cody will likely encounter some growing pains along the way. "One of the positives of having Cody back there is he's been around this thing for a while. He's still a freshman. There will be freshman mistakes to be made." … NEBRASKA I-backs Marlon Lucky (left knee sprain in spring) and Cody Glenn (nursing a foot injury since November) have been in and out of practice, but Bill Callahan isn't worried about their conditioning. "It's more the mental reps you get on the field and the little things in schematics and techniques. But I'm pretty positive they can catch up in a hurry."
"One, don't have a new staff. Two, don't have a new quarterback. Three, don't have a bunch of freshman playing for you. If you can avoid those things, you'll be all right."

-- Dan Hawkins on his advice to Dennis Franchione as the Aggies prepare for Div I-AA Montana State.

>>> D. SCOTT'S SCALDING STAT >>> 39-12 Current Big 12 coaches are a combined 39-12 in season-openers and have outscored opponents 1,772 to 830 in those contests, which equates to an average score of 35-16.

D. Scott's Dept. > > >

If you've scrolled down this far, you must really be a Big 12 fan. Here are some departing shots.




The Bears look to avenge a 17-7 loss to TCU in the '06 opener, but history goes against them: Baylor is 2-34 against ranked opponents since '96 and has dropped 7 of its last 10 openers.


Last five meetings in the CU-CSU series were decided by 22 pts. CSU won 14-10 in the opener last season. This marks the first of 2-straight games away from Boulder to start the season, something the Buffs haven't done since '00.

Iowa State

The last time Iowa State faced Kent State, the Cyclones held the Golden Flashes to -7 yds rushing on 27 attempts in '82. Wouldn't that be a nice start to the Gene Chizik era.


Sophomore QB Todd Reesing looks to extend KU's 10-gm winning streak vs. non-conference opponents in his first start.

Kansas State

Ambitious start puts Wildcats' 17-straight opening wins on the line at Auburn, which is 21-2 vs. non-conference opponents at home since '99.


Chase Daniel, Martin Rucker, Chase Coffman, Will Franklin, Tony Temple. Let the fireworks begin.


Nevada is the first of 8 Nebraska opponents that played in a bowl in '06. Huskers will look to extend their Big 12-best 21-game winning streak in openers in a kickoff party for senior QB Sam Keller.


Stoops is 17-1 in Norman vs. teams from the state of Texas. Sooners scored at least 37 pts in their last three tussles with North Texas.

Oklahoma State

Time to Cowboy up. Mark Richt is 17-0 in non-conference games in Athens since '01.


Texas is 11-0 vs. the Sun Belt Conference. In 9 openers under Brown, the Longhorns have outscored opponents 453-93. Next.

Texas A&M

Aggies haven't lost a home opener since '87. But, but, but this is Montana State.

Texas Tech

This season marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most exciting plays in SMU history, "The Miracle on Fourth Avenue," as SMU topped Texas Tech 34-27 on a last-season kickoff return. Leach has never lost to SMU. It could take another miracle.

D. Scott Fritchen can be reached at Catch Fritchen's take on Big 12 football every Thursday during the season.

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