- By Kevin Lyttle American-Statesman Staff
Scheduling philosophies are on display when Big 12 teams kick off the football season this week.
Some like it hot. Texas Tech faces the SEC’s Ole Miss at Reliant Stadium in Houston. West Virginia, ranked 17th, takes on Tennessee in Charlotte, N.C.
“It can be risky,” said Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury, already on the hot seat for a 22-28 record over the last four years. “It means you’ve got to be at your best right out of the blocks.”
Some like it mild. No. 7 Oklahoma starts with Florida Atlantic, an 11-game winner last season but in the softer Conference USA. No. 23 Texas travels to Washington D.C. to play Maryland, a lower-rung Big Ten team.
“This is the second year in a row we’re playing 11 Power Five conference schools,” Longhorns Coach Tom Herman said. “I see other schools that play eight and a (lower-tier) FCS school. That needs to be addressed. There are no across-the-board regulations.”
And some like it tame, or even lame. Baylor faces Abilene Christian, 2-9 a year ago in FCS ball. No. 16 TCU tackles Southern, not to be confused with Southern Cal or even Southern Miss. Kansas has Nicholls, which has dropped the State but is still a stumper as in: Where is Nicholls? Answer: Thibodaux, La.
“Southern can play,” protested Horned Frogs Coach Gary Patterson. “That is a well-coached ballclub.”
Patterson spent a lot more time on Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference answering questions about Ohio State, who his Frogs play Sept. 15.
“I haven’t thought about Ohio State,” he said several times. “I’ve got Southern, then SMU. We have a lot of young players, and we’re already a banged-up team.”
At least half the league is wading into the shallow end of the pool against overmatched opponents. Not Texas Tech and West Virginia.
“We would love to start 3-0 and build confidence, but tough games like Ole Miss and Houston that we have coming up help prepare you for the conference,” Kingsbury said.
“I’d like to see everybody play these types of games because they set the tone for a playoff run that somebody in our conference is going to have.”
West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen has long scheduled up in non-conference play.
“We obviously like it,” he said, “but we need a uniform policy across the country. I’m tickled to death about playing Tennessee at a neutral site. The fan bases are excited, we’ll have a jam-packed stadium with a lot of energy.”
Three-time defending conference champ Oklahoma isn’t facing a Power Five team, but Florida Atlantic nearly missed making the AP preseason Top 25 under Lane Kiffin.
“Their talent level jumps off the screen,” Sooners Coach Lincoln Riley said. “Lane does a great job bringing in talented players. Devin Singletary is an impressive guy, rushed for almost 2,000 yards. He’ll stack up with the best backs we’ll see this year.
“We better play well.”