Big 12 Conference play kicks off this week, and the four teams involved just happen to be the one conference coaches picked to finish at the top of the league in their annual preseason football poll.
One of those games is Oklahoma State at Texas A&M, which was previewed Wednesday in this space. In the other matchup of conference teams, top-ranked Oklahoma entertains Missouri. Last season, Mizzou knocked off then No. 1-ranked Oklahoma at Columbia, but this time the game is in Norman, where OU owns a 37-game home winning streak, the longest active home streak in college football, and where coach Bob Stoops' teams have lost only two games in his 12 years with the Sooners.
Kansas State is also in action this weekend. The Wildcats, off to a 2-0 start, have their work cut out for them on the road against a tough Miami team that looked much better than the experts first thought in defeating Ohio State in the Hurricanes' home opener last weekend.
Heading into the games this weekend, the Big 12 is a nation-best 23-2 against nonconference opponents. In addition, eight conference teams are still undefeated, which is the most in any conference. The next best has six undefeated teams.
Here are my Big 12 football picks for this week:
Oklahoma State 34 @ Texas A&M 27
Missouri 20 @ Oklahoma 38
It's been a long time since Oklahoma's second home game of the season was against a conference foe. Don't expect OU to be down one week removed from its huge road win at then fifth-ranked Florida State. The 85,000-strong Sooner fans that will be at the game won't allow it. Before last year's loss to the Tigers, Oklahoma had won seven consecutive games against Mizzou. Aside from settling the score from the game a year ago, the Sooners have too many weapons on offense, plus a defense that may believe is playing better than last year's conference champions, for Missouri to pull off the upset, especially with the game in Norman.
Kansas State 13 @ Miami 27
The Wildcats played much better last week against Kent State, a middle-of-the-pack Mid-American Conference team, than they did in their season opener in barely getting by Division II-A Eastern Kentucky. Kansas State leads the nation in total defense, allowing its opponents just 164 yards and 3.5 points a game. Considering the below-average level of talent the Cats have played so far, I can't see K-State holding down Miami to that level of output. Miami (1-1) outgained Ohio State 363-209 last weekend and held the nationally ranked Buckeyes to just 4 out 18 passing. Miami also converted 9 of 15 third-down plays to keep drives alive vs. an Ohio State team known for tough defense. While the strength shown by the Wildcats' defensive is somewhat suspect to this point, owning the conference's least productive offense is even more troubling, If coach Bill Snyder's squad has to rely on its defense to defeat Miami, it's going to be a real long plane ride back to Manhattan Saturday night.
Rice 13 @ Baylor 44
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III has been on fire in the Bears' first two wins. RG3 is virtually tied with Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden as the Big 12 leader in total offense, and there is no reason, barring injury, that he shouldn't put up huge numbers again this week vs, Rice. Baylor begins its Big 12 season next week at Kansas State. Rice will provide a nice tune up but not much competition for the soon-to-be 3-0 Bears. Texas beat Rice 34-9 to open the season.
Nevada 17 @ Texas Tech 48
The first thing you need to know about this game is this isn't the same Nevada team that tied with Boise State and Hawaii for the WAC championship last fall. Although 1-1 on the season, the Wolf Pack is struggling mightily on offense, and defensively it is giving up over 40 points per game. This is going to present serious problems for Nevada as it goes up against one of the country's most difficult offenses to defend. The Red Raiders' wide-open, gun-slinging attack should be able to move the ball at will against the Wolf Pack. Although Nevada has allowed so many points in its first two games ( a loss to and a win last week against WAC opponent San Jose State), the differential in total offensive output is only minus-four yards. So the Wolf Pack has been able to move the ball; they just haven't been able to generate points from their offensive possessions. Best of luck with that vs. Texas Tech's improving defense under coach Tommy Tuberville.
Last Week's Picks: 9-1
For the Season: 22-3