TCU set for battle in top Big 12 game of opening weekend

As America's greatest living newsman would say, the opening weekend of the Big 12 schedule gets out of hand fast. It goes from two fantastic neutral-site games against the SEC to one interesting matchup of innovative passing offenses to out and out atrocities faster than one can say "Great Odin's raven!" And, hey, if TCU and Oklahoma State don't deliver in their visits to NFL stadiums, the Big 12 might be better off showing "Anchorman" highlights as part of its new in-stadium fan engagement initiative.

9. William & Mary at West Virginia, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 12 p.m EDT, Fox Sports 1

Rating: 1 star

The skinny: The Mountaineers get an absolute lay-up to show off their completely rebuilt offense. No matter who starts, Paul Millard and Florida State transfer Clint Trickett should each get plenty of opportunities to state his case for the top job before the degree of difficulty goes up significantly next week at Oklahoma.

8. New Mexico State at Texas, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 8 p.m. ET, Longhorn Network

Rating: 1 star

The skinny: The Longhorns probably had tougher scrimmages in fall camp than the Aggies, coming off a 1-11 season with a new head coach, can offer. Texas will get to deploy its new up-tempo offense for the first time, while defensive stalwarts Jackson Jeffcoat and Jordan Hicks make their returns after being sidelined by injuries for most of 2012.

7. Northern Iowa at Iowa State, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 8 p.m ET

Rating: 1 star

The skinny: Northern Iowa lost at Wisconsin by only five points last season, so this isn't a gimme for the Cyclones by any stretch. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Richardson played well in spot duty and gives Iowa State a signal-caller it can built around for the future.

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6. Wofford at Baylor, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 7:30 p.m ET, Fox Sports Net

Rating: 1 star

The skinny: It will be a blowout, but it will be an entertaining blowout. True freshman wide receiver Robbie Rhodes impressed in scrimmages and could step in for Terrance Williams as the latest cog in the explosive Baylor offense.

5. North Dakota State at Kansas State, Friday, Aug. 30 at 8:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

Rating: 1 star

The skinny:Hall of Fame coach Bill Snyder has warned his team not to look past the two-time defending FCS national champions, nor should the rebuilding Wildcats. The defense is completely overhauled from last season's Big 12 champions, so All-America safety Ty Zimmerman must bring leadership and playmaking as everyone around him gets up to speed. There is continuity on offense, at least, so running back John Hubert can expect a heavy workload to control time of possession.

4. Louisiana-Monroe at Oklahoma, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 7 p.m ET, PPV

Rating: 1 star

The skinny: Trevor Knight makes his first career start at quarterback for the Sooners, not that anyone outside of Memorial Stadium is likely to evaluate the redshirt freshman's performance. It will cost between $40 and $45 to watch the game on pay-per-view or streaming online.

3. Texas Tech at SMU, Friday, Aug. 30 at 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Rating: 2 stars

The skinny: Generations of pass-first offense collide, as first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury shows off the Air Raid against June Jones' Run-N-Shoot. Ironically, the architect of the Air Raid, former Kentucky coach Hal Mumme, is now on Jones' staff as passing-game coordinator. Texas Tech will start a true freshman at quarterback in either Davis Webb or walk-on Baker Mayfield.

2. Oklahoma State vs. Mississippi State, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN2

Rating: 3 stars

The skinny: Now the going gets good, as the narrow Big 12 favorite takes on a Bulldogs team in desperate need of a clean slate after losing five of its last six games in 2012. Offense is the Cowboys' trademark, but the most intriguing matchup pits their fine defensive tackle Calvin Barnett against All-SEC left guard Gabe Jackson. Mississippi State needs a productive rushing offense to be successful, but Barnett can stonewall those aspirations. This game will be played in Houston's Reliant Stadium, home of the NFL's Texans.

1. TCU vs. LSU, Saturday, Aug. 31 at 9 p.m ET, ESPN

Rating: 4 stars

The skinny: Once all the pre-game subterfuge (Who starts at quarterback for the Horned Frogs? Could suspended defensive end Devonte Fields actually play for TCU? Will LSU running back Jeremy Hill make the trip?) is done, the game should be a punishing affair that comes down to the lines of scrimmage. TCU's rebuilt offensive line against LSU's reloading defensive line will be key, as a strong running game and ball-control approach can keep the Frogs' undersized front fresh. This one will be played in AT&T Stadium -- home of the Dallas Cowboys -- in Arlington, Texas.

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