College football was a simpler place when everybody played their handful of nonconference games to open the schedule, then entered league play in unison.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
Instead, some Southeastern Conference teams will play their third league game this weekend as Missouri opens SEC play at Vanderbilt. West Virginia logs its third Big 12 game on Saturday against Baylor, which is opening league play. Kansas also begins its conference slate with Texas Tech visiting Lawrence.
There’s an edge here. The intensity rises for conference games. Teams that have experienced it have the advantage, at least early in a game.
The two big reasons for the staggered schedules are realignment and television.
Teams shifting conferences, like West Virginia and Missouri, had to work around other scheduling commitments made before realignment. And with the richer TV contracts, media companies want quality matchups every weekend, not just starting in October.
The SEC has been ahead of the curve here, rolling out a national quality matchup — Mississippi-Vanderbilt, South Carolina-Georgia, Alabama-Texas A&M, Tennessee-Florida and LSU-Georgia — leading the first five week’s worth of viewing options.
Get used to it. Good matchups will be needed throughout the schedule. The downside is unattractive nonconference games later in the season, but that’s the price conferences and schools are willing to pay for TV riches.
Big 12 games Saturday
• Kansas at Texas Tech, 11 a.m. on Fox Sports 1: Is this the streak-buster for the Jayhawks? In its Big 12 opener, Kansas seeks its first conference victory since 2010, and Tech already has one this season, having defeated TCU 20-10. If the Red Raiders, who are in the polls, want to be a Big 12 contender, they can’t slip here.
• Kansas State at Oklahoma State, 2:30 p.m. on ABC (Ch. 9): Cowboys’ defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements takes on his alma mater, but that’s not new. He also served once served as an assistant at Kansas. In the Daily Oklahoman this week, Clements said this about Bill Snyder: “People often look from the outside, and they ask, ‘How does it do it? What’s his secret?’ The reality of it is it’s not especially complicated. He doesn’t waver. And he won’t waver … The consistency with how he does things, is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”
• TCU at Oklahoma, 6 p.m. on Fox (Ch. 4): The Frogs seek a statement victory after losing their two high-profile games, against LSU and Texas Tech. Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell will be tested by the Frogs’ strong secondary. The Sooners, now the Big 12’s highest-ranked team, have moved into the conference favorite role along with Baylor.
• West Virginia at Baylor, 7 p.m. on Fox Sports 1: Remember this clash from last year? West Virginia scored 70, and had to pull it out in the end to win by a touchdown. Baylor is capable of putting up those numbers this year, averaging 69.7 points. The Mountaineers are not, but enter the game with confidence after taking down Oklahoma State last week.
SEC games Saturday
• Georgia State at Alabama, 11:21 a.m. on KSMO (Ch. 62): The only upset here is if the Crimson Tide starters don’t score on every possession and if Georgia State scores. This is the rare meeting between the nation’s top-ranked team and what might the worst team in FBS.
• Georgia at Tennessee, 2:30 p.m. on CBS (Ch. 5): The Vols best hope is a Georgia hangover from last week’s LSU triumph, which makes this a leadership game for the Dawgs. Georgia’s schedule opens at this point with only ranked team remaining (Florida). Check out Tennessee’s “smokey gray” uniforms.
• LSU at Mississippi State, 6 p.m. on ESPN: Bad time to catch LSU, coming off the Georgia loss, for Mississippi State. Still the Bulldogs, with an extra week to prepare, should throw some solid defense at Zach Mettenberger. Tyler Russell should return at quarterback for Mississippi State.
• Arkansas at Florida, 6 p.m. on ESPN2: It’s Tyler Murphy’s team, but really Florida’s future rests with its stout defense. It has been an excellent unit so far this season. Brandon Allen is back at quarterback for Arkansas, and was good last week against Texas A&M with 282 yards and three touchdowns.
• Mississippi at Auburn, 6 p.m. on ESPNU: High school coaches take pride. The Rebels’ Hugh Freeze and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn were both successful high school coaches, and now lead SEC programs on the uptick. Mississippi will be looking for the bounce back after the shutout loss at Alabama.
• Missouri at Vanderbilt, 6:30 p.m., on KCTV (Ch. 5): Future NFL wide receivers in this one: Vandy’s Jordan Matthews and Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham. Matthews is on the verge of SEC career receiving records.
• Kentucky at South Carolina, 6:30 p.m. on Fox Sports KC Plus: Spurrier vs. Stoops! Oh, different Stoops. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, the brother of Oklahoma’s Bob, hasn’t settled on a quarterback. South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw probably will start despite a shoulder injury suffered in the Central Florida game.