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Saturday, Sep 20, 2014
Sports

Big 12 Conference opens with neutral 1-2 matchups

Published:   |   Updated: August 28, 2014 at 08:00 AM

Things to watch in the Big 12 Conference during the opening weekend of the season:

GAME OF THE WEEK: Oklahoma State vs. No. 1 Florida State at Arlington, Texas; and West Virginia vs. No. 2 Alabama at Atlanta. The Big 12 is on deck, facing the nation's top two teams in non-conference play on the same weekend for the first time ever. Plus, these two opponents won four of the last five national championships. Oklahoma State plays defending national champ Florida State for the first time since 1985, with the Seminoles and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston hoping to also end their season at the Dallas Cowboys' massive stadium with the national title game there on Jan. 12. The Mountaineers have a first-time matchup against the 2009, 2011 and 2012 national champion Crimson Tide, whose 2013 season ended with a Sugar Bowl loss to Big 12 team Oklahoma.

BEST MATCHUP: New Texas coach Charlie Strong vs. North Texas coach Dan McCarney. Strong's first game with the Longhorns comes at home Saturday night against a championship friend. Strong, McCarney and new Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford were on coach Urban Meyer's staff together when Florida won its 2008 national championship.

"Looking at the job he's done there at North Texas, nine wins, beating UNLV in a bowl game," Strong said of McCarney. "That team will be well-coached."

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: One-third of the Big 12's non-conference games (10 of 30) are against teams from the other four power conferences. None of those other leagues (ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC) has a higher percentage of such matchups. ... Kansas State senior WR Tyler Lockett begins this season ranked fourth in school history in career catches (143) and TD catches (18). The career leader in both categories? His father, Kevin (217 and 26).

LONG SHOT: Louisiana Tech at No. 4 Oklahoma. The Sooners, the preseason pick to win the Big 12, are more than five-TD favorites in its 16th home opener under coach Bob Stoops. They are 36-2 at home against non-conference teams under Stoops, outscoring them by an average margin of 32 points. Louisiana Tech is 0-8 against Top 5 teams since 1996, losing those by an average margin of 31 points.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Baylor senior QB Bryce Petty leading the Big 12 champion Bears into their new stadium, and playing on campus for the first time since 1935. Petty threw for 4,200 yards with 32 touchdowns and only three interceptions last season when he finally got his chance starting, and also led the league with 14 rushing TDs. Baylor hosts SMU on Sunday night.

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Compiled by AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Fort Worth, Texas.

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