- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Let’s take a look at the top storylines in the Big 12 heading into Week 1:
New quarterbacks. Geno Smith, Landry Jones, Nick Florence and Collin Klein have moved on, making the Big 12 the land of opportunity for quarterbacks. Bryce Petty is set to replace Florence at Baylor, Jake Waters will step in at Kansas State, and Trevor Knight will start at Oklahoma. Texas Tech, West Virginia, TCU and Oklahoma State could use two quarterbacks this weekend, as those teams search for standout signal-callers.
Big 12 vs. SEC. The Cowboys and the Horned Frogs will have the conference’s reputation on their shoulders as they battle SEC foes Mississippi State and LSU. OSU coach Mike Gundy is 8-1 in his last nine games against current SEC teams, including a 24-10 season-opening win over Georgia in 2009. But seven of those wins came against former Big 12 rivals Texas A&M and Missouri. It will be TCU’s first game against an SEC opponent since a 30-14 win over Vanderbilt in 2003.
TCU can send a message. The Horned Frogs battle LSU in a game that should be physical, low scoring and intriguing. If TCU is the more physical and aggressive team on its way to a surprise victory, everyone will stand up and take notice.
Any signs of defense? The Big 12 and good defense don’t seem to go hand-to-hand. The league average was 29.4 points and 418.4 yards per game in 2012. Conference defensive coordinators insist it is the Big 12’s offenses that make the difference. Against nonconference opponents, now’s the chance to prove it.
Oklahoma State aims to reaffirm its favorite status. The Cowboys could show the nation why they’re the favorite in the Big 12 with an impressive win over Mississippi State. If they stumble, however, that could be a sign that expectations were too high in Stillwater. There’s been plenty of change in the program with two new coordinators, but the Cowboys are excited about the overall talent and potential on the roster.
Can Lache Seastrunk back up his words? The Baylor running back didn’t mince words when talking about his goals and trying to win the Heisman Trophy this season. If he expects to insert his name in the race, he needs to start strong with a stellar performance against Wofford. The junior rushed for more than 100 yards in five of the last six games in 2012, so he's hoping to keep that momentum going.
Will offensive stars start to emerge? The Big 12 is known for offense, so it's pretty much a given that some unknown names will become "SportsCenter" regulars on Saturdays this fall. Seastrunk is the biggest offensive name in the conference with Texas Tech’s Eric Ward and OSU’s Josh Stewart also making strong cases as returning starters. Yet, undoubtedly, other stars will emerge, and they'll probably start showing signs of their playmaking potential this weekend.
Kliff Kingsbury’s debut at Texas Tech. Kingsbury takes over in Lubbock with an eye on having a similar impact as Kevin Sumlin did with Texas A&M in 2012 when Kingsbury was the Aggies’ offensive coordinator. The Red Raiders travel to SMU with a freshman quarterback, either Davis Webb or Baker Mayfield, under center. Nonetheless, we should be able to tell if the energy of Kingsbury’s young coaching staff is permeating through the program.
Will Trevor Knight show why the Sooners are so high on him? The redshirt freshman beat out preseason favorite Blake Bell for the job, and Saturday will be Knight's first chance to show his skills in OU’s opener against Louisiana-Monroe. The coaches have praised Knight’s playmaking ability, but he’s never done it in front of 80,000 at Memorial Stadium.
Can any of the underdogs shock a Big 12 squad at home? Kansas State, West Virginia, Iowa State, Texas, OU and BU are looking to rebuff upset bids in games where they’re the clear favorites. ULM might provide the sternest test of any underdog after upsetting Arkansas in Little Rock a year ago. But don’t overlook Northern Iowa, which travels to Ames for an in-state battle.