- Associated Press - Monday, September 13, 2010

College football teams traditionally have used September nonconference games to establish their identities, work out kinks and set themselves up for the big games in October and November.

That’s changing.

Mid-September conference matchups like Texas-Texas Tech and Kansas State-Iowa State this weekend probably will be the norm once the Big 12 goes to a round-robin schedule next year. Each team will play nine conference games instead of eight after Nebraska leaves for the Big Ten and Colorado for the Pac-10.

In the Southeastern Conference, where the first league games were played last week, television partners for years have slotted appealing conference matchups early in the season.

The same thing already has happened in the Big 12. Texas and Texas Tech are playing the third week of September for the second year in a row, and the game will be on ABC.

First-year Tech coach Tommy Tuberville, who became accustomed to early conference games when he was in the SEC at Auburn, said he had to be mindful of the Texas game as far back as spring practice.

Decisions on personnel are accelerated because there is limited time to experiment, he said.

“We made a lot of movement early in two-a-days and even late two-a-days trying to get people in the right position,” Tuberville said, “just trying to make sure we play the best game we can this week, knowing we’re starting conference.”

The Red Raiders (2-0), after wins against SMU and New Mexico, will get a chance to measure themselves against the fourth-ranked Longhorns.

“When I was at Auburn, we most of the time played LSU around the third game, which was either a good start or a slow start depending on how you played the game,” he said. “The first two games (this season) went fairly well for us but we didn’t play up to our potential. Hopefully, this week we find out more about our team.”

The Longhorns prepped for the Red Raiders with wins over Rice and Wyoming. Texas coach Mack Brown said he senses the intensity picking up among his players.

“We’ve played two teams that we feel are good teams, but we have a real serious contender this weekend in Texas Tech out there,” Brown said. “It means a lot to the conference.”

The Longhorns’ last trip to Lubbock was memorable. Michael Crabtree’s touchdown catch with 1 second left to beat undefeated Texas was the signature play of 2008.

“I watched that game myself,” Tuberville said. “It was one of the best college football games I’ve seen in a long time, just for the excitement. Hopefully we can have the same type of game with the excitement for TV and for our fans being here.

“For me, my first game in the Big 12, what a better way to start.”

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