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Conference games start this week in Big 12
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.
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."
Kansas State (2-0) and Iowa State (1-1) are playing at Arrowhead Stadium, completing a deal to meet back-to-back years in Kansas City, Mo. The game originally was scheduled for Oct. 9 but was moved at Kansas State's request so the Wildcats could play Nebraska on ESPN on Oct. 7.
Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads said he would like to play a neutral-site game every year once the Big 12 goes to a round-robin schedule that would give a team four home games and five road games every other year.
"You would lose a home game, but you also would lose a road game, and that equals itself out," he said.
K-State and Iowa State each get $1.8 million from the Kansas City Chiefs for playing the two games at Arrowhead. The Wildcats won 24-23 last year, blocking an extra point after Iowa State had scored with 32 seconds left.
Rhoads said it's exciting for his team to play in an NFL venue and that Cyclones fans enjoy the trip to Kansas City.
Snyder is lukewarm, if that, on playing at Arrowhead. Normally, this year's game would have been played in Manhattan, Kan.
Snyder lamented the lost economic benefits of a home game.
"Aside from that, I don't think there's any upside or downside in playing a game like this in Arrowhead Stadium," he said. "We certainly appreciate the Chiefs organization for promoting and trying to put that together. My preference would be to accommodate our local community the best we can."
NOTES: Quarterback Taylor Martinez leads Nebraska in rushing and is averaging 13.5 yards a carry. He has scored five rushing touchdowns averaging 33.4 yards. He had a 38-yard TD against Idaho called back because of a holding penalty ... Baylor hasn't allowed a touchdown in the first two games. The last time that happened was 1960 ... Colorado's Scotty McKnight extended his school record streak of catching at least one pass to 39 games, the longest current streak in the nation ... James Sims, who ran for 101 yards on 17 carries against Georgia Tech, became the first Kansas freshman to gain 100 yards in his first start... Kansas State's Daniel Thomas has gained 371 yards rushing in the first two games. That betters the previous two-game school record of 329 yards by Thomas Clayton in 2005.
QUOTABLE: "We shoot the offenders." _ Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, joking about how he and his coaching staff try to reduce the number of penalties committed by his players.
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
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