- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Things to watch in the Big 12 Conference during the opening week of the season. Three teams get started with road games before Saturday, the day the other seven league teams open up - all but one of those at home:

GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 2 TCU at Minnesota. After being left out of the first College Football Playoff, the defending co-Big 12 champion Horned Frogs open Thursday night at the Big Ten team coached by Gary Patterson’s good friend, Jerry Kill. Even though TCU is a double-figure favorite and the Golden Gophers haven’t won at home against a top 10 team since 1977, Patterson sounds like his old self when talking about just wanting to win by one point. Even after losing six of their seven tacklers on defense, TCU should be OK with quarterback Trevone Boykin among 10 returning starters on an offense that averaged 47 points and 533 yards a game last season. TCU scored a season-low 30 points against Minnesota last season, but that was only the Frogs’ second game in their new up-tempo offense.

BEST MATCHUP: While the rest of the Big 12 teams are favored in their openers - well, Iowa State did lose to Northern Iowa two years ago - Texas starts its second season under coach Charlie Strong as an underdog at No. 11 Notre Dame on Saturday night. Strong was a defensive assistant in South Bend from 1995-98. The Irish started 6-0 last season before losing five of their last seven games. Strong is utilizing players he recruited to Texas, with six freshmen starters and eight other freshmen being the top backup behind upper classmen at other positions.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: No. 4 Baylor, which like TCU has its highest preseason ranking ever, opens Friday night at SMU. The Bears have won the last 11 meetings against their former Southwest Conference rival, including 45-0 at home in last season’s opener. … West Virginia kicker Josh Lambert tied an NCAA record last season with at least two field goals in 10 games.

LONG SHOT: Akron winning at No. 19 Oklahoma, which is favored by more than four touchdowns. The Sooners won their last Big 12 title in 2012, making this the first time they have gone consecutive years without a conference championship under coach Bob Stoops, who starts his 17th season. Oklahoma is playing its first game since offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley was hired to bring back the kind of Air Raid scheme the Sooners used to run.

PLAYER(S) TO WATCH: Kansas State quarterbacks. Sophomore Jesse Ertz emerged from a four-player competition to replace departed Jake Waters as the starter, but junior Joe Hubener and freshman Alex Delton are listed as co-backups and coach Bill Snyder said it’s likely all of them will play Saturday against South Dakota. Junior college transfer Jonathan Banks decided to redshirt.


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

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