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Big 12 will really get rolling Saturday with full schedule

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

DALLAS -- Kansas State's Bill Snyder is the only Big 12 coach who has gotten to see his team play in a game.

Snyder had a mixed reaction about the No. 7 Wildcats' 42-28 opening win over California, saying Monday that his team "left a lot to be desired and did some fine things."

Now, the rest of the league's coaches are ready to be able to make their own on-field assessments.

"We're all anxious to play, to get on the field with North Texas," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, whose Sooners start the season as the nation's No. 1 team. "We're talked out. We're tired of talking about it and running into each other."

Yes, the coaches are ready for some football against different colored jerseys.

The Sooners open Saturday, the same day that nine other Big 12 teams also play their season openers and Kansas State plays its second game against Troy State. Fifth-ranked Texas has to wait until Sunday before playing New Mexico State.

"We're really excited about starting our season. We've got some unanswered questions and we want to see how the team is going to respond," Longhorns coach Mack Brown said during the weekly Big 12 coaches' teleconference.

Texas, after consecutive 11-2 seasons, has a new starting quarterback. Junior Chance Mock has played just 10 games, going 6-of-9 for 65 yards and a touchdown, while waiting for his chance since signing with the Longhorns in 2000.

"Like everybody else in the country that hasn't played, we're really anxious to get on the field to find out how good we might be," said Iowa State coach Dan McCarney.

Freshman quarterback Austin Flynn replaces Seneca Wallace in the Cyclones' starting lineup and makes his debut against Division I-AA Northern Iowa.

The Cyclones were 7-7 last year, losing six of their last seven games.

Big 12 coaching debuts

Texas A&M's Dennis Franchione and Baylor's Guy Morriss will make their Big 12 coaching debuts under different circumstances.

Franchione has a job he had always cherished and has brought a new sense of optimism to Aggieland after a disappointing 6-6 season. He plans to use both Reggie McNeal and Dustin Long at quarterback, but he won't say who will start against Arkansas State and has changed the "Wrecking Crew" defense from a 4-3 to a 3-4 alignment.

"When it's the first game of your tenure, it's kind of an exciting week in particular. It's a unique time," said Franchione, at Alabama the past two seasons after an impressive turnaround at TCU. "I'm anxious to see the players in game situations and how productive they are."

Morriss is the fourth Baylor coach since the league started in 1996, taking over a team that has gone 4-52 in conference games. He tried to build team unity with a two-week preseason boot camp where players lived in a dormitory together after turning in their cell phones and car keys.

This one counts

No. 24 Oklahoma State and Nebraska don't get to ease into the schedule. They play each other Saturday in the Big 12 opener, the only conference game before Sept. 27.

"I would normally prefer to open with a non-conference opponent and build into conference play," said Nebraska coach Frank Solich.

The Cornhuskers are coming off a 7-7 season that led to many changes in Solich's staff. There's a new defensive coordinator and Solich even replaced himself as offensive coordinator.

"It will be a little different, but there will be plenty for me to do on the sideline," Solich said. "I'll be tuned in to both coordinators, but feel very confident in our staff."

While Solich breaks in a new staff, Oklahoma State is ready to start one of the most anticipated season in school history.

The Cowboys begin coach Les Miles' third season in the Top 25 and are the only Big 12 team to return a 3,000-yard passer (Josh Fields), a 1,000-yard rusher (Tatum Bell) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Rashaun Woods).

Rivalry can't wait

Colorado coach Gary Barnett likes big games, but he wishes the rivalry game against No. 23 Colorado State could wait until the end of the season.

"By the end of the year, everything has evened out. Look at every other rivalry and tell me why they play at the end of the year instead of the beginning," Barnett said. "For all of the reasons they play at the end, I'd like to play at the end."

Instead, they will be playing the season opener for the sixth time in seven years.


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