|The Pokes' pain was the Cyclones' gain last year.|
Last season, a Friday night road trip to Ames, Iowa, proved to be the difference in Oklahoma St. getting shut out of the national championship game. What are the potential landmines for the Big 12's top teams this year? Where are the chances for stunning upsets?
Let's take a look at the Big 12 Danger Games for 2012.
*Tulsa at Iowa St. (Sept. 1)
The Cyclones open their season on Labor Day weekend with a visit from the sneaky Golden Hurricane, possibly the best team in Conference USA. The graduation of ultra-productive quarterback G.J. Kinne is unlikely to downgrade TU's offense to a Golden Shower, as the 'Cane have proven to be a plug-and-play team under center and return their leading skill position players from a year ago.
With a trip to Iowa City on deck for a rivalry game with the hated Hawkeyes, any chance the 'Clones get caught looking ahead?
*Louisiana-Lafayette at Oklahoma St. (Sept. 15)
The thought of the Ragin' Cajuns posing any threat to the Pokes last year would have been laughable, especially at Boone Pickens Stadium. This season, though, the rebuilding Cowboys should be on high alert. They draw ULL coming off a road trip out west to Arizona, so the fatigue factor will be at play against a mid-major team with nothing to lose.
ULL's Mark Hudspeth is a rising star in the coaching fraternity after leading his team to a 9-4 record in his debut season New Orleans Bowl win over San Diego St. The Ragin' Cajuns have nine starters returning on a potent offense led by veteran quarterback Blaine Gautier. With OSU breaking in a freshman QB in Wes Lunt, the Pokes could be playing with fire if they find themselves in a shootout.
*West Virginia at Texas Tech (Oct. 13)
The Mountaineers may have their first conference game on Sept. 29 with a home game against Baylor, but their true "welcome to the Big 12" moment will come a week later when they travel to Austin for a date with Texas. The next week, WVU again travels to the Lone Star State to take on Texas Tech, which makes for a brutal back-to-back stretch for a team coming all the way from Morgantown.
Lubbock has a reputation in Big 12 country as a snake pit. The 'Eers better hope they don't get bit in the unfamiliar terrain.
Oklahoma at Iowa St. (Nov. 3)
In what has become an annual tradition under the proudest coach in the country, Paul Rhoads, Iowa St. pulled off a shocker with an overtime upset of OSU last season. The year before, it was a win at Texas. The year before that, Rhoads' team knocked off Nebraska in Lincoln.
Don't let last season's 20-point loss to OU fool you. ISU played the Sooners tough in Norman, holding their potent offense in check. Sandwiched between a visit from Notre Dame and a revenge game with Baylor, who knows where the Sooners' heads will be here? OU seems to lay at least one egg a year, and the Sooners could ill afford for that to come in this game.