Real season set to start for Big 12 Conference

Missouri hosts Colorado on Saturday to begin conference play for both teams.
Monday, September 27, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:50 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Now every game counts in the Big 12 Conference.

No more padding the record with wins against lower-division teams. No more weekend strolls for the big boys. Well, maybe one.

Everybody made it through the nonconference portion of the schedule with winning records. Even Baylor.

Those wins won’t be wiped out from the overall records, but everybody except Texas Tech and Kansas is 0-0 where it counts: in the Big 12 standings.

For the rest of the regular season, every game is a conference game. The championship game is Dec. 4 in Kansas City.

Texas Tech has the early lead in the standings, winning the lone conference game Saturday because of an impressive running performance, and not the pass-happy philosophy that still exists with a new quarterback.

Taurean Henderson ran for 169 yards and two second-half touchdowns, including a 70-yard score with 2:37 left to cap a rally of 26 straight points for Texas Tech (3-1, 1-0) to beat Kansas 31-30 on Saturday.

The Red Raiders still have the nation’s top passing offense yardage-wise. Sonny Cumbie has thrown for 1,716 yards in his first four starts, but also has eight interceptions. Four of those came in a 356-yard game against the Jayhawks.

Kansas (2-2, 0-1) had allowed 37 points in the first three games.

No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 5 Texas and No. 25 Oklahoma State, all from the South, made it through three nonconference schedules without losing. Oklahoma and Texas as expected, but Oklahoma State might be a bit of a surprise.

Record-setting receiver Rashaun Woods is gone and his little brother, freshman Donovan, is still adjusting to being the starting quarterback. So the Cowboys have revived their power-running attack, rushing for 334 yards per game.

Oklahoma State got past a difficult opener, winning 31-20 at UCLA when the Cowboys had 426 of their 449 total yards on the ground. Donovan Woods’ passing numbers have gotten better, but Oklahoma State still has more rushing yards every game.

Texas finished its nonconference schedule Saturday night with a 35-13 win against Rice. The “preseason” also included a 65-0 romp against North Texas and hard-fought 22-20 win at Arkansas.

Texas gets one more breather, against Baylor in its Big 12 opener Saturday, before heading into Dallas to play No. 2 Oklahoma on Oct. 9. The Longhorns have won the last five games against Baylor by a combined score of 256-24, including 56-0 last year.

After an opening dogfight with Bowling Green, the Sooners had relatively easy wins against Houston and Oregon to improve to 19-0 in September under coach Bob Stoops. It’s a good comeback after consecutive losses to end last season: in the Big 12 championship game to Kansas State and in the Sugar Bowl to LSU.

Colorado, which didn’t start well when it won the Big 12 North in 2001 and 2002, is unbeaten after a summer during which a rape and recruiting scandal enveloped Colorado and nearly cost Barnett his job.

Former NFL coach Bill Callahan brought a pro-style passing offense to Nebraska. The Cornhuskers, who lost at home to Conference USA’s Southern Mississippi and had 11 turnovers in their first two games, are still adjusting.

Kansas State beat up on Western Kentucky and Louisiana-Lafayette, but No. 17 Fresno State was no cupcake.

Fresno State won 45-21, handing the Wildcats their worst regular-season nonconference loss in 13 years and reminding coach Bill Snyder of what it was like when his team was losing 10 games in a season.

The Big 12 was 28-8 against nonconference opponents. That included five losses in the second week, matching the most ever for the league during one weekend.

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