Big 12 pregame: Can West Virginia avoid the upset against James Madison?
The Big 12’s opening week set of games is shameful. Ten teams. Ten games. Only three opponents in Division I-A. Seven of the Big 12 foes this weekend are from the 63-scholarship limit Football Championship Division (I-AA). The rest of college football quickly adopts such absurdity in the coming weeks, but no other league jumps out with such mismatches.
Let’s rank the Big 12 games, such as they are:
1. Houston at Oklahoma, 6:30 p.m. Sunday, ABC: Strange that the Sooners and Cougars have played only three times ever, and this is just the second game ever for UofH on Owen Field.
2. Oklahoma State at Oregon State, 9:30 p.m., Fox Sports1: After this game, the only Pac-12 schools that OSU has not played will be Southern Cal and California.
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3. Louisiana Tech at Texas, 7 p.m., Longhorn Network: The Bulldogs are coached by Skip Holtz, whose father, Lou, beat UT with Notre Dame in 1996 and went 2-5 vs. Texas from 1977-83.
4. James Madison at West Virginia, 1 p.m. Saturday, AT&T SportsNet: Give the Mountaineers credit – even their I-AA opponent is a quality team.
5. Indiana State at Kansas, 11 a.m. Saturday, Fox Sports Oklahoma: Bob Stoops began his OU career with a game against the Sycamores. Now Les Miles does the same at Kansas.
6. Nicholls State at Kansas State, 6 p.m. Saturday, ESPN+: Nicholls beat Kansas last season. Can the Colonels pull the Sunflower State sweep?
7. Northern Iowa at Iowa State, 11 a.m. Saturday, Fox Sports1: Matt Campbell’s status and program have come a long way since debuting with a 2016 loss to Northern Iowa.
8. Montana State at Texas Tech, 3 p.m. Saturday, Fox Sports Oklahoma: The Bobcats might put up a fight – they made the second round of the Division I-AA playoffs last season.
9. Stephen F. Austin at Baylor, 6 p.m. Saturday, ESPN+: The Lumberjacks were 2-8 last season.
10. Arkansas-Pine Bluff at TCU, 7 p.m. Saturday, Fox Sports Oklahoma: A worthless game – the Lions were 2-9 last season and lost 90-6 to South Dakota State, 62-13 to Prairie View and 56-24 to Southern U.
UPSET SPECIAL: James Madison over West Virginia
West Virginia football faced a rebuilding job in 2019 whether or not Dana Holgorsen was the coach. But Holgorsen bolted Morgantown for the University of Houston job, Neal Brown has been hired to replace him and while Mountaineer Nation is fired up over Brown, there will be growing pains.
Even the most ardent WVU support knew 2019 would be a rough season. And here’s how rough. Even a victory over Division I-AA James Madison is not assured.
The Dukes have a new coach of their own in Curt Cignetti, who played at WVU from 1979-82 and whose father, Frank, was head coach of the Mountaineers from 1976-79.
Curt Cignetti does not take over a rebuilding job. The Dukes won the 2016 I-AA national championship and are ranked second nationally going into the 2019 season.
West Virginia is breaking in a new quarterback, OU transfer Austin Kendall, but James Madison is not. Ben DiNucci, who started some for Pitt in 2017 and played against OSU that season, is back for his second year quarterbacking James Madison.
It’s hard to ever pick a lower-classification team to beat a Power 5 Conference foe, but let’s go with James Madison in the upset.
COACH ON THE HOT SEAT: Les Miles
Kansas hired Les Miles last November amid much fanfare. Miles’ resume’ – turning around OSU, winning a national title at LSU – is unassailable.
But the pep rallies are over. Now Miles has to take his short-handed Jayhawks into competition, and that’s been a decade-long problem at KU.
Since firing Mark Mangino in 2009, the Jayhawks thrice have lost to Division I-AA teams – Nicholls State in 2018, South Dakota State in 2015 and North Dakota State in 2010.
Indiana State would seem to be no threat to win in Lawrence. The Sycamores were 7-4 last season and lost 31-7 at woeful Louisville.
But if the Sycamores play Kansas tough, or heaven forbid pull the upset, it would snuff what little momentum has been achieved by KU hiring Miles.