The Big 12 REPORT

A weekly look at all things Big 12 as the college football season begins

Tom Herman leads the Longhorns in Year 2. Tim Warner/Getty Images

College football is back and so are your favorite Big 12 teams. As we look ahead to week 1 of the 2018 college football season, there are plenty of things to highlight and catch up on. In this article I will preview some of the key matchups to watch in week 1, and what Big 12 players you should keep your eye on.

Must Watch Games Week 1: (BIG Story/Games of the week)

Texas Tech vs. Ole Miss

The first game I want to highlight is the matchup between Texas Tech University and the University of Ole Miss. This game will arguably be one of the most exciting and nationally recognized games that includes a Big 12 team in week 1. Look for this game to hold a lot of offensive excitement, as neither of the teams are known for their defensive ability. Also, a lot of controversy has been made of the perceived stability of Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s job heading into 2018. Many believe this season will be his last opportunity for Kliff Kingsbury to establish Tech as a true contender not only in the Big 12 but on the national stage as well.

Texas vs. Maryland

The second game that I believe should draw considerable attention is the University of Texas vs. the University of Maryland. This matchup will be a rematch from the 2017 season where Texas suffered a heartbreaking fourth quarter loss that diminished the early excitement around UT’s 2017 season, after three subpar years under head coach Charlie Strong. Eyes will be on this game for two reasons, the first being Tom Herman’s second season as the head coach of the University of Texas after a promising offseason full of exciting player development and high profile recruiting. The second reason will be due to the controversial offseason of the Maryland coaching staff after having a player die during off-season training and allegations of player abuse and mistreatment surrounded the program. Keep an eye on this game to see if Texas can come out of the gates hot for 2018 and show the country that the program is one step closer to returning to its former glory.

Oklahoma vs. FAU

The final game I recommend tuning into will be the University of Oklahoma vs. Florida Atlantic University. The 2018 OU team will not only be carry big preseason expectations from the national media, but they will also be trying to fill the shoes of a high achieving 2017 squad that made the playoffs on the backs of former quarterback and Heisman winner Baker Mayfield. Oklahoma’s new look team led by second-year head coach Lincoln Riley and new quarterback Kyler Murray, will face off against a sneaky FAU team who was revitalized in 2017 by the hiring of former Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. Kiffin has loaded the FAU roster with talented athletes who have the potential to steal an early season victory away from a new and unproven Oklahoma team.

Big 12 players to watch week 1:

West Virginia QB Will Grier & WR David Sills

When it comes to the players to watch heading into this first jam packed week of college football, all eyes will be on the country's arguably most dangerous QB & WR duo at the University of West Virginia. Senior quarterback Will Grier has received high praise all off-season and is expected to compete for the title of top QB in college football for the 2018 season. To help him meet those lofty expectations will be Senior wide receiver David Sills who burst onto the scene in 2017 after hauling in 18 touchdowns and finishing the season just shy of 1,000 yards receiving. This tandem will demand attention all season but their week 1 matchup against Tennessee will have the country watching to see if they can live up to the hype.  

Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray & RB Rodney Anderson

Another Big 12 backfield duo to watch week 1 will be Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray (QB) and Rodney Anderson (RB). Murray has received most of the attention this off-season as he will be stepping into the starting quarterback role with big shoes to fill, left behind by Mayfield. Murray has not seen much of the field since his dominant high school days at Texas high school football powerhouse, Allen High School, where he won three straight state championships and finished with a record of 42-0. Murray will look at Week 1 as an opportunity to quiet the skeptics and prove that his abilities translate to the major college level. Luckily for Murray he will have Anderson beside him in the backfield, who rushed for over 1,000 yards and collected 18 total touchdowns in 2017. Anderson will be the perfect running mate for Murray and should relieve a ton of pressure as defenses will have to respect his game breaking ability.

Texas QB Sam Ehlinger

The final Big 12 player that I believe deserves some extra attention in Week 1 is Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger. In 2017, Ehlinger brought hope back to the fallen Texas program, and produced flashes of potential stardom that could quicken the resurrection of the Texas football dynasty. Week 1 for this young quarterback will be a chance for Texas fans and the country to see the product of his off-season development, and a chance for Ehlinger to solidify himself as THE starting quarterback of the present and the future.





 

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McCullers Jr. out-pitched friend and former teammate Dallas Keuchel on Father's Day. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With three impressive wins to start this series against the once AL-leading Chicago White Sox, Houston tried to extend their winning streak to seven games and finish a four-game sweep on Father's Day. Thanks to a big inning against former-Astro Dallas Keuchel, they would win to keep their hot streak going.

Final Score: Astros 8, White Sox 2

Astros' Record: 43-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1)

Losing Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel (6-2)

Rough return to Houston for Keuchel

In his first game against his old squad, Dallas Keuchel would not have a memorable start on the mound for Chicago. Houston made him labor in the first inning, loading the bases though they only came away with one run on an RBI single by Abraham Toro, grabbing the early 1-0 lead. After going down 1-2-3 in the second, they got after Keuchel again in the third.

They ended up batting around against him that inning, including a two-RBI single by Yordan Alvarez, RBI double by Taylor Jones, and bases-loaded RBI-walk by Jose Altuve, which would end Keuchel's day very early and leave the bases juiced. Chicago's bullpen would walk another batter to give Keuchel another earned run, making it a 6-2 game, with all six going against the former Houston ace. Carlos Correa extended the lead to five runs in the next inning, hitting a leadoff solo home run to make it 7-2.

McCullers Jr. gives up two over six

That gave Lance McCullers Jr. a nice lead to work with, and he managed it well. He had one big mistake in the early goings of the game, giving up a one-out single in the second to set up a two-run home run, which at the time put Chicago in front 2-1 before Houston's offense came alive. He followed that up with four scoreless innings, erasing a walk in each with some tremendous defense behind him—his final line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 94 P.

Astros complete the sweep to jump on top of the standings

Still a six-run game in the top of the seventh, Blake Taylor entered as the first reliever out of Houston's bullpen, tossing a 1-2-3 frame. He continued in the top of the eighth, getting two strikeouts in another scoreless inning. The 8-2 score would go final as Ralph Garza Jr. would enter as the third pitcher of the day to wrap things up with a scoreless top of the ninth to finish the four-game sweep. The win, their seventh straight, paired with an Oakland loss earlier in the afternoon, moves Houston into the top spot in the AL West based on winning percentage.

Up Next: This long stretch of consecutive games continues on Monday in Baltimore, as the Astros pick up a seven-game road trip starting with a three-game set against Baltimore getting underway at 6:05 PM Central. Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 5.68 ERA) will get the start for Houston, going opposite of Keegan Akin (0-2, 5.76 ERA) for the Orioles.

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