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2021 Season

Previewing Big 12 vs FCS Games Week One

What does the opening week’s slate look like for many of the conference’s cupcakes?



Getty Images - David K. Purdy

The 2021 college football season is finally here. As it usually goes, the first few weeks of action will feature their fair share of FBS vs. FCS matchups. The Big 12 is no exception there, and four squads from the conference will take on non-FBS foes in their opening week. Most of these games are understandably predicted to be snoozers, but football is officially back after its nine month hiatus, and we now have live action to feast our eyes upon.

*As a short note here on the television/streaming information provided below, please be aware that “ESPN+” is not a typo. ESPN+ is a separate streaming service provided by ESPN outside of the major ESPN channels offered via most cable packages. ESPN+ hosts “Big 12 Now,” where all of these games can be found. You can go here for more information.

Kansas (0-0) vs. South Dakota (0-0)

  • Location: David Booth Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, KS
  • Date & Time: Friday, September 3rd at 7:00 PM CST
  • TV, Betting Line: Big 12 Now On ESPN+, KU -15.5 (O/U 58.5)

With absolutely no snark intended here, this will likely be the only game Kansas is favored in this season. The Jayhawks have not won a football game in almost two years, and new head coach Lance Leipold will hope to start his tenure off on a positive note with a victory over the Coyotes.

South Dakota is usually an average FCS football team. They went 1-3 in the shortened spring season with then-freshman Carson Camp at quarterback. Camp had a strong showing last year, and will be someone for the Jayhawks to watch out for. Look for the strengths of this South Dakota team to be throwing the ball and stopping the pass.

Our own Phillip Slavin had this game as the second most likely upset of all the FCS vs. Big 12 matchups, and the line definitely suggests this is a game the Jayhawks could lose if they’re not ready to play. Kansas comes into this season with their biggest question at quarterback, where three guys are all currently listed as co-starters on the depth chart. The defense should once again be the strength of the team, so this one will likely come down to turnovers and moving the chains, factors that seemingly favor the Jayhawks.

Prediction: Kansas by 11.

No. 7 Iowa State (0-0) vs. Northern Iowa (0-0)

  • Location: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, IA
  • Date & Time: Saturday, September 4th at 3:30 PM CST
  • TV/Streaming Big 12 Now on ESPN+

The Cyclones come into this season with high expectations, and open with a familiar opponent in Northern Iowa. The last meeting between these two was surprisingly close, a 29-26 triple overtime win for Iowa State in 2019. This time around, the Cyclones open 2021 looking for a strong showing in Ames, where they’ll be heavily favored.

UNI is a stout defensive team, having held fellow FCS squads to just under 20 points per game in the spring season earlier this year. The Panthers went 3-4 during that time, and mostly were hindered by an offense that saw its starting quarterback, Will McElvain, miss time due to COVID issues. McElvain showed promise as a redshirt freshman two years ago, but he will look to improve on a 51.1 pass completion percentage from last spring.

The line for this game opened at -37.5 in favor of the Cyclones, and this should not be a close one unless something really goes wrong for Iowa State. Matt Campbell’s squad is chalk full of veterans on both sides, and if the defense plays to its standard, the Panthers might not score before halftime. As long as Iowa State can avoid big turnovers and come out focused in Week 1, look for starters like Breece Hall and Brock Purdy to be on the sidelines by the fourth quarter.

Prediction: Iowa State by 30.

Oklahoma State (0-0) vs. Missouri State (0-0)

  • Location: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK
  • Date & Time: Saturday, September 4th at 6:00 PM CST
  • TV/Streaming: Big 12 Now on ESPN+

Although the Pokes have some questions on the offensive side of the ball in 2021, there will likely be plenty of scoring in this one. It should mostly be Oklahoma State who does the puts up the points, as Spencer Sanders and the talent around him should prove potent. Missouri State fell 58-17 against the Pokes in 2018, and Gundy’s teams almost always start strong in home openers like this one.

Missouri State went 5-5 under first year head coach Bobby Petrino in a 2020-21 season that started last September and ended just five months ago. The Bears are listed a Top 25 FCS team in several polls, and play in the vaunted Missouri Valley Football Conference with sqauds like North Dakota State and South Dakota State. Petrino’s team qualified for the playoffs for the first time in 30 years last season after opening their 2020 season 48-0 against Big 12 power Oklahoma.

Needless to say, I would anticipate a similar game on Saturday in Stillwater. Oklahoma State should once again field one of the better defenses in the country, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Pokes hold Missouri State scoreless. The real thing to pay attention to here will be the offense for the Cowboys, and how sharp they look as they try to replenish their skill positions.

Prediction: There is no set line for this one yet, but I’d take the Pokes to cover whatever it might be.

TCU (0-0) vs. Duquesne (0-0)

  • Location: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
  • Date & Time: Saturday, September 4th at 7:00 PM CST
  • TV/Streaming: Big 12 Now on ESPN+

There’s a lot of anticipation that this will be another patented bounce back season for Gary Patterson after the Horned Frogs finished strong to end their 2020 campaign. All eyes will be on junior Max Duggan, whose progression will probably go hand-in-hand with TCU’s conference title aspirations. Not much is likely to be gleaned in that regard in this contest, as TCU’s defense is once again expected to be very good, the Horned Frogs shouldn’t need much from their offense to be victorious over the Duquesne Dukes.

The Dukes, from the Northeast Conference of the FCS, are coming off a 4-1 spring season. They return quarterback Joe Mischler, who threw for 1,195 yards last season and threw 9 touchdowns against 5 interceptions. Duquesne has a lot coming back on both sides of the ball, and are looking to have another solid season under long time head coach Jerry Schmitt, who enters his 17th season there.

TCU is likely to be favored by around 40 points, and for good reason. Patterson has long recruited some of the best pure athletes in the country, and his teams are normally sound fundamentally. That combination should ensure this is a comfortable win. Importantly, TCU has not covered the spread against FCS squads in three of the last four such meetings. Given that, and the fact that Gary Patterson is not one to be obsessed with style points, I would not be surprised to see the Dukes cover, even if they go scoreless in this one.

Prediction: TCU by around six possessions.