Illinois vs. Missouri (St. Louis), 11:30 a.m.
Line: Missouri by 11.5.
Fun facts: Missouri has won the last five Arch Rivalry games and owns a 16-7 all-time advantage. This is the last year the teams are scheduled to face each other. The Arch Rivalry game may resume down the road, but nothing has been confirmed. If the series continues at a later date, expect the games to be played at the teams’ campuses.
Big 12 player to watch: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert. The junior enters his second year as a starter with big expectations after he passed for 24 touchdowns versus nine interceptions his sophomore campaign.
Key matchup: Missouri running game vs. Illinois run defense. How will the Tigers fare on the ground after starting senior running back Derrick Washington was dismissed from the team? Earlier in the week, Washington was charged with sexually assaulting a former tutor in her bedroom over the summer. Sophomore Kendial Lawrence and junior De’Vion Moore will receive the majority of the carries.
Colorado vs. Colorado State (Denver), 1 p.m.
Line: Colorado by 12.
Fun facts: Colorado State won last year’s meeting, the first time the Rams won in Boulder, Colo., since 1986. The two teams signed a contract to play the Rocky Mountain Showdown at Invesco Field at Mile High through 2019.
Big 12 player to watch: Junior quarterback Tyler Hansen. Buffs coach Dan Hawkins named Hansen the starter over his son, senior Cody Hawkins. Colorado has averaged only four victories per season in the four seasons Dan Hawkins has coached in Boulder. The Buffs haven’t played in a bowl game since 2007. It should be interesting to see if Hansen can lead Colorado to six victories in a relatively open Big 12 North division.
Key matchup: Colorado pass offense vs. Colorado State secondary. The Rams were rather dreadful last season (87th in country out of 120 Div. I teams) against the pass.
No. 5 Texas at Rice, 2:30 p.m.
Line: Texas by 30.
Fun facts: 30 points sounds like a ton (and it is), but the Longhorns have won the past 10 meetings against the Owls, including eight in a row under coach Mack Brown. UT is 69-29-1 all-time against Rice and should easily prevail, despite the game taking place at Reliant Stadium in Houston. This is the first time UT has opened the season on the road since 1995.
Big 12 player to watch: Sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert. It’s a new era for Texas football, one in which Colt McCoy is not involved. How will Gilbert respond in his first game since filling in for McCoy in the BCS Championship?
Key matchup: Texas running game vs. Rice rushing defense. The Owls were torched against the run last year, giving up 190 yards per game on the ground (102nd in the country). In the offseason, Brown stated an emphasis on the ’Horns’ running the football more in 2010. This appears to be the perfect game to test out the theory. It might be interesting to see if UT can register 50 carries against the Owls.
UCLA at Kansas State, 2:30 p.m.
Line: Kansas St. by 1.5.
Fun facts: This is the second game of a home-and-home series. UCLA won last year’s meeting, 23-9, in Los Angeles.
Big 12 player to watch: Senior running back Daniel Thomas. In arguably the biggest toss-up game involving a Big 12 team this week, the Wildcats won’t hesitate to hand the ball to their workhorse. Just for fun, set a line for Thomas rushing yards today at 125.
Key matchup: K-State rushing offense against UCLA rushing defense. It’s no secret KSU’s offense is all about Thomas. Quarterback Carson Coffman doesn’t figure to win games airing it out. Can UCLA contain the senior back?
Utah State at No. 7 Oklahoma, 6 p.m.
Line: Oklahoma by 34.
Fun facts: The Sooners have won 30 straight games in Norman, Okla., the best mark in the country. Today should push it to 31.
Big 12 player to watch: Wide receiver Ryan Broyles. The junior could have a field day against a shoddy Utah State pass defense that ranked 101st in the country a year ago. Broyles figures to be one of the few Big 12 Heisman trophy candidates this season.
Key matchup: Oklahoma rush defense vs. Utah State rush offense. When the Sooners blow out nonconference teams at home, the opponent usually doesn’t run the football particularly well. Idaho State, for instance, had 32 rushing attempts last year for minus-22 yards in a 64-0 loss in Norman. Yikes.
Sam Houston State at Baylor, 6 p.m.
Fun facts: Baylor has opened its schedule the last four seasons with difficult opponents in Wake Forest and TCU. The Bears were 1-3 in that span.
Big 12 player to watch: Sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin. Hard to believe this guy is only a sophomore, but a torn ACL last season enabled him to take a medical red shirt. How healthy is the knee? Sam Houston State isn’t the most exciting opponent, but tracking Griffin’s health and watching him make plays figures to be the focus in Waco.
Key matchup: Sam Houston State linebackers vs. Griffin. How much will Griffin, arguably the biggest dual-threat quarterback in the Big 12, keep the linebackers off balance? If he continues to make Sam Houston State guess run or pass, it could be a long day for the Bearkats.
Stephen F. Austin at Texas A&M, 6 p.m.
Fun fact: The last time Stephen F. Austin played a team of national relevance, the Lumberjacks were drilled, 67-7, by TCU in 2008.
Big 12 player to watch: Quarterback Jerrod Johnson. The confident senior quarterback could be one of the few Heisman contenders in the conference this season. He’ll lead an explosive offense that ranked fifth in the country in total offense in 2009. Expect the Aggies to come across points rather easily today.
Key matchup: Texas A&M secondary vs. Stephen F. Austin pass offense. The game shouldn’t be close, but the Aggies secondary, which was a dreadful 106th in the country last year in pass defense, needs a boost in confidence early in the season.
Washington State at Oklahoma State, 6 p.m.
Line: Oklahoma St. by 16.
Fun facts: Oklahoma State won the meeting between the two schools, 39-13, in 2008 in Seattle. Washington State has won a combined three games in the past two seasons.
Big 12 player to watch: Running back Kendall Hunter. The 2008 Big 12 rushing leader was hampered by injuries last season, but should be back to full strength. In a game the Cowboys should win, how often will Hunter hear his name called?
Key matchup: OSU passing offense vs. Washington State secondary. The Cougars were an abysmal 115th in the country last season in pass defense. It doesn’t get much worse than that. How much will OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden be able to spread the ball around in offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen’s new pass-happy, spread offense?
Western Kentucky at No. 8 Nebraska, 6 p.m.
Line: Nebraska by 37.5.
Fun facts: How do you put this nicely? Western Kentucky went winless last season and was second-to-last in the country in points allowed (39.6). This one could get ugly.
Big 12 player to watch: Quarterback Zac Lee. Or whoever gets the nod for the Huskers at quarterback. QB stability this season in Lincoln could be the difference between a solid, winning season and a chance at a BCS bowl game.
Key matchup: Honestly, none. The Huskers should put this game away in the first quarter.
SMU at Texas Tech (Sunday), 2:30 p.m.
Line: Texas Tech by 14.
Fun fact: The last time these two teams met, Texas Tech rolled, 43-7, in Lubbock, Texas.
Big 12 player to watch: Receiver Alex Torres. Is he Michael Crabtree? No. But he might be one of the best conference receivers you’ve never heard of. Torres had some minor back trouble a few weeks ago, but should be ready for the opener.
Key matchup: Texas Tech run offense vs. SMU rush defense. How much will new Tech coach Tommy Tuberville put an emphasis on running the ball? It should be more than former coach Mike Leach, who had the lowest percentage (32.3 percent) in the conference last season in running the ball.