Big 12 Notebook: 2016 campaign begins with high-profile matchups

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Junior quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Sooners head into the season ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll, but they’ll have their hands full against the surging Houston Cougars in week one.
Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

The 2016 NCAA football season kicks off this week with an action-packed slate. Three of the 10 teams in the Big 12 — Kansas State, No. 3 Oklahoma and Texas — open their season against ranked teams. Other teams, including No. 23 Baylor and No. 13 TCU, start fresh with a new coach and quarterback, respectively.

Here are some of the top Big 12 storylines for week one.

Oklahoma opens season with big test vs. Houston

Both the Sooners and No. 15 Cougars teams are coming off successful 2015 seasons. Oklahoma went to the College Football Playoff last year after an 11-2 season, while Houston topped a 10­–3 Florida State team in the Chick-fil-A Bowl to cap off a 13–1 season.

The two look to continue the momentum into Saturday morning’s showdown at NRG Stadium in Houston. 

The Sooners have a slew of offensive talent in junior quarterback Baker Mayfield — an early Heisman candidate — and junior running back Samaje Perine. The Cougars back senior quarterback Greg Ward, who threw for 2,828 yards in 2015.

The high-profile matchup kicks off Saturday at 11 a.m.

Jim Grobe takes over as Baylor’s head coach 

It was a controversial offseason for Baylor, one that ultimately culminated with the firing of head coach Art Briles. Briles was terminated after reports surfaced showing he failed to take appropriate action regarding sexual misconduct committed by his players. The Bears now look toward interim head coach Jim Grobe to lead the team.  

Grobe inherits a talented group — one that finished last season 10–3 — and will begin this year ranked No. 23. But in the midst of the controversy that surrounds the program, Grobe said he realizes this season is about much more than football.

“As a coach, winning is important,” Grobe said. “At the same time, I want to assure the Baylor family that every decision we will make in this football program will be made with Baylor University, her students and students-athletes in mind.”

The Bears open their season at home against Northwestern State on Friday.

TCU names Hill starting quarterback 

No. 13 TCU named junior quarterback Kenny Hill the starter Thursday after a contested quarterback battle with sophomore Foster Sawyer. Hill sat out the 2015 season after transferring from Texas A&M, where he had an up-and-down career.

In 2014, Hill led A&M to a 5-0 start, highlighted by a record-breaking performance against South Carolina in which he threw for 511 yards. However, Hill struggled the rest of the way and went on to be benched midway through the season. He was later suspended for a violation of team rules that same season. Hill will count on an experienced supporting cast, notably an offensive line with four juniors and one senior. The defense also retains many key players from last year’s 11-2 campaign and features seven upperclassmen. 

TCU head coach Gary Patterson believes Hill is ready for another shot in a starting quarterback role. 

“He’s been unbelievable,” Patterson said. “[The way] he’s attacked [the] offseason, how he’s attacked trying to become a starting quarterback. He’s been pretty serious about it.”

The Horned Frogs take on South Dakota State in Fort Worth on Saturday.