Big 12 almost fully into Phase 2 - conference play

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, right, celebrates as his defense comes off the field after stopping a Pitt drive during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014. Iowa won 24-20. (AP Photo/Gene Puskar)
Gene Puskar

Kliff Kingsbury makes sure his Texas Tech players know that their entire season is still ahead of them.

Texas coach Charlie Strong talks to his Longhorns about ''Phase 2,'' which is Big 12 play.

The preliminaries are almost done in the Big 12, with the Red Raiders and Longhorns among seven teams that have already completed their non-conference schedules only three Saturdays into September. There will be only one more regular-season game after this week that will not count in the league's standings.

''Whether 3-0 or 0-3, you've now got everything in front of you that you want to accomplish,'' Kingsbury said Monday on the weekly Big 12 coaches teleconference.

The Red Raiders (2-1) play their conference opener Thursday night at 24th-ranked Oklahoma State (2-1), a young team that some are reconsidering as a possible Big 12 contender this season after a pair of convincing victories that followed a close season-opening loss against defending national champion and top-ranked Florida State.

''Well, it's hard for us to even look past practice and the next game. We're certainly not mature enough, experienced enough to think about anything other than our next game,'' Gundy said. ''There's been years when we were very experienced and very, very talented and that gave us the opportunity to think different. But not this season. ... We'll know a lot more in a month, once we get through four or five games in Big 12 play.''

A week after six teams didn't play and there were only three games combined in the Big 12, there are three conference matchups. Plus, No. 25 Kansas State (vs. UTEP) and TCU (at SMU) play their final non-conference games, with the Horned Frogs the only team without a conference game before October.

Iowa State (1-2) becomes to the first Big 12 team this season to play two conference games when it hosts seventh-ranked Baylor (3-0) on Saturday.

The Cyclones also have the Big 12's only non-conference game after September, their Oct. 11 homecoming game against Toledo.

Texas (1-2) is coming off a bye week after a 20-17 loss to then-No. 12 UCLA, when the Longhorns led with 5 minutes left. The Longhorns are the only team that will play eight consecutive Big 12 games over as many weeks without a break, starting Saturday with their conference opener at Kansas (2-1). That means two months before an open date leading into their regular-season finale Thanksgiving night.

''It's always still about us, which is assignment and fundamentals and technique and going out and competing and playing with a sense of urgency. We still have a lot of games in front of us and we've just got to continue to get better and better,'' Strong said. ''We're into Phase 2 and now everything counts, and that's the way you look at it. Every game counts from here on out.''

After fourth-ranked Oklahoma (4-0) won 45-33 at West Virginia (2-2) on Saturday night in the league opener for both teams, the Sooners and Mountaineers are the only Big 12 teams not playing this week.

''The tone, it's a little different in that you know they're all conference games,'' Sooners coach Bob Stoops said Monday. ''On the other hand, it's pretty similar in that we go about the week and our preparation doesn't change. The only thing is maybe you're more familiar with the personnel you're playing against, and the style, the team.''

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