Big 12 predictions: Week 1

For the first year in a long, long time, I won't be inside a stadium on the first Saturday of college football.

Only because I'll be heading to Lubbock this weekend for Texas Tech and SMU on Sunday, and I'm pretty excited to see what should be somewhat of a shootout.

But let's get to my picks for Week 1:

Iowa State 24, Northern Illinois 20: Beating the Huskies won't be easy for Iowa State, but they know how badly they need this game and should lean on Alexander Robinson heavily while the Cyclones' three linebackers pass a big test against Northern Illinois' Chad Spann. Robinson tops 150 yards and Iowa State continues its good vibes from last year's bowl win.

Missouri 38, Illinois 17: Missouri will need Derrick Washington at some point (likely in the red zone) this year, and he won't be there. This will not be one of those weeks. Missouri squashes the hopes of Illini fans hoping they won't spend 2010 in the Big Ten's basement. Blaine Gabbert lights up the Illini's limping secondary, and running backs De'Vion Moore and Kendial Lawrence get plenty of fourth-quarter reps, reps they missed behind Washington in preseason camp.

Colorado 27, Colorado State 20: Colorado State true freshman quarterback Pete Thomas will struggle against experienced Colorado corners Jalil Brown and Jimmy Smith. Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins makes up for last year's embarrassing start.

Kansas State 24, UCLA 21: The biggest toss-up of the weekend, I'll back up my pick of the Wildcats as the biggest surprise in the Big 12. They improved more than any team in the conference from September to November, and they'll continue that improvement into 2010. Daniel Thomas tops 100 yards easily and makes life easy for quarterback Carson Coffman.

No. 5 Texas 49, Rice 3: The Longhorns' last three games against Rice: 52-10, 58-14, 52-7. The Longhorns offense will have some early growing pains, but not enough to let the Owls seriously threaten.

Oklahoma State 35, Washington State 10: The Cougars are the worst BCS team in the country. Cowboys fans will get to see why in person on Saturday. Kendall Hunter runs wild in a big return.

Baylor 44, Sam Houston State 13: The Bears feast on an early-season FCS cupcake before heading to Fort Worth in Week 3 with an upset on their minds.

Kansas 31, North Dakota State 10: Turner Gill's honeymoon in Lawrence won't end against the FCS Bison. At least North Dakota is a state. I think. Sam Houston has some explaining to do.

No. 8 Nebraska 44, Western Kentucky 7: The only drama in this game (OMG who's the QB!?) will be over as soon as Nebraska takes its first offensive snap. But the Huskers quarterback will do a lot of handing off to push the Hilltoppers' losing streak to 21 games. One Big Red had to lose this one.

No. 7 Oklahoma 58, Utah State 7: Just a hunch: The Sooners' season opener this time around won't have quite as big an impact on their final 12 games. The big test comes next week against Florida State.

Texas A&M 51, Stephen F. Austin 10: Aggies should light it up against the Lumberjacks, but the most important score will be whatever Stephen F. Austin posts.

Texas Tech 35, SMU 27: SMU quarterback Kyle Padron is the real deal. Taylor Potts is realer. So is the rest of the Red Raiders two-deep. SMU will make it interesting in the second half, but Texas Tech gets a reasonably comfortable win to bring the Big 12 to 12-0 in Week 1.