Win now Big 12, or forever hold your peace.
Well, not forever, but the rest of September.
Lid-lifting weekend brings an excellent opportunity for the Big 12 to put its best foot forward against non-conference competition.
Everybody is in action, starting Thursday when Iowa State plays host to Northern Illinois and ending Sunday when Coach Tommy Tuberville makes his Texas Tech debut with a home game against SMU.
It should be a 12-0 weekend. The BCS opponents are picked to finish in the bottom half of their conference: UCLA (at Kansas State), Washington State (at Oklahoma State) and Illinois (Missouri at St. Louis).
Bigger challenges _ Florida State, Iowa, Georgia Tech and California _ come next week.
But the Big 12 has been known to stumble out of the gate. Last season, Oklahoma lost reigning Heisman winner Sam Bradford, the game and national championship hopes to Brigham Young, prompting this dour assessment of high-profile openers from Coach Bob Stoops.
"They're only good if you win and don't get your quarterback hurt," Stoops said.
Colorado also crashed on the opening weekend of 2009, pulling one of its occasional folds against Colorado State.
"Any time you lose a rivalry game it's not that fun," Buffaloes Coach Dan Hawkins said.
As for scoreboard reading, at three quarterbacks will make their first college starts: Kansas' Kale Pick, Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Texas' Garrett Gilbert. It could be four if Nebraska starts freshman Taylor Martinez. Coach Bo Pelini still isn't saying, and the guess here is veteran Zac Lee gets the nod.
Two coaches begin new chapters: Texas Tech's Tommy Tuberville and Kansas' Turner Gill.
And the conference begins its 15th and final season with a dozen members. Realignment, the dominant Big 12 topic for the past few months, wasn't mentioned during the first coaches' teleconference on Monday. It must be game week.
Two units to watch
Texas Tech's defense — Tuberville brings his SEC wisdom and dedication to defense to Lubbock. The word is the Red Raiders have bought in. June Jones and his run-and-shoot attack will be a good first test.
Missouri's running backs — With Derrick Washington's suspension, Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore are listed as co-starters on the depth chart released on Monday, although Moore sat out half of fall camp with injuries. Washington was having an excellent fall and was a good bet to regain his 1,000-yard form of 2008. The load now goes to Lawrence and Moore with freshmen Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy moving up the depth chart.
1. OklahomaUtah StateNo opening upset this season
2. Texasat RiceGilbert gets comfortable
3. NebraskaWestern KentuckyUgliest game in nation?
4. Texas A&MStephen F. AustinSFA no slouch
5. MissouriIllinois (St. Louis) Tigers become Team Turmoil
6. Texas TechSMU (Sunday) No more 600-yard passing games
7. Kansas StateUCLAOpportunity knocks for 'Cats
8. ColoradoColorado State (Denver) Will they play hard for Hawk?
9. Oklahoma StateWashington StateExpect kinks with new QB
10. BaylorSam Houston StateWelcome back, Robert Griffin
11. KansasNorth Dakota StateGill should ease into KU tenure
12. Iowa StateNorthern Illinois (Thursday) Huskies are division favorites