Role reversals for OSU, Nebraska in Big 12 opener

Updated: August 29, 2003, 2:57 PM ET

DALLAS -- Oklahoma State starts a season nationally ranked for the first time since 1985. Nebraska doesn't for the first time since 1969.

They play each other in a season opener Saturday that is the only game that will count in the Big 12 standings before Sept. 27.

"We want to make our mark in this conference, and this is our first opportunity," said third-year Oklahoma State coach Les Miles.

After a summer of anticipation, the 24th-ranked Cowboys finally get to start as the only Big 12 team to return a 3,000-yard passer (Josh Fields), a 1,000-yard rusher (Tatum Bell) and 1,000-yard receiver (Rashaun Woods).

While Oklahoma State is considered an up-and-coming team, one that has beaten Oklahoma two years in a row, Nebraska is coming off a 7-7 record that ended a 40-year run of winning seasons.

Every Big 12 team plays this weekend, including the season opener for No. 1 Oklahoma against North Texas on Saturday night. Fifth-ranked Texas opens its season on Sunday night against New Mexico State.

No. 7 Kansas State (1-0), which beat California 42-28 Saturday, plays Troy State on Saturday night.

In the other openers Saturday, Colorado plays No. 23 Colorado State, coach Dennis Franchione makes his Texas A&M debut against Arkansas State; Baylor plays its first game for coach Guy Morriss against UAB; Iowa State plays Northern Iowa; Texas Tech hosts SMU; Kansas plays Northwestern and Missouri plays Illinois.

One of Nebraska's losses last season was 24-21 at Oklahoma State. That ended the Cornhuskers' 35-game unbeaten streak in a series they've won 35 of 39 games.

"I don't think anybody wants to get in a shootout with Oklahoma State. They are just too explosive," said Nebraska coach Frank Solich, who revamped his coaching staff and removed himself as offensive coordinator.

Oklahoma will celebrate its championships of the past, wearing replica jerseys from the 1950s and bringing back many of its great players, as it begins its quest to be just the fifth team to start and end the season at No. 1.

"We are looking forward to the challenge of it. It's not like it can't be done," said Sooners coach Bob Stoops. "Our kids are anxious to play and compete and earn it."

The Sooners are nearly five-touchdown favorites over two-time defending Sun Belt champion North Texas.

Kansas State running back Darren Sproles (175 yards rushing) and quarterback Ell Roberson (205 passing, 145 rushing) will get a chance to put up some more big numbers against overmatched Troy State.

Texas and Texas Tech have new quarterbacks, replacing the Big 12's top two passers from last season.

Junior Chance Mock finally gets to be the Texas starter, replacing Chris Simms (3,207 yards passing last season). In his two seasons behind Simms and Major Applewhite, Mock was 6-of-9 passing for 65 yards and a touchdown in 10 games.

B.J. Symons is a fifth-year senior getting his first start at Texas Tech. He takes over for Kliff Kingsbury, who threw for 5,017 yards last season and set the NCAA record with 1,231 career completions.

Franchione plans to use two quarterbacks, Dustin Long and Reggie McNeal. But he hasn't said which one will start in the coach's Aggies debut.

Colorado will try to avoid losing its fifth straight opener under coach Gary Barnett. Sophomore quarterback Joel Klatt threw just three passes last season, and Chris Brown is gone after rushing for 1,744 yards and 18 TDs.

Missouri has one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the country in Brad Smith, who threw for 2,333 yards and ran for 1,029 more as a freshman last season.

Baylor is a 10-point underdog at home in its first game under Morriss. Iowa State lost six of its last seven games after getting into the Top 10 midway through last season, but opens against Division I-AA Northern Iowa.

Kansas, which enters coach Mark Mangino's second season with a seven-game losing streak, has never played Northwestern.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index