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Big 12 Football: 10 Most Intriguing Non-Conference Games of 2020

Big 12 Football: 10 Most Intriguing Non-Conference Games of 2020

Big 12 Football: 10 Most Intriguing Non-Conference Games of 2020

Oklahoma has represented the Big 12 in each of the past three editions of the College Football Playoff, but the Sooners' inability to win a semifinal game is somewhat indicative of the conference's overall struggles against the rest of its Power 5 peers.

Last year the Big 12 went 7-8 against Power 5 teams (plus Notre Dame), including a 1-4 showing in bowl games. While the lowlight of this lack of success vs. the rest of the Power 5 is probably Oklahoma's 63-28 blowout loss to eventual national champion LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Sooners weren't the only Big 12 team victimized by the Tigers.

LSU's second victory on their way to going 15-0 came in Austin against Texas. The Longhorns put up a fight, falling 45-38 in an entertaining, back-and-forth affair, but still came up short. Texas will get another shot at the defending champs this fall, but it comes in Baton Rouge. It won't be the same LSU team that went undefeated, but a win over the Tigers would certainly be a welcome sight not only for the Longhorns but also the entire Big 12.

Texas isn't the only Big 12 team that has a chance to make a statement against a Power 5 opponent this season. Here are 10 intriguing non-conference games that help make up the Big 12's slate in 2020.

10. Oregon State at Oklahoma State, Sept. 3

These two teams opened up last season in Corvallis in a game the Cowboys won 52-36 that featured more than 1,000 yards of offense. Oklahoma State's big three of quarterback Spencer Sanders, running back Chuba Hubbard, and wide receiver Tylan Wallace are back with Kasey Dunn elevated to offensive coordinator. With the Beavers replacing some key offensive pieces, the Cowboys have an opportunity to make a season-opening statement in Stillwater.

9. TCU at California, Sept. 5

Offense was hard to come by the last time these two teams met. The Horned Frogs pulled out a 10-7 overtime victory over the Golden Bears in the 2018 Cheez-It Bowl as both teams combined for a whopping nine interceptions. Ironically enough, quarterback play was an issue for both teams last season as well, but TCU is hoping Max Duggan can take another step forward after getting some valuable starting experience as a freshman. The bigger concern for the Horned Frogs is how they will replace standout wide receiver Jalen Reagor and the team's top two rushers. Cal head coach Justin Wilcox revamped his offensive staff after the Bears finished 104th or worse in the nation in three of the four major categories.

8. Arizona at Texas Tech, Sept. 19

The Wildcats and Red Raiders posted identical 4-8 overall records with 2-7 marks in conference play in 2019. Arizona got the better of Texas Tech last season, winning 28-14 at home, so the Red Raiders will have a chance to get some payback on their home turf. While neither team is considered a contender in their respective conference, both head coaches could use a signature non-conference win to show the fan base that things are headed in the right direction.

7. Maryland at West Virginia, Sept. 19

Though they have never been in the same conference, a strong rivalry still exists between the Terrapins and Mountaineers. Proximity is the main driving force, as the two schools are separated by approximately 210 miles. Maryland is still looking for its footing as a member of the Big Ten, and snapping its two-game losing streak to West Virginia would be a nice way to build some momentum entering conference play. The Mountaineers want to take that next step in head coach Neal Brown's second season and certainly don't want to lose to a rival at home.

6. TCU at SMU, Sept. 26

The lone non-Power 5 pairing on this list, the Battle for the Iron Skillet didn't disappoint last season. The Mustangs beat the Horned Frogs 41-38 in Fort Worth, snapping a seven-game losing streak in the rivalry. SMU went on to win 10 games, while TCU stumbled to a 5-7 finish and missed out on the postseason. Motivation certainly won't be an issue for the Horned Frogs, but the Mustangs would love to give the American Athletic Conference (AAC) another Power 5 pelt.

5. West Virginia at Florida State (Atlanta), Sept. 5

The season-opening Bobby Bowden Bowl (copyright pending) carries plenty of intrigue for both teams beyond their ties to the legendary head coach. For the Mountaineers, it's a chance to start things off with a signature win in Neal Brown's second season at the helm. On the other side, Mike Norvell will make his Seminoles debut at home in front of a fanbase that's more than eager to see things get turned around.

4. Iowa State at Iowa, Sept. 12

Regardless of records, this has become one of the more entertaining rivalries in recent years. The Hawkeyes have won five in a row, but the last two meetings in Ames (2017, '19) were decided by a total of four points, and one of those went into overtime. This year the Cyclones will get their shot in Iowa City, where they haven't won since 2014.

3. Baylor vs. Ole Miss (Houston), Sept. 5

A pair of first-year head coaches with SEC ties opens their season against each other in Houston. That alone is enough to get your attention but when you add the fact that Dave Aranda has some big shoes to fill at Baylor following Matt Rhule's departure to the NFL and Lane Kiffin is back in the SEC as Ole Miss' head coach, well then what else do you need to hear?

2. Tennessee at Oklahoma, Sept. 12

Yes, the Sooners are 0-3 in the College Football Playoff but they are still the team to beat in the Big 12. Meanwhile, the Volunteers seem to be headed in the right direction under Jeremy Pruitt, but are they a team to be feared once again? Tennessee will get its chance in early September in Norman, while Lincoln Riley hopes to continue his quarterback pipeline following Jalen Hurts' departure.

1. Texas at LSU, Sept. 12

It doesn’t matter if Joe Burrow and several other key members of the Tigers' national championship-winning team are gone. This is still LSU, and this game will take place in one of the toughest road environments, Tiger Stadium, aka Death Valley. Tom Herman's team has another chance to show the nation that the Longhorns are back, and doing so would also give the Big 12 some early bragging rights over the SEC.