The Big 12 is the latest college football conference to release its 2021 schedule. On Thursday, the entire '21 slate was released, as the Big 12 — like all conferences in college football — hopes for a normal year next fall. The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc across schedules for all 130 teams in 2020. However, the Big 12 managed to play nearly all of its conference games, and all 10 teams had at least nine contests last fall.
What are the big takeaways, tidbits and things to know for the 2021 Big 12 season?
Here’s what you need to know about the 2021 Big 12 schedule:
Big 12 Football: What to Know About the 2021 Schedule
Season Starts on Sept. 4 (For Now)
As of early February, the Big 12 plans to begin its 2021 schedule on Feb. 4. However, with kickoff dates and times coming throughout the offseason, it’s possible a few contests could be moved. The first weekend of games on Sept. 4 presents some intriguing matchups for the conference. West Virginia plays at Maryland, Oklahoma travels to New Orleans to take on Tulane, and Texas hosts Louisiana. Kansas State-Stanford and Texas Tech-Houston are also on tap at neutral sites.
No Changes to the Conference Slate
As mentioned above, the Big 12 nearly played all of its conference games last fall. And as expected, there are no modifications to the usual nine-game slate in league play. All Big 12 teams are playing nine conference games for 2021.
Non-Conference Play is Back
All 10 Big 12 teams were slated to play one non-conference game last season, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented every program from fulfilling that schedule. That won’t be the case in 2021. Every team is slated to play three non-conference games, including the return of Iowa-Iowa State and an intriguing opener between Louisiana and Texas.
Four teams — Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas State — will play a neutral-site game in 2021. The Sooners and Longhorns will have their annual battle in the Cotton Bowl once again, while Texas Tech (Houston) and Kansas State (Stanford) open the season with neutral-site matchups in Texas.
Games Outside of Saturday?
As of early February, all 12 games for the 10 Big 12 teams are slated for Saturday. However, the conference schedule release includes an important note about the 2021 slate: "Television selections for the first three weeks of the season and special dates are due to the Conference by June 1, 2021." Essentially, a couple of games may change dates after early-season television schedules are set by the networks.
All 10 Big 12 teams in the 2021 season will have just one bye week. The earliest off date is TCU’s bye on Sept. 18. The latest is Nov. 6 with Oklahoma and Texas Tech not playing that Saturday.
Conference Title Game is Dec. 4
The final weekend of the 2021 regular season for college football is slated to be Saturday, Dec. 4, and that’s when the Big 12 Championship Game will take place. The top two teams in the standings will meet in Arlington to decide the conference title — and potentially a spot in the CFB Playoff.
Here are some other tidbits by team to know about the 2021 schedule:
Baylor – The Bears play three out of their first five games on the road but play their next three contests in Waco. Coach Dave Aranda’s team gets three of the projected top four in the Big 12 — Oklahoma, Texas and Iowa State — at home this year. Key swing games against Texas Tech and West Virginia are also in Waco.
Iowa State – With the bulk of the roster coming back, the Cyclones should be a top-10 team in 2021. The schedule also sets up favorably for coach Matt Campbell’s team to reach that goal, especially with rival Iowa coming to Ames in early September. Iowa State does have to play at Oklahoma but gets Oklahoma State, Texas and TCU at home. The Cyclones could be favored in 11 of their 12 regular-season games.
Kansas – The slate isn’t kind for a rebuilding Kansas program. The Jayhawks open with FCS opponent South Dakota but have a tough trek to Coastal Carolina in Week 2. The best chance for a Big 12 win is likely the Oct. 16 home date versus Texas Tech. The road schedule in Big 12 play — at TCU, Texas, at Oklahoma State and Iowa State — is brutal.
Kansas State – The Wildcats play only one road contest in the first half of the season. Coach Chris Klieman’s team opens with a neutral-site game against Stanford, with the only road trip in the first half coming against Oklahoma State (Sept. 25). Oklahoma, Iowa State, West Virginia and TCU provide opportunities for upsets by coming to Manhattan. The Sept. 18 matchup versus Nevada won’t be easy.
Oklahoma – Intriguing is the best way to sum up Oklahoma’s non-conference slate. The Sooners play at Tulane to open 2021 and meet old Big 12 rival Nebraska in Norman on Sept. 18. Coach Lincoln Riley’s team should be favored in all 12 of its regular-season matchups. However, the schedule has two tricky back-to-back dates. Oklahoma goes to Kansas State on Oct. 2 before playing Texas the following Saturday. Iowa State visits Norman on Nov. 20, followed by a trip for the Sooners to Oklahoma State on Nov. 27.
Oklahoma State – Four out of Oklahoma State’s first five games take place in Stillwater. However, the one road game — at Boise State — is a tough trek to made in the first month of the season. The rest of the schedule features some good and bad news for coach Mike Gundy. On the positive side, Oklahoma and TCU come to Stillwater. However, road trips to Iowa State, Texas and West Virginia aren’t going to be easy in 2021. The two-game stretch of road dates against the Longhorns and Cyclones should be among the toughest back-to-back slates for any team in the nation next fall.
TCU – The Horned Frogs won’t leave the state of Texas until their Oct. 16 game against Oklahoma. The first four matchups take place at home, followed by a road trip to Texas Tech on Oct. 9. An early off week (Sept. 18) sets up a tough stretch run for coach Gary Patterson’s team. TCU gets consecutive games against Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas, and Iowa State to close out the 2021 slate.
Texas – New coach Steve Sarkisian won’t have much of a honeymoon period in Austin. Texas begins its 2021 slate against Louisiana — a team that beat Iowa State last year — and plays at Arkansas in Week 2. A tough slate is on tap for October and the early part of November, as the Longhorns have this stretch — at TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, at Baylor and at Iowa State — before closing with Kansas, at West Virginia and Kansas State. The road trip to TCU before playing the Sooners is tough, but Texas gets a bye week after the Red River Showdown.
Texas Tech – It’s no secret 2021 is an important year for coach Matt Wells at Texas Tech. The good news: The Red Raiders have a favorable non-conference slate — Houston, FCS member Stephen F. Austin and FIU — before jumping into Big 12 play at Texas on Sept. 25. Key swing games in league play versus Baylor and West Virginia take place away from Lubbock. Texas Tech also has a late off week (Nov. 6) and has just two home games after its Oct. 23 game against Kansas State.
West Virginia – The Mountaineers have a tough start to 2021 thanks to non-conference games versus Maryland (road) and Virginia Tech (home), along with a Sept. 25 date at Oklahoma. Swing games versus Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are in Morgantown, but coach Neal Brown’s team hits the road for matchups against Baylor, Kansas State and TCU. Three of West Virginia’s final five games are at home.
Podcast: Offense vs. Defense, Early Vegas Odds and Week 1 Games for 2021
(Top graphic courtesy of @Big12Conference)