A month before the start of the 2018 season, the Big 12 feels like a parity-ridden league.
There’s one clear favorite in the league, Oklahoma. There’s one obvious doormat in Kansas. Baylor is still digging out of the destruction wrought by Art Briles’ regime. Otherwise, the rest of conference’s seven teams seem hard to sort out.
When so many teams are so close, it becomes hard to figure out what exactly constitutes an upset in their head-to-head meetings. However, here are seven games to watch involving Big 12 teams in 2018 that might qualify.
Boise State over Oklahoma State (Sept. 15)
The oddsmakers have already installed the Cowboys as about a touchdown favorite in this early-season tilt with the Broncos. At first glance, this looks closer to a toss-up. Boise State has built its program’s entire identity on these types of giant-killing wins, and with nine returning starters on defense, the Broncos could cause serious problems for the Cowboys’ retooling offense.
Baylor over TCU (Nov. 17)
Baylor will knock off somebody this year -- maybe a couple, in fact. The Bears played hard for head coach Matt Rhule last season, his first in Waco. They’re catching the Horned Frogs on the back end of consecutive road games late in the year, and an upset here could signal the renewal of one of the Big 12’s gnarliest rivalries.
Iowa State over Iowa (Sept. 8)
This in-state rivalry produced a wild 44-41 shootout last season that saw the Cyclones snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. That was before Kyle Kempt emerged as ISU’s quarterback, sparking the offense and helping lead the Cyclones to a surprising 8-5 finish.
The ‘Clones will want revenge this time around on top of looking to end a three-year losing streak versus the Hawkeyes.
Texas over Oklahoma (Oct. 6)
The Sooners have owned their Red River rivals in this decade, winning six of eight in the Cotton Bowl since 2010. Even though OU keeps winning, the victories haven’t come easy lately: OU won the last two contests by a combined 10 points.
Baker Mayfield’s brilliance helped carry the Sooners to those two Ws. With the former Heisman Trophy winner now out of the picture, UT could make it over the hump this year.
TCU over Ohio State (Sept. 15)
Urban Meyer’s status for 2018 is suddenly in doubt, meaning OSU could be in for a turbulent season. Assuming Meyer is out, the Buckeyes’ first road game under interim head coach Ryan Day will come in week three when they travel to Arlington for a neutral-ish matchup versus TCU. That sets up well for Gary Patterson’s team to spring a trap.
Texas Tech over Oklahoma (Nov. 3)
In 2017, the Red Raiders rallied at the end of the season to knock off Texas and ensure head coach Kliff Kingsbury would see another year in Lubbock. Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt probably would prefer the team not be in need of another face-saving win in the season’s final month. Beating the defending Big 12 champions could still take a little heat off Kingsbury should the situation arise.
Note that the Red Raiders have played well against the Sooners in their last two meetings, and they might have the kind of defense to keep the team out of a barrage of shootouts in ‘18.
West Virginia over Texas (Nov. 3)
The Mountaineers and Longhorns appeared to be headed for a dogfight early on when they met last season. WVU QB Will Grier broke a finger in the first half, though, ending his season and any chance the ‘Eers had of beating UT that day. Grier and his teammates will be looking for payback this year in Austin.
-- Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.