The big question about the difficulty of Big 12 teams’ schedules this year: Where do you play Oklahoma?
The Big 12’s round-robin approach creates a high degree of uniformity among its members’ individual schedules. Some, such as Texas, stand out for their non-conference commitments. However, with the Sooners coming off back-to-back league championships, traveling to Norman looks like the toughest task in the conference this season. Therefore, ranking schedule difficulty means starting with OU’s home opponents and working backwards.
The Sooners don’t exactly have an easy slate themselves.
Non-Con: Maryland, San Jose State, at USC
Big 12 Home: Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Kansas
Big 12 Road: Iowa State, Baylor, TCU, West Virginia
Big 12 Neutral: Oklahoma (in Dallas)
Granted, the Longhorns play OU every year in the Cotton Bowl. Yet, when you have a non-conference game at USC and another against a Power Five squad, you vault to the top of the list.
If Texas does get a break this year, it’s that Big 12 contenders Oklahoma State and Kansas State come to Austin.
Non-Con: Jackson State, at Arkansas, SMU
Big 12 Home: West Virginia, Kansas, Texas, Baylor
Big 12 Road: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Iowa State, Texas Tech
Road games versus OU, OSU, K-State and Arkansas stand out here. The Horned Frogs also need to watch out for Texas Tech in the second of two consecutive road games late in the year.
It’s hard to keep Gary Patterson down for long, but the schedule doesn’t do him any favors this year.
3. West Virginia
Non-Con: Virginia Tech (in Landover, Md.), East Carolina, Delaware State
Big 12 Home: Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Texas
Big 12 Road: Kansas, Oklahoma, TCU, Baylor, Kansas State
The Mountaineers bookend their slate this year with a neutral site date against former Big East rival Virginia Tech in the nation’s capital and end with a trip to Norman. That’s tough enough, but a game in Manhattan won’t be fun, either.
Non-Con: UTEP, at Ohio State, Tulane
Big 12 Home: Iowa State, Texas Tech, TCU, West Virginia
Big 12 Road: Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Kansas
Big 12 Neutral: Texas (in Dallas)
Still smarting from last season’s thrashing by Ohio State, the Sooners try to get revenge in Columbus in what should be one of the best non-conference clashes of 2017. Meanwhile, OU will have its work cut out for it with games at OSU and KSU. There’s also that game in Dallas on the second Saturday of October.
5. Iowa State
Non-Con: Northern Iowa, Iowa, at Akron
Big 12 Home: Texas, Kansas, TCU, Oklahoma State
Big 12 Road: Oklahoma, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Baylor, Kansas State
The in-state rivalry game with the Hawkeyes has become a fun matchup that tends to fly under the radar. Question for ISU athletic director Jamie Pollard: What’s up with the trip to Akron?
6. Texas Tech
Non-Con: Eastern Washington, Arizona State, at Houston
Big 12 Home: Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Kansas State, TCU
Big 12 Road: Texas, Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma
Big 12 Neutral: Baylor (in Arlington, Texas)
Texas Tech is another team playing an out-of-conference game against a Group of Five opponent. Kliff Kingsbury should be on guard against a potentially fatal sandwich game at Kansas early in the Big 12 slate. A hellacious road trip to Morgantown lies in wait a week later.
Non-Con: Liberty, UTSA, at Duke
Big 12 Home: Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas, Iowa State
Big 12 Road: Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Kansas, TCU
Big 12 Neutral: Texas Tech (in Arlington, Texas)
On the road against an ACC team – that’s a scheduling upset to end all upsets. New head coach Matt Rhule will get a shot to get a statement win in Waco against the Big 12’s traditional heavyweights, Oklahoma and Texas, in year one.
8. Oklahoma State
Non-Con: Tulsa, at South Alabama, at Pittsburgh
Big 12 Home: TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Kansas
Big 12 Road: Texas Tech, Texas, West Virginia Mountaineers, Iowa State
With five league home games, the Cowboys have a schedule built for a run at the Big 12 crown. Back-to-back road trips for non-conference games in September, on the other hand, could throw an early wrench in OSU’s potential dream season.
9. Kansas State
Non-Con: Central Arkansas, Charlotte, at Vanderbilt
Big 12 Home: Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Iowa State
Big 12 Road: Texas, Kansas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State
The Wildcats have another dark horse-type slate featuring five Big 12 dates. That quintet includes the Sooners. A whole lot could be on the line for KSU and OSU when they meet in Stillwater on Nov. 18.
Non-Con: Southeast Missouri, Central Michigan, at Ohio
Big 12 Home: West Virginia, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma
Big 12 Road: Texas, Iowa State, TCU, Oklahoma State
No one in Big 12 country should begrudge the Jayhawks for setting up games with a bunch of chopped liver in September. KU just needs wins where it can get them.
— 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.