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Ranking the Big 12's Toughest College Football Schedules in 2018

College Football Texas Longhorns

College Football Texas Longhorns

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In a year like this, ranking Big 12 teams' schedules by difficulty involves major hairsplitting.

The round-robin schedule means no one misses an opponent in the conference slate, per usual. This season, though, the league lacks a clear preseason favorite, so figuring out which team is a tough opponent and which is not takes even more projection than usual.

Home-road splits and non-conference matchups weighed heavily as tiebreakers in putting together this list of Big 12 teams' schedules in order of most to least difficult.

1. Texas

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Non-Con: Maryland (in Landover, Md,), Tulsa, USC

Big 12 Home: Iowa State, Baylor, TCU, West Virginia

Big 12 Road: Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Kansas

Big 12 Neutral: Oklahoma (in Dallas)

Outside the league, in addition to a home date with the Trojans, Texas has to play a de facto road game versus Maryland. Going to Kansas State, which is usually a snakepit for the Longhorns, right before the rivalry game with Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl is a particularly unfortunate break for UT.

2. Oklahoma State

Non-Con: Missouri State, South Alabama, Boise State

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Big 12 Home: Texas Tech, Texas, West Virginia Mountaineers, Iowa State

Big 12 Road: TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Kansas

The Cowboys draw probably the best Group of 5 team in the country this year in week three. Playing all three non-conference contests in Stillwater is a plus. What's not: The annual Bedlam rivalry game with the Sooners is one of five road trips inside the league.

3. TCU

Non-Con: Southern, at SMU, Ohio State (in Arlington, Texas)

College Football Top 25 Rankings: TCU

Big 12 Home: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Iowa State, Texas Tech

Big 12 Road: West Virginia, Kansas, Texas, Baylor

The Horned Frogs likely have the toughest non-conference game of any Big 12 program in 2018 when they face Ohio State at AT&T Stadium in the third week of the year. They also have to play at Texas a week later. Fortunately for Gary Patterson's team, the Sooners are coming to Fort Worth.

4. Kansas State

Non-Con: South Dakota, Mississippi State, UTSA

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Big 12 Home: Texas, Kansas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State

Big 12 Road: Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Iowa State

The Wildcats host Mississippi State in week two in a game that will likely serve as a national referendum on the strength of the Big 12. West Virginia, Oklahoma, TCU and Iowa Sate. on the road? Ouch.

5. West Virginia

Non-Con: Tennessee (in Charlotte, N.C.), Youngstown State, at NC State

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Big 12 Home: Kansas, Oklahoma, TCU, Baylor, Kansas State

Big 12 Road: Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Texas

The Mountaineers' soft-ish run of Big 12 road games this year offsets a non-conference slate that includes two dates with middling Power 5 foes. If WVU wants to challenge for a conference title, it needs to capitalize on this schedule.

6. Oklahoma

Non-Con: Florida Atlantic, UCLA, Army

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Big 12 Home: Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Kansas

Big 12 Road: Iowa State, Texas Tech, TCU, West Virginia

Big 12 Neutral: Texas (in Dallas)

The season opener with Lane Kiffin and FAU is interesting. And speaking of interesting coaching situations, OU hosts UCLA in Chip Kelly's first high-profile game as the Bruins' head man. The season finale on Black Friday in Morgantown looms large for the Sooners if they hope to win a fourth consecutive Big 12 championship.

7. Iowa State

Non-Con: South Dakota State, at Iowa, Akron

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Big 12 Home: Oklahoma, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Baylor, Kansas State

Big 12 Road: Texas, Kansas, TCU, Oklahoma State

The Cyclones will follow up on last season's surprising 8-5 campaign with a somewhat forgiving conference schedule that includes home games with some of the Big 12's top contenders, including OU. Things will probably get weird in the in-state battle with the Hawkeyes; they usually do.

8. Kansas

Non-Con: Nicholls State, at Central Michigan, Rutgers

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Big 12 Home: Texas, Iowa State, TCU, Oklahoma State

Big 12 Road: West Virginia, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma

Why are the Jayhawks playing at Central Michigan? That's not how Power 5 teams typically operate.

If KU stays true to recent form, it won't matter how tough the team's schedule is.

9. Texas Tech

Non-Con: Ole Miss (in Houston), Lamar, Houston

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Big 12 Home: Texas, Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma

Big 12 Road: Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Kansas State, TCU

Big 12 Neutral: Baylor (in Arlington, Texas)

A few years ago, the game against the Rebels in the opening week sounded like a stiffer test than it will turn out to be. Overall, this slate sets up well for Kliff Kingsbury to live to fight another year in Lubbock.

10. Baylor

Non-Con: Abilene Christian, at UTSA, Duke

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Big 12 Home: Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Kansas, TCU

Big 12 Road: Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas, Iowa State

Big 12 Neutral: Texas Tech (in Arlington, Texas)

Despite winning only one game in 2017, the Bears played hard for first-year head coach Matt Rhule. Baylor is climbing out of a deep hole, but this schedule may put a bowl bid in striking range.

-- Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.