The Mountaineers and Longhorns are testing themselves with their non-conference schedules this season
Between the round-robin conference schedule and just three non-conference games, Big 12 teams don't have many opportunities to differentiate their schedules. Typically, schedule difficulty is dictated by home-road splits and marquee non-Big 12 games.
This year, one Big 12 program is playing one of the biggest non-conference games of the season. Another has two Power 5 conference opponents outside of the league slate. After that, you won't see much difference in the level of difficulty between one program and another.
Here are the Big 12 teams' schedules in 2019 ranked from toughest to least difficult.
1. West Virginia
Non-Con: James Madison, at Missouri, NC State
Big 12 Home: Texas, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State
Big 12 Road: Oklahoma, Kansas, Baylor, Kansas State TCU
Can't say the Mountaineers aren’t coming to play in Neal Brown's first season as head coach in Morgantown. Eleven of WVU's 12 games in the regular season are coming against opponents from the Power 5. Not to mention, JMU has one of the best FCS programs around.
Temper your expectations, Eers.
Non-Con: Louisiana Tech, LSU, at Rice (Houston)
Big 12 Home: Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Texas Tech
Big 12 Road: West Virginia, TCU, Iowa State, Baylor
Big 12 Neutral: vs. Oklahoma (Dallas)
The UT schedule stands out because of the date with the Bayou Bengals. A win against LSU elevates the Longhorns into the conversation of legitimate contenders for one of the four bids to the College Football Playoff. Once Texas gets into Big 12 play, going to TCU, Iowa State and Baylor won't help any potential playoff aspirations.
3. Texas Tech
Non-Con: Montana State, UTEP, at Arizona
Big 12 Home: Oklahoma State, Iowa State, TCU, Kansas State
Big 12 Road: Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia, Texas
The Red Raiders have the distinction of playing at both Oklahoma and Texas, the consensus top teams in the conference. With five road trips on the conference slate, first-year head coach Matt Wells should prepare for a rough introduction to the Big 12. Add in a road trip to Arizona, and Wells deserves a pass in his first season in Lubbock.
Non-Con: Arkansas-Pine Bluff, at Purdue, SMU
Big 12 Home: Kansas, Texas, Baylor, West Virginia
Big 12 Road: Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas Tech
Here's another team playing six road games this season. Traveling to Purdue ups the degree of difficulty for the Horned Frogs, who also have to play in Norman this year. Another injury-plagued season like 2018 would probably keep TCU out of bowl game this time around.
5. Iowa State
Non-Con: Northern Iowa, Iowa, ULM
Big 12 Home: TCU, Oklahoma State, Texas, Kansas
Big 12 Road: Baylor, West Virginia, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Kansas State
The CyHawk rivalry hasn't treated ISU well lately, but the Cyclones get their in-state rivals on their home turf this year. Unfortunately for Matt Campbell's team, having to navigate five road games in Big 12 play is a tough ask. Watch out for the season finale at Kansas State – that's a rough way to end the year.
6. Kansas State
Non-Con: Nicholls State, Bowling Green, at Mississippi State
Big 12 Home: Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma, Iowa State, West Virginia
Big 12 Road: Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Texas Tech
A road trip to Starkville won't bolster KSU's bowl hopes. On the other hand, toss-up games like Baylor and WVU at home will. Keep in mind that the Wildcats gave OU a scare the last time the two teams met in Manhattan.
7. Oklahoma State
Non-Con: at Oregon State, McNeese, at Tulsa
Big 12 Home: Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU, Kansas
Big 12 Road: Texas, Texas Tech, Iowa State, West Virginia
For as bad as Oregon State has been, starting the season in Corvallis in prime time will test the Cowboys and their new starting quarterback. The Pokes have to go on tiresome road trips to WVU and ISU as well. This year's Bedlam game could determine a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game.
Non-Con: Houston, South Dakota, at UCLA
Big 12 Home: TCU, Texas Tech, Iowa State, West Virginia
Big 12 Road: Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State
Big 12 Neutral: vs. Texas (Dallas)
Underestimate Chip Kelly and the UCLA Bruins at your own risk, Sooners. For the most part, though, OU draws good breaks in conference play. That finale in Stillwater looms large heading into the season.
Non-Con: Indiana State, Coastal Carolina, at Boston College
Big 12 Home: West Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Baylor
Big 12 Road: TCU, Texas, Iowa State, Oklahoma State
At this point, just getting to four wins would be cause for celebration for the Jayhawks. Good luck finding them on this schedule. However, that doesn’t mean it's a difficult one – KU has just been that bad.
Non-Con: Stephen F. Austin, UTSA, at Rice
Big 12 Home: Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa State, Texas Tech, West Virginia
Big 12 Road: Kansas State, TCU, Kansas, Oklahoma State
For a program like Baylor trying to make a leap, this schedule has it all. The Bears get three easy non-conference games inside the state of Texas. Three 50-50 matchups versus Iowa State, Texas Tech and WVU come in Waco, too. The Sooners and Horns should watch their backs when they travel down to the Brazos River this fall.
— 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.
(Top photo courtesy of @NealBrown_WVU)