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

College Football Texas Longhorns

College Football Texas Longhorns

Once notorious for its members filling up their non-conference schedules with lightweights, Big 12 teams have stacked their 2018 slates with more than their fair share of tests. In fact, it might be the most loaded compilation of non-conference games for the league from top to bottom in recent memory. Every team except Oklahoma State has at least one Power 5 foe from outside the conference lined up this year -- and the Cowboys are playing arguably the best Group of 5 team around, Boise State.

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The optimist might look at the aggressive scheduling as an opportunity for the Big 12's teams to go out and make a statement in the first month of the season. Pessimists will note that taking too many Ls in the non-conference portion of the year can end up dragging everybody down by December.

Here's a ranking of all 10 Big 12 programs' non-conference schedules this season from toughest to easiest.

1. Texas

Sept. 1 vs. Maryland (Landover, Md.)

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Sept. 8 vs. Tulsa

Sept. 15 vs. USC

Once again, the Longhorns face a daunting gauntlet to start the season. We all saw what happened when they squared off against Maryland last year, and this year's meeting at FedEx Field is a practical home game for the Terrapins. UT can't settle for just playing USC tough this year, either.

2. West Virginia

Sept. 1 vs. Tennessee (Charlotte, N.C.)

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Sept. 8 vs. Youngstown State

Sept. 15 at NC State

The Mountaineers love traveling to a neutral site to start the season. This year, it's Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium to play Tennessee, which looks to be in major rebuild mode. A road trip back to North Carolina in week three to play the Wolfpack will tax Dana Holgorsen's team.

3. TCU

Sept. 1 vs. Southern

College Football Top 25 Rankings: TCU

Sept. 8 at SMU

Sept. 15 vs. Ohio State (Arlington, Texas)

Is one Ohio State worth a Tennessee and an NC State? That's the operative question in deciding which team has the tougher out-of-league schedule between the Horned Frogs and the Mountaineers. Playing the Buckeyes down the road in at AT&T Stadium puts TCU just a notch below.

4. Oklahoma

Sept. 1 vs. Florida Atlantic

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Sept. 8 vs. UCLA

Sept. 22 vs. Army

The Sooners have to open the year hoping their defense made big gains in the offseason. Games one and two find Lane Kiffin's high-flying Owls visiting Norman followed by the new-look Bruins under offensive guru Chip Kelly. That's a tall order for a team that is replacing some key players from their own offense.

5. Iowa State

Sept. 1 vs. South Dakota State

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Sept. 8 at Iowa

Sept. 22 vs. Akron

The Cyclones gave everyone a hint last season when they played their in-state rivals to the wire. They will be on the hunt for revenge in Iowa City on Sept. 8.

6. Kansas State

Sept. 1 vs. South Dakota

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Sept. 8 vs. Mississippi State

Sept. 15 vs. UTSA

The Wildcats took one on the chin against an SEC opponent last year, losing an ugly contest to Vanderbilt. Maybe they will make good against Mississippi State in the fall.

7. Oklahoma State

Sept. 1 vs. Missouri State

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Sept. 8 vs. South Alabama

Sept. 15 vs. Boise State

Mike Gundy's rebuilding job in 2018 won't be made any easier by facing Boise State in non-conference play. The Cowboys do start the year with two breathers.

8. Texas Tech

Sept. 1 vs. Ole Miss (Houston)

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Sept. 8 vs. Lamar

Sept. 15 vs. Houston

The Red Raiders no longer coast through the first month of the season. They start the 2018 season with an inter-conference clash versus the Rebels and have a date two weeks later with a feisty Houston team.

9. Baylor

Sept. 1 vs. Abilene Christian

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Sept. 8 at UTSA

Sept. 15 vs. Duke

For some reason, the Bears are playing an away game against UTSA. The Duke game will offer a telling early measuring stick in head coach Matt Rhule's second season with Baylor.

10. Kansas

Sept. 1 vs. Nicholls State

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Sept. 8 at Central Michigan

Sept. 15 vs. Rutgers

Get your tickets now for that Sept. 15 clash of the titans between the Jayhawks and Scarlet Knights.

-- 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.