Baylor’s callow scheduling in 2014 undoubtedly played a part in the Big 12’s snub from the College Football Playoff. Unfortunately, we didn’t really get to find out if Oklahoma’s game at Tennessee a year later mattered much in the Selection Committee’s decision to give the Sooners a spot.
Once again, OU has lined up a typically tough non-conference slate. The same goes for Texas. Schools like Texas Tech and Kansas State have gotten over their distaste for taking on other power conference squads before Big 12 play starts.
Despite only having 30 chances to schedule appealing non-conference games, Big 12 teams have set up plenty of intriguing 2016 showdowns outside of league play.
1. Ohio State at Oklahoma (Sept. 17)
In possibly the best inter-conference game of the entire season, two of the premier programs in college football meet in Norman for the first in a home-and-home series. OU can plant a flag for the rest of the league with a win. A loss to the Buckeyes, on the other hand, would deal a big blow to the Playoff hopes of the Big 12 preseason favorite.
2. Notre Dame at Texas (Sept. 4)
Another battle of blue bloods. The Fighting Irish humiliated UT in South Bend last season. With the Longhorns breaking in a new offense and possibly a starting quarterback, exacting revenge will be a tall order for Charlie Strong’s team.
Podcast: Official 2016 Big 12 Preview
3. Oklahoma vs. Houston (Houston – Sept. 3)
When they signed up for this game, the Sooners probably thought of an opener versus the Cougars in Space City as a nice recruiting trip. Instead, one of the best Group of 5 teams in the country awaits them at NRG Stadium. Few teams around the country can match OU's non-conference slate.
4. Kansas State at Stanford (Sept. 2)
A season opener on the road against the reigning Pac-12 champ? Ambitious. The Cardinal got off on the wrong foot last season as they failed to set their body clocks for a trip to Northwestern. Can't afford to sleepwalk when Bill Snyder is on the other sideline.
5. Arkansas at TCU (Sept. 10)
Last season, Texas Tech worked over Bret Bielema's Razorbacks. The Horned Frogs can pick up the Big 12's baton this year. Two stout defenses and transitioning offenses set the table for what could be a war of attrition.
6. Texas Tech at Arizona State (Sept. 10)
Pat Mahomes leads Tech's high-powered offense into Tempe, where things have been known to get a little weird. And speaking of getting weird... that Red Raider D, yeesh. Shootout engaged.
7. Pittsburgh at Oklahoma State (Sept. 17)
Mike Gundy has made his distaste for these kinds of games well known. That doesn't mean the Cowboys will play flat, though. The rugged Panthers play a physical style that presents a changeup for the Pokes.
8. Iowa State at Iowa (Sept. 10)
The Cyclones have won 20 games in the last five seasons. Three of those Ws have come against their in-state rivals from Iowa City. The Hawkeyes will be big favorites this year, but new ISU coach Matt Campbell should have his team fired up for a game that could give his debut season an early jolt.
9. Missouri at West Virginia (Sept. 3)
Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen clearly needs a solid season to keep his job. A home win against Mizzou in an offense-versus-defense battle would make for a good start.
10. Rhode Island at Kansas (Sept. 3)
OK, this game really bites, but it’s not often that you get to watch a college football team break a 15-game losing streak.
Best of the Rest
West Virginia vs. BYU (Landover, Md. – Sept. 24)
Northern Iowa at Iowa State (Sept. 3)
Texas at California (Sept. 17)
Oklahoma State at Central Michigan (Sept. 10)
— 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.