Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has to be kicking himself.
Last season's star-laden team faced a schedule that seemed tailor-made for a run at a Big 12 title. The Cowboys did notch their third straight season with double-digit wins, but a conference championship wasn't in the cards. They didn't even make it to the revived Big 12 title game.
The Pokes are staring down a more daunting slate of games in 2018. That's not ideal for a squad in rebuilding mode.
Here are OSU's games in 2018 ranked from easiest to most difficult.
12. Sept. 1 vs. Missouri State
The Cowboys will have a chance to work out some early kinks in a glorified scrimmage versus the Bears.
11. Sept. 8 vs. South Alabama
The Cowboys are easing their way into the season. OSU will be hard-pressed to match last year's performance versus the Jaguars, a 44-7 blowout win.
10. Sept. 29 at Kansas
Is Kansas better than South Alabama? That's not a given. Going on the road to Lawrence makes this game slightly tougher, though.
9. Nov. 3 at Baylor
The Pokes put a whooping on Baylor a year ago in a 59-16 win that ended a three-game losing streak to the Bears. This fall, they will try to win in Waco for the first time since 2009. That seems likely as the Bears continue to rebuild.
8. Sept. 22 vs. Texas Tech
The Cowboys have won nine consecutive games against Texas Tech, but they barely scraped by in the last two meetings, winning both by a combined eight points. The Red Raiders will struggle to break the streak this year in Stillwater.
7. Oct. 6 vs. Iowa State
OSU escaped Ames last year with a 49-42 victory. Matt Campbell's squad will try to return the favor in the fall when the Cyclones visit Boone Pickens Stadium.
6. Nov. 17 vs. West Virginia
The Mountaineers will enter the 2018 season as one of the favorites to win the Big 12. The Pokes will try to trip them up in their penultimate game of the year.
5. Sept. 15 vs. Boise State
The Broncos will field one of the best Group of 5 teams in the country this year. Needless to say, this matchup might feel a little low for this list. That's a testament to how difficult OSU's schedule is in 2018.
Gundy will need to sort out his quarterback situation well in advance of this early test.
4. Oct. 27 vs. Texas
Texas will want payback after the Cowboys absconded out of Austin with a win a year ago. OSU has an off week before the Longhorns come to town. That gives the Pokes a chance to heal up and regroup.
3. Oct. 13 at Kansas State
The Cowboys start the season with seven consecutive games. The last one in that stretch is a trip to Manhattan, where wily Bill Snyder and his resourceful Wildcats await. Yikes.
2. Nov. 24 at TCU
OSU is facing a death march in the back half of its schedule this fall. The slog ends in Fort Worth, where the Pokes will look to avenge last season's deflating defeat at the hands of TCU. A spot in the conference championship game could be on the line.
1. Nov. 10 at Oklahoma
The Cowboys staged an all-time shootout with their in-state rivals last season -- a win for the Sooners that saw the two teams combine to score 114 points. This year's Bedlam game is taking place in Norman, which makes it the toughest on the docket for the Pokes in 2018.
-- 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.