- David Ubben, College Football
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Time to start analyzing each team's schedule across the Big 12. Next up, those Sooners up in Norman.
Nonconference (with 2011 records):
Sept. 1: at Texas-El Paso (5-7)
Sept. 8: Florida A&M (7-4)
Oct. 27: Notre Dame (8-5)
Home Big 12 games:
Sept. 22: Kansas State (10-3)
Oct. 13: Texas (8-5) at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas
Oct. 20: Kansas (2-10)
Nov. 10: Baylor (10-3)
Nov. 24: Oklahoma State (12-1)
Away Big 12 games:
Oct. 6: at Texas Tech (5-7)
Nov. 3: at Iowa State (6-7)
Nov. 17: at West Virginia (10-3)
Dec. 1: at TCU (11-2)
Non-con showcase: Notre Dame. This may not end up being a challenge, but believe it or not, its the best opponent any Big 12 team will play this season, if you believe the preseason rankings. The Fighting Irish face a brutal schedule that includes a trip to Norman, but they're the only preseason top 25 team on a Big 12 team's nonconference schedule all season. Brian Kelly may have a hard time duplicating last year's 8-5 record, but the Sooners and Irish's signature helmets clashing will bleed history on a fall Saturday in Oklahoma.
Gut-check game: Kansas State. Oklahoma rolled in this one by 41 points last year, and most will figure the Sooners should do the same when they host the Wildcats at Owen Field where the Sooners have looked unbeatable so often. The early-season showdown will be the first major test for the Sooners, and K-State could be creeping in on a top 10 ranking versus the top five Sooners. Can Oklahoma prove its worth as a Big 12 title favorite?
Chance to impress: at West Virginia. I don't care if you're not Mountaineer or Sooner-inclined. Circle this date on your calendar. Period. Don't be surprised if this shapes up to be the closest thing we have to the Big 12 title game. Expect offensive fireworks and an absolutely insane crowd in Morgantown. If the Sooners win this one, they'll leave with some big time respect from just about anyone who saw or heard about it.
Snoozer: Florida A&M. Thanks to a sad, shocking scandal, the only attraction in this game won't be in attendance. Apparently A&M doesn't even have a live rattlesnake as a mascot? I feel robbed.
Rivalry redux: Oklahoma State. The Sooners lost to in-state rival Oklahoma State for the first time since 2002 last season. Making matters worse, they lost by 34 points with the Big 12 title and a BCS bid hanging in the balance. Now, the Sooners will try to restore the order in Oklahoma with a much more experienced team with higher expectations, not to mention the Big 12's most experienced passer versus its least experienced passer.
Final analysis: The biggest takeaway from Oklahoma's schedule is just how brutal its finish will be. If the Sooners are going to exit 2012 as Big 12 champs, they're going to earn it in the final month of the season. OU's schedule is a balanced 4-4-1 in terms of home-away-neutral, but there's no question its heavily backloaded, with the toughest stretch coming late in the season. Hosting Baylor won't be easy, but that precedes what could be a season-defining, maiden voyage to Morgantown. Then Oklahoma State comes to town before the Sooners make another trip to solid newcomer TCU to close the season. Buckle your seatbelts in November, Sooner fans.
4dJake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson