Time to start analyzing each team's schedule across the Big 12. Next up, those Wildcats in Manhattan.
Nonconference (with 2011 records):
Sept. 1: Missouri State (2-9)
Sept. 8: Miami (FL) (6-6)
Sept. 15: North Texas (5-7)
Home Big 12 games:
Oct. 6: Kansas (2-10)
Oct. 27: Texas Tech (5-7)
Nov. 3: Oklahoma State (12-1)
Dec. 1: Texas (8-5)
Away Big 12 games:
Sept. 22: at Oklahoma (10-3)
Oct. 13: at Iowa State (6-7)
Oct. 20: at West Virginia (10-3)
Nov. 10: at TCU (11-2)
Nov. 17: at Baylor (10-3)
Non-con challenge: Miami. Last year's game was a classic, with Kansas State taking home the win after a last-second goal-line stand on a muddy field in Miami Gardens. It's time for the Hurricanes to make a return trip now, and Al Golden's team should be improved. Kansas State should win, but Miami's more than capable of exacting a little revenge.
Gut-check game: at Iowa State. These two teams have played classic games in each of the past three years, and Iowa State will be gunning for the Wildcats once again. It's always one of the league's most physical matchups, and that should be the case again. Iowa State has a knack for upsets when we don't expect it. Could the Cyclones start the "Kansas State was overrated in 2011" parade? They'll have a chance.
Chance to impress: at Oklahoma. The skeptics are out for the Wildcats this season. I'm tentatively one of them, but I'm not quite sure how to feel about this team. Want to shut everybody up? Walk into Norman and knock off the Big 12 favorite Sooners. Last year, they lost to OU by 41. Win this game, and there won't be a single doubter remaining for the 2012 team. Kansas State is for real.
Snoozer: Missouri State. I hate these FCS games, and the Bears only wins last year were against Western Illinois and on the road at mighty Youngstown State. Arkansas and Oregon embarrassed them with 40-point wins, and the Wildcats should do something similar.
Good luck with that: at West Virginia. Kansas State's defense has some solid athletes at the top, but the lack of athleticism and speed behind the starters, especially in the secondary, concerns me. West Virginia is going to test every bit of that, with arguably the league's best and deepest corps of receivers. We saw what happened against Oklahoma last year, and the Wildcats gave up 52 to Oklahoma State. Kansas State better bring it, and making matters tougher, they'll be making their first trip to Morgantown.
Final analysis: This is probably the toughest schedule we've seen so far. Kansas State gets just four Big 12 home games, and must travel to face three of the league's top contenders for the title in Oklahoma, West Virginia and TCU. Three of Kansas State's first four Big 12 games are on the road, too. If the Wildcats are still in the driver's seat heading into November, it's still going to be tough. Trips to TCU and Baylor are sandwiched by games against Oklahoma State and Texas, who could both surprise and contend for a Big 12 title. That's not going to be easy, even with Kansas State's odd voodoo over Texas. They may need it this year. Don't be surprised if Kansas State takes the field against Texas on Dec. 1 with a share of the Big 12 title on the line.