Time to start analyzing each team's schedule across the Big 12. Next up, those Bears in Waco.
Nonconference (with 2011 records):
Sept. 2: SMU (8-5)
Sept. 15: Sam Houston State (14-1)
Sept. 21: at Louisiana-Monroe (4-8)
Home Big 12 games:
Oct. 13: TCU (11-2)
Nov. 3: Kansas (2-10)
Nov. 17: Kansas State (10-3)
Nov. 24: Texas Tech (5-7) at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas
Dec. 1: Oklahoma State (12-1)
Away Big 12 games:
Sept. 29: at West Virginia (10-3)
Oct. 20: at Texas (8-5)
Oct. 27: at Iowa State (6-7)
Nov. 10: at Oklahoma (10-3)
Non-con challenge: SMU. Baylor is one of two Big 12 teams taking on former Southwest Conference power SMU, which has seen a major revitalization under June Jones. Baylor's breaking in a lot of new faces in its Sunday night opener at home, and SMU is a solid team. Even at home, a poor performance could mean a nightmare start to the post-Robert Griffin III era. The Ponies are easily good enough to beat the Bears without shocking the world. Baylor has to play well to win.
Chance to impress: TCU. Baylor knocked off the Horned Frogs in a Friday-night opener last season, but the Frogs will come hungry and bearing a Big 12 patch on their jerseys this season. Baylor's good enough to reach a bowl, but if it wants to prove early on this coming season that it is very capable of more, beating TCU early in the conference season would be a good start.
Gut-check game: at Iowa State. The Cyclones will be on the bubble of bowl eligibility most of the season, and Baylor might find itself in the same spot. Last season, Texas Tech and Iowa State played a game that ended up deciding which team would make a bowl game. Don't be surprised if Iowa State and Baylor do the same on Oct. 27 this year. The Bears will need games like this badly if they're going to reach a bowl without truly sweating.
Upset watch: at West Virginia. This game is going to be an absolute zoo in Morgantown. Baylor gets to be the very first Big 12 opponent for the Mountaineers, and the whole city, fan base and team will be amped. Could that play to Baylor's advantage? West Virginia will have a lot of energy, but it will also have a lot of pressure to impress. Could that mean we see a tight or sloppy Mountaineers team? It's possible, and Baylor's good enough to take advantage. Baylor's got a shot to take some major air out of a WVU Big 12 title run early in the season.
Final analysis: Baylor has four Big 12 home games, four road games and one neutral-site game, but the first thing that stuck out to me about the schedule was the Bears have just one home game between Sept. 15 and Nov. 3. The home game against TCU breaks up a string of four road games in five weeks, including an awkward Friday night date at Louisiana-Monroe. Outside of that, it's a very balanced schedule. Baylor hosts three 10-win teams from last season, and travels to two 10-win team stadiums, plus Texas. It hosts TCU, but going to Fort Worth will be nothing new for the Bears. They played in Amon G. Carter Stadium (and got walloped) in 2010. Baylor does get its first trip to Morgantown as a Big 12 member out of the way very early, which should be fun. Even more fun if the Bears spring the upset and announce to the nation that they won't be falling back to the wayside without RG3.