- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Nonconference schedules can reveal many things. They can be the difference between a BCS championship berth or being left behind, and they can provide a glimpse of future success or future disappointments. Here's a look at the Big 12's 2013 nonconference schedules ranked from toughest to easiest.
1. Oklahoma: Louisiana-Monroe, Tulsa, at Notre Dame
All three of OU’s nonconference opponents won at least eight games in 2012, making the Sooners’ nonconference schedule a solid test as they look to break in a new quarterback. And their visit to South Bend, Ind., could be one of college football’s top matchups in 2013.
2. TCU: LSU (at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas), Southeastern Louisiana, SMU
The opener against the Tigers will be one of the highlight games of opening weekend and raises the overall ranking of TCU's nonconference schedule. It’s an opportunity for TCU to prove itself and send a message for the Big 12. And TCU's home contest against SMU should be a solid test, as well.
3. Texas: New Mexico, at BYU, Ole Miss
After a fairly easy season opener, the Longhorns travel to Provo, Utah, to face BYU in a game that could be tougher than most people expect. Then UT hosts Ole Miss, giving the Rebels a chance to avenge their home loss to the Longhorns in 2012. Facing the Cougars and Rebels in back-to-back weeks will be a tough test for Mack Brown's squad.
4. Iowa State: Northern Iowa, Iowa, at Tulsa
The Cyclones' road test at Tulsa won’t be easy as ISU looks to avenge its Liberty Bowl loss to the Golden Hurricane. This game could be considered a conference matchup in some ways as it will be the third meeting between the two teams in two years. Add rival Iowa to the mix and suddenly ISU has one of the conference’s tougher nonconference slates.
5. Oklahoma State: Mississippi State (at Reliant Stadium in Houston), at Texas-San Antonio, Lamar
The Cowboys' season opener is the lone saving grace in this nonconference lineup. The Bulldogs should be a solid early test for OSU, but neither UTSA nor Lamar should prove to be major hurdles.
6. Kansas: South Dakota, at Rice, Louisiana Tech
Rice, which defeated KU in Manhattan, Kan., last season, and Louisiana Tech will be tough tests for the Jayhawks. Both games should give a glimpse of how much KU has improved in Charlie Weis’ second season at the helm.
7. Texas Tech: at SMU, Stephen F. Austin, Texas State
The Red Raiders' toughest matchup should be its opener at SMU. In Kliff Kingsbury’s first season, Texas Tech will have the chance to get its feet wet in nonconference play even though a Big 12 battle with TCU is sandwiched between its matchups with SFA and Texas State.
8. West Virginia: William & Mary, Georgia State, vs. Maryland (at Ravens Stadium in Baltimore)
Not much of a nonconference slate for WVU, with the Terps as the lone BCS team on the schedule. Things set up well for Dana Holgorsen’s offense as the Mountaineers try to replace quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
9. Kansas State: North Dakota State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Massachusetts
Louisiana-Lafayette could provide the sternest test for the Wildcats, but there’s no reason why KSU can’t enter Big 12 play undefeated. Their nonconference schedule sets up well for a team looking to replace standout quarterback Collin Klein.
10. Baylor: Wofford, Buffalo, Louisiana-Monroe
It’s unlikely Baylor will get tested before its first conference game. The Bears were recently forced to add FCS opponent Wofford after their game with SMU was cancelled, so Louisiana-Monroe could be their toughest nonconference test. They should pile up the victories but might not know much about their team before conference play.
3dDavid M. Hale