Monday, June 6, 2011
Ranking Big 12 nonconference schedules
By ESPN.com staff
Take heed, football fans: Three months from Monday we'll be digesting our first weekend of college football. That means nonconference play.
No team in the Big 12 has a schedule stocked solely with cream puffs, but like we all know, not all nonconference schedules are created equal. Here's how they rank in the Big 12, according to toughness.
1. Oklahoma -- Tulsa, at FSU, Ball State
The Sooners' headliner is a mammoth matchup in Tallahassee with Florida State on Sept. 17, but in-state opponent Tulsa visits Norman to open the season. The Golden Hurricane won 10 games last season. Oklahoma also faces Ball State.
2. Texas A&M -- SMU, Idaho, Arkansas
The Aggies and Hogs will meet up in Cowboys Stadium for the Big 12's second-best nonconference game. June Jones is building a solid program at SMU, which has been to bowl games in two consecutive seasons. Idaho will also visit College Station.
3. Texas -- Rice, BYU, at UCLA
Texas' nonconference slate should give a solid indication of what to expect in Year One of Mack Brown: Redux. After opening with Rice in Austin, Brigham Young comes to town. The Cougars can beat the Longhorns in Austin, and a trip to UCLA won't be easy, even with revenge in mind from last season's 34-12 embarrassment at home.
4. Iowa State -- Northern Iowa, Iowa, at UConn
The Cyclones' trip to Connecticut isn't as daunting as it could have been last season. The reigning Big East champs lose five starters on offense, including All-American running back Jordan Todman. Paul Rhoads will host Iowa and try to get his first win over the Hawkeyes, and the Cyclones host in-state opponent Northern Iowa.
5. Oklahoma State -- Louisiana-Lafayette, Arizona, at Tulsa
A rematch with Alamo Bowl opponent Arizona is the highlight of the Cowboys nonconference schedule, but OSU also travels to Tulsa. Avoiding the early struggles they had in last season's Friday night win over Louisiana-Lafayette in the Bayou would be welcomed in the Ragin' Cajuns return game to Stillwater.
6. Baylor -- TCU, Stephen F. Austin, Rice
The Bears, hosting TCU this time around, would like to atone for last season's 45-10 beat down in Fort Worth. Weaker in-state opponents didn't give the Bears trouble last season, but Stephen F. Austin and Rice will try to trip up the Bears in Waco after the opener against the Horned Frogs.
7. Missouri -- Miami OH, at Arizona State, Western Illinois
The Tigers got gypped in last season's nonconference schedule rankings, after Illinois and San Diego far exceeded expectations. A trip to Tempe to face the Sun Devils is the highlight this season, but Miami (OH) and Western Illinois won't have fans stuffing Faurot Field early on.
8. Kansas State -- Eastern Kentucky, Kent State, at Miami
Miami, like the Wildcats themselves, is a wild card this season in the program's first year under Al Golden. The trip to Coral Gables, Fla., won't be easy for the Cats. The back end of Ron Prince's ambitious scheduling is nearly finished, but in the new Big 12 under Bill Snyder having opponents like Eastern Kentucky and Kent State will be more common.
9. Kansas -- McNeese State, Northern Illinois, at Georgia Tech
Kansas got its best win last season against defending ACC champs Georgia Tech, but the Yellowjackets disappointed the rest of the way and finished 6-7. Northern Illinois is a good MAC team capable of beating Kansas, but the Jayhawks should be able to handle McNeese State.
10. Texas Tech -- Texas State, at New Mexico, Nevada
Nevada loses franchise quarterback Colin Kaepernick and New Mexico has shown no reason it won't be dreadful once again after winning only two games in two years under Mike Locksley. Texas State, meanwhile, is adjusting to life in the FBS.