Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Ranking Big 12 nonconference schedules
By David Ubben
All nonconference schedules are not created equal. Some schedule ambitiously. Others prefer to pay for wins. To each his own. We'll be keeping track either way.
Some games were cancelled, others were late fill-ins. Here's how it stands, from most to least difficult.
1. Oklahoma -- at UTEP, Florida A&M, Notre Dame
The Sooners can't help that Notre Dame can't get its act together, but the storied program will visit Norman in October. Oklahoma also had to put together a last-minute game to kick off its season, traveling to El Paso to face the Miners, who went 5-7 in 2011. Florida A&M is an FCS opponent, but won't be bringing its band. The gap between the Sooners' schedule difficulty and everyone else's isn't very wide this year. The saddest truth? Oklahoma's game vs. Notre Dame is the only game featuring a Big 12 vs. a team in the ESPN preseason Top 25.
2. Iowa State -- Tulsa, at Iowa, Western Illinois
Western Illinois is dreadful, but traveling to Iowa City for a rivalry game won't be easy. That's especially true after ISU knocked off the 7-6 Hawkeyes in Ames in triple overtime last year. Tulsa lost star QB G.J. Kinne, but the Golden Hurricane have established themselves as a solid program.
3. West Virginia -- Marshall, James Madison (in Landover, Md.), Maryland
West Virginia's the only team playing an FCS team on a neutral field, but a rivalry game vs. 7-6 Marshall to open the season should be fun. Maryland was awful in 2011, going just 2-10 under Randy Edsall and lost QB Danny O'Brien. At this point, we should realize the harsh truth: The Big 12 nonconference schedule is pretty sad this year. West Virginia canceled a scheduled game vs. Florida State to make room for the Big 12 schedule.
4. Oklahoma State -- Savannah State, at Arizona, Louisiana-Lafayette
OSU will brave a trip to Tucson to face a brand-new Rich Rodriguez team. Louisiana-Lafayette is a little underrated and went 9-4 last year.
5. TCU -- Grambling, Virginia, at SMU
TCU gets points for going on the road against June Jones' SMU team, who beat TCU in Fort Worth in overtime last season. Virginia was 8-5 last season and growing under Mike London, but Grambling will be a dip into the FCS pool.
6. Texas -- Wyoming, New Mexico, at Ole Miss
Texas' schedule looks decent, but it's not too difficult. New Mexico was dreadful under Mike Locksley, and will try to rebuild under Bob Davie. Wyoming is underrated and playing well under former Mizzou OC Dave Christensen; the Cowboys went 8-5 last season. The Longhorns are the only Big 12 team playing an SEC team this year, but Ole Miss didn't win a conference game last year and has a new coach in Hugh Freeze.
7. Kansas State -- Missouri State, Miami, North Texas
Missouri State is an FCS team without its starting QB, and K-State will get to see a familiar face in former Iowa State coach Dan McCarney at North Texas. He's a new coach, though, and UNT went 5-7 last year. Miami's a big name, but the Hurricanes went just 6-6 last season and are still growing under Al Golden. K-State is the only Big 12 team playing every nonconference game in its home stadium.
8. Kansas -- South Dakota State, Rice, at Northern Illinois
KU needs wins badly, and Rice won't be a gimme. The Jayhawks won a barnburner against the MAC champs at Northern Illinois, but that Sept. 22 matchup won't be easy, either. NIU won 11 games in 2011.
9. Baylor -- SMU, Sam Houston State, at Louisiana-Monroe
Yet another Big 12 team who won't be playing against major conference competition in 2012. SMU is a good team, but SHS is an FCS team and Monroe went 4-8 in the Sun Belt.
10. Texas Tech -- Northwestern State, at Texas State, New Mexico
Tech is inexplicably playing at Texas State, who will be in its first year outside the FCS, but that doesn't make the Red Raiders' annual stinker of a nonconference schedule much better. Texas Tech hasn't played a major conference team out of conference since games at NC State and Ole Miss in 2003.