Big 12: 2011 schedule analysis

Schedule analysis: Kansas

June, 22, 2011
6/22/11
3:00
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Today, we conclude our schedule analyses for the Big 12 with the Jayhawks of Lawrence.

Nonconference (with 2010 records):
  • Sept. 3: McNeese State (6-5)
  • Sept. 10: Northern Illinois (11-3)
  • Sept. 17: at Georgia Tech (6-7)
Home Big 12 games:
  • Oct. 1: Texas Tech (8-5)
  • Oct. 15: Oklahoma (12-2)
  • Oct. 22: Kansas State (7-6)
  • Nov. 12: Baylor (7-6)
  • Nov. 26: Missouri (10-3) at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Away Big 12 games:
  • Oct. 8: Oklahoma State (11-2)
  • Oct. 29: Texas (5-7)
  • Nov. 5: Iowa State (5-7)
  • Nov. 19: Texas A&M (9-4)
Gut-check game: Texas Tech. Few will expect Kansas to win this game, but we may get a good feel for the Jayhawks after this game. Tech will be a young team playing its first real road game (no, New Mexico doesn't count.). If Kansas can at least stay competitive, which was a struggle in 2010 when the Jayhawks lost five games by more than 20 points, it's a good sign for progress. Get blown out? Kansas better improve fast or you can expect another long year in Lawrence.

Good luck with that: Oklahoma. The Jayhawks dodged the Sooners last year, but there will be no such luck for any team in the new Big 12's round-robin scheduling. Kansas won't have to venture into Norman, but even in Lawrence, the world might implode on itself if Kansas upsets the Big 12's top team and the likely preseason No. 1.

Snoozer: McNeese State. After last year's season-opening loss to North Dakota State, it's hard to take any win for granted, but the FCS Cowboys were smacked around 50-6 by Missouri in 2010. Kansas found its stride against weak teams last year in a blowout win over New Mexico State, and I'd expect the same here.

Non-con challenge: at Georgia Tech. The Jayhawks nipped the Yellowjackets in Lawrence last year for one of the team's two signature wins, but the return trip to Atlanta won't be easy. Justin Springer turned in a huge performance last year that earned him Big 12 Player of the Week honors, and to slow Paul Johnson's option attack, Kansas will need another big day from its linebackers.

Noncon challenge II: Northern Illinois. Don't sleep on the Wolves. Last year, they rode Chad Spann to a division title in the MAC and a decisive bowl win. He's gone, but former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren replaces new Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, taking over a program that always seems to be solid.
Analysis: The new round-robin set up only allows for a small amount of variance, as opposed to last year and the Jayhawks' 2007 Orange Bowl season, when neither Texas or Oklahoma was on the schedule. This year, it's pretty balanced, with a pair of tough games at home and on the road, and a pair of winnable games as well.

I expect Kansas to win 3-4 games and 1-2 in conference, but more than anything, the Jayhawks can consider remaining competitive a good step in the right direction. Last year's team was one of the worst in Big 12 history, but experience and a solid recruiting class should help Kansas move toward getting back in the postseason and maybe contending for a Big 12 title in the future.

Click here for more Big 12 schedule analysis.

Schedule analysis: Missouri

June, 22, 2011
6/22/11
10:00
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Time to dive into another team's upcoming schedule.

Next up: The Tigers of Columbia.

Nonconference (with 2010 records):
  • Sept. 3: Miami (OH) (10-4)
  • Sept. 9: at Arizona State (6-6)
  • Sept. 17: Western Illinois (8-5)
Home Big 12 games:
  • Oct. 15: Iowa State (5-7)
  • Oct. 22: Oklahoma State (11-2)
  • Nov. 12: Texas (5-7)
  • Nov. 19: Texas Tech (8-5)
  • Nov. 26: Kansas (3-9) at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Away Big 12 games:
  • Sept. 24: Oklahoma (12-2)
  • Oct. 8: Kansas State (7-6)
  • Oct. 29: Texas A&M (9-4)
  • Nov. 5: Baylor (7-6)
Gut-check game: Oklahoma. No one expects Missouri to win this game. Oklahoma's status as a title contender, its home record under Bob Stoops (two losses in 12 seasons) and last year's upset in Columbia assure that. But Missouri could solidify itself as a real threat to win the Big 12 -- likely the favorite -- with a win. A close loss would be a good sign that the James Franklin Era at Mizzou will be a good one, but the Big 12's toughest conference opener provides a good opportunity for the Tigers, who won't have much to lose when the game arrives.

Trap game: at Kansas State. After an off-week, Missouri will play a game most expect it to win. But a trip to Manhattan won't be easy, even though the Tigers have won five consecutive games against the Wildcats, with all wins coming by at least 17 points. Two road games to kick off conference play is never easy, and a loss here could be a sign that the expectations for Franklin should be measured.

Snoozer: Western Illinois. The Leathernecks only played one team from an AQ conference last year, a 31-21 road loss to Purdue. Appalachian State ended their season with a 28-point win in the playoffs, and I'd expect a similar result when Western Illinois makes the trek to Columbia.

Non-con challenge: at Arizona State. Like Kansas State in 2009, too many FCS teams on the schedule prevented the Sun Devils from playing in a bowl at 6-6, but they return in 2011 as a possible top 25 team to start the season and one of the favorites to win the Pac-12 South. Missouri will head west to Tempe, the same place it suffered a heartbreaking loss to Iowa in the Insight Bowl, but they'll get a decent stage to showcase the team in the season's second week. ESPN will televise the Friday night game, which kicks off at 10:30 p.m. ET.

Pretender or contender: at Texas A&M. If Missouri thinks it can ride its dark horse status into contending for a Big 12 title, this game will be the one that probably proves it either way. Missouri could knock off Oklahoma State at home, but if it loses the early-season game against Oklahoma, the return trip to College Station will be huge for the Tigers' title chances. Last year, Missouri embarrassed the Aggies, 30-9, but has to travel to two of the top three teams in the Big 12. Lose both of those games, and the Big 12 title dreams are all but over.

Analysis: Missouri has one of the Big 12's six 4-4-1 schedules, thanks to a season finale at Arrowhead Stadium against Kansas. The schedule, though, has an intriguing rhythm. The two road games split by a bye week to open the season could be tough, but the conference schedule rotates with home-home and away-away before the finale against the rival Jayhawks. Like we mentioned earlier, traveling to face two of the top three Big 12 contenders will make winning the Big 12 a difficult task, but as long as Franklin is decent, the Tigers will likely win somewhere in the ballpark of nine games. If he's great? Look out. Missouri will be tough to beat anywhere.

Click here for more Big 12 schedule analysis.

Schedule analysis: Kansas State

June, 20, 2011
6/20/11
4:15
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With the Big 12's schedule all but complete, it's time to take another look at a Big 12 team's upcoming slate this fall.

Next up: Let's take a look at the Wildcats of Manhattan.

Nonconference (with 2010 records):
  • Sept. 3: Eastern Kentucky (6-5)
  • Sept. 17: Kent State (5-7)
  • Sept. 24: at Miami (7-6)
Home Big 12 games:
  • Oct. 1: Baylor (7-6)
  • Oct. 8: Missouri (10-3)
  • Oct. 29: Oklahoma (12-2)
  • Nov. 12: Texas A&M (9-4)
  • Dec. 3: Iowa State (5-7)
Away Big 12 games:
  • Oct. 15: Texas Tech (8-5)
  • Oct. 22: Kansas(3-9)
  • Nov. 5: Oklahoma State (11-2)
  • Nov. 19: at Texas (5-7)
Gut-check game: Baylor. The conference opener should give us a decent feel of what to expect from the Wildcats. The Bears knocked off K-State to reach bowl eligibility last year, but K-State can lend some serious credibility to its status as a bowl team if it beats Baylor in Manhattan to get to 1-0 in conference play.

Voodoo re-do: at Texas. The Wildcats are on one side of the most head-spinning series in Big 12 history. K-State is 6-2 against Texas in Big 12 play, and delivered the worst beating of anyone to the Longhorns last year, racing to a 39-0 lead after three quarters in Manhattan. We'll see if K-State's odd reign over the Longhorns continues with a late-season clash in Austin.

Snoozer: Eastern Kentucky. The FCS Colonels hung tough with Louisville last year, losing 23-13, but were blown out by teams like Southeast Missouri State and Chattanooga. K-State should be able to handle this one.

Noncon challenge: Miami. The Hurricanes had more talent than a 7-6 team a year ago, but the Wildcats will get an up-close look at the beginning stages of the Al Golden Era in Coral Gables. Linebacker Arthur Brown will be going up against his former teammates, too.

Chance to impress: Missouri. The Tigers have had a lot of success against Kansas State of late, beating the Wildcats by at least 17 in every game since 2006. But if James Franklin doesn't become the quarterback Missouri hopes he will, the Wildcats will have a chance to expose him. K-State beat Missouri every year from 1993-2005, and getting back to that kind of dominance would be a good step in turning around the program.

Analysis: Kansas State is one of the Big 12 teams that gets the benefit of a five-game home schedule in Big 12 play, but it's a very balanced schedule on the road and in Manhattan for the Wildcats. Additionally, it's a nice balance of timing, as well. The final five games of the season rotate home-away each week, and the conference slate begins with two home games, giving the Wildcats a chance to start strong in conference. Those two teams to start the conference season, Baylor and Missouri, could win in Manhattan, and a trip to Lubbock the following week could easily land K-State at a frustrating 0-3 to begin conference play, too.

Click here for more Big 12 schedule analysis.

Schedule analysis: Texas Longhorns

June, 14, 2011
6/14/11
10:30
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Time for more schedule analysis, as promised. Here's a look at our next team in line: The Longhorns of Austin.

Nonconference (with 2010 records):
  • Sept. 3: Rice (4-8)
  • Sept. 10: Brigham Young (7-6)
  • Sept. 17: at UCLA (4-8)
Home Big 12 games:
  • Oct. 8: Oklahoma (12-2) at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas
  • Oct. 15: Oklahoma State (11-2)
  • Oct. 29: Kansas (3-9)
  • Nov. 5: Texas Tech (8-5)
  • Nov. 19: Kansas State (7-6)
Away Big 12 games:
  • Oct. 1: Iowa State (5-7)
  • Nov. 12: Missouri (10-3)
  • Nov. 24: Texas A&M (9-4)
  • Dec. 3: Baylor (7-6)
Gut-check game: at Iowa State. Regardless of what happens in nonconference play, the real show begins for Texas in conference. Iowa State will be a team that's competitive in the Big 12 this year, and should give a good indication of where Texas will be for the remainder of conference play. The Cyclones walked out of Austin with the first win there in program history last year, and if Texas loses in Ames next year, you can probably expect another long year for the Longhorns. If they win by double digits, chalk that up as evidence that Texas may be back.

Noncon challenge: Brigham Young. Texas' only two wins at home last season were over Wyoming and Florida Atlantic, but if the Horns want to prove they're back, knocking off the Cougars in their second game would be a huge step. BYU brings back Jake Heaps, a sophomore quarterback who started the season's final 10 games, improving rapidly as the season progressed. He won five of his final six games to bring the team to 7-6 from its 2-5 start, and broke Heisman winner Ty Detmer's record at BYU for freshman touchdown passes. That improvement should continue this year and provide a tough, tough test for Texas' young secondary.

Snoozer: Rice. The Owls won four games a year ago, and in Houston, let Texas rack up its second highest point total of the season in a 34-17 win. Texas will be better this year. Rice might be too, but not good enough to in Austin.

Chance to impress: Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry. Texas came within a couple bounces of knocking off the eventual Big 12 champs last year. A Landry Jones fumble deep in Texas territory bounced out of bounds, and with a chance to get the ball back and tie the game, Aaron Williams muffed a punt. With a few recent exceptions, this is always a tough win no matter how much better one team is than the other, and Texas could definitely put an end to all the jokes if it knocked off Oklahoma in its second conference game.

Underrated closer: at Baylor. The Longhorns won't be closing the year with Texas A&M, and as much flack as this game has caught as the warmup for Bedlam later that night, it's easy to forget how compelling last year's matchup was. The Bears, who slipped to No. 25 the week before the game, erased a 19-10 deficit to knock off the Longhorns for the first time since 1997. Joke away, but this could be a great game.

Analysis: Texas is one of the six Big 12 teams with a 4-4-1 home-away set up thanks to a neutral site game, but the Longhorns have a very odd set up. After Red River, Texas comes home for a three-game home stretch in three weeks, one of the longest of any team in the Big 12. However, after that, the season will come to a very, very difficult close that could possibly leave a tough taste in Texas fans' mouths if the team doesn't have itself together midway through the year.

The Longhorns travel to Missouri, Texas A&M and Baylor in the final four weeks of the season -- all very losable games -- sandwiched around a game in Austin against Kansas State, who infamously has proved it has Texas' number, for whatever reason. That was never more evident than last year, when the Wildcats handed out the worst beating of any team against Texas, racing to a 39-0 lead in a 39-14 win, while throwing four passes the entire game and picking off Garrett Gilbert five times.

Will Texas' season end triumphantly with an impressive run away from home, or will the memories of early wins be erased by road losses to good teams?

Click here for more Big 12 schedule analysis.

Schedule analysis: Texas Tech

June, 13, 2011
6/13/11
3:00
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Time for more schedule analysis, as promised. Here's a look at our next team in line: The Red Raiders of Lubbock.

Nonconference (with 2010 records):
  • Sept. 3: Texas State (4-7)
  • Sept. 17: at New Mexico (1-11)
  • Sept. 24: Nevada (13-1)
Home Big 12 games:
  • Oct. 8: Texas A&M (9-4)
  • Oct. 15: Kansas State (7-6)
  • Oct. 29: Iowa State (5-7)
  • Nov. 12: Oklahoma State (11-2)
  • Nov. 26: Baylor (7-6) at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas
Away Big 12 games:
  • Oct. 1: Kansas (3-9)
  • Oct. 22: Oklahoma (12-2)
  • Nov. 5: Texas (5-7)
  • Nov. 19: Missouri (10-3)
Gut-check game: Kansas State. Kansas State is the team in the Big 12 of which I'm least sure what to expect (somewhere between 3-10 wins). Texas Tech is the team of which I'm most sure what to expect (7-8 wins). We'll have a good feel for both after this game, the first moderate conference test for the Red Raiders after an easy matchup at KU and an extremely tough game at Jones AT&T stadium against A&M (ampersands for everyone!).

Trap game: Iowa State. I'm sure Texas Tech fans don't need a reminder of what went down in Ames last year, but you can't count the Cyclones out of a return trip to Lubbock. Like last season, Paul Rhoads' team knows it will need to upset a few folks to get in a bowl game, and if the Red Raiders' defense isn't a lot better than last season by mid-October, it could be another headache for Tech.

Snoozer: New Mexico. The Lobos had a case in 2010 as the worst team in the FBS, and even if they improve, there's no way they'll be good enough to make the Red Raiders sweat. Tech beat them 52-17 in Albuquerque last season, and expect a similar beatdown on the return trip.

Chance to impress: Texas A&M. I've put the Aggies on upset alert for this one, and that'll continue unless either team proves to be substantially different than what it seems heading into the season. Texas Tech is good for one inexplicable shocker in Lubbock a season, and Texas A&M could fall victim. In 2008, it knocked Texas out of the national title race. In 2009, it beat Oklahoma by four touchdowns. In 2010, it beat a top 15 Missouri team after falling behind 14-0. Beware, Texas A&M. Beware.

Upset special: Oklahoma State. Or will the Cowboys fall victim? Two-thirds of the top three teams in the Big 12 visit Lubbock, and Oklahoma State visits in the middle of an uninspiring set of conference games leading up to the showdown against Oklahoma. OSU won in Lubbock last season for the first time since 1944, but the Big 12 scheduling kinks require a return trip. Will those ghosts return?

Analysis: Texas Tech, by way of its neutral-site game, is one of six Big 12 teams with a 4-4-1 schedule set up. That said, the road schedule for the Red Raiders is absolutely brutal. Texas Tech doesn't need a reminder of its struggles in Norman (45-7, 65-21, 34-24, 28-13 in its past four visits), winning at Missouri will be difficult, and lest we forget, Texas beat Texas Tech in Lubbock last season to move to 3-0 before the wheels fell off. That's a tough draw on the road, even if Texas isn't back to its usual self. I see Texas Tech making a bowl game somewhat safely, but the road schedule, plus visits from likely top 15 teams Oklahoma State and Texas A&M (news flash: life in the new Big 12 is going to be hard) will keep them from making a real run at a Big 12 title, especially for a team spending its time relying on offensive skill position players who have never carried a team before.


Click here for more Big 12 schedule analysis.

Schedule analysis: Baylor

May, 25, 2011
5/25/11
3:00
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The Big 12's full schedule isn't out yet, but a few teams across the league have released their individual schedules, or at least something very close to them. In no particular order, we'll take a look at them.

Next up: The Bears of Waco.

Nonconference (with 2010 records):
  • Sept. 2: TCU (13-0)
  • Sept. 17: Stephen F. Austin (6-7)
  • Sept. 24: Rice (10-3)
Home Big 12 games:
  • Oct. 8: Iowa State (5-7)
  • Nov. 5: Missouri (10-3)
  • Nov. 19: Oklahoma (12-2)
  • Nov. 26: Texas Tech (at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas) (8-5)
  • Dec. 3: Texas (5-7)
Away Big 12 games:
  • Oct. 1: at Kansas State (7-6)
  • Oct. 15: at Texas A&M (9-4)
  • Oct. 29: at Oklahoma State (11-2)
  • Nov. 12: at Kansas (3-9)
Gut-check game: TCU. The Bears' rematch with the Frogs is set for Friday night, Sept. 2, to start the season and should draw plenty of eyes. Last year's 45-10 embarrassment was rough for Baylor, but it'll be even worse if it loses this year. The Bears second game isn't until Sept. 17.

Trap game: at Kansas State. No one knows what to expect out of the Wildcats. The Wildcats will already be tested with a trip to Miami the previous week, so don't expect the Bears speed to scare them.

Snoozer: Stephen F. Austin. Baylor did well in its early-season tune-ups last year, safely blowing out Sam Houston State, Buffalo and even winning convincingly at Rice. It did it all while playing some of the best defense in the league at the time, too. I wouldn't expect that trend to end this year.

Regrettable re-do: at Oklahoma State. Most of Baylor's losses last season were big ones, and this was perhaps the worst. The Bears traveled to Stillwater in what was the marquee game in the Big 12 that week, but fell behind 34-0 before losing 55-28. That doesn't do much to earn respect from the league's top programs. The glitchy Big 12 schedule, moving from eight to nine games this year, forces Baylor to make a return trip to Stillwater.

Chance to impress: at Texas A&M. Baylor led last season's game 30-14 before giving up 28 consecutive points in a 42-30 loss. This time, they'll have to get a win in College Station, which is never easy. Baylor is on a stated mission for respect this year after clearing hurdle No. 1 last year: a bowl game. Beating the rival Aggies would be a huge step toward earning that respect.

Analysis: Baylor, by virtue of its neutral site game with Texas Tech, joins Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech as the Big 12 teams with a 4-4-1 home-away conference schedule. It's also pretty balanced. Baylor gets two of my preseason Big 12 teams at home and two on the road.

It also hosts Texas, which lost to Baylor in Austin last season for the first time since 1991. For what it's worth, Baylor is the only Big 12 team to play a team that went undefeated (TCU) in 2010. It gets them at a good time, too. I'm not sure if I'd pick them just yet, but there's no doubt the Bears have a good shot for an opening-night upset. Even if they don't, it's still a pretty good nonconference that game that should see them enter conference play 2-1 at worst.

Click here for more Big 12 schedule analysis.

Schedule analysis: Texas A&M

May, 23, 2011
5/23/11
10:30
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The Big 12's full schedule isn't out yet, but a few teams across the league have released their individual schedules. In no particular order, we'll take a look at them.

Next up: Let's take a look at the Aggies of College Station.

Nonconference (with 2010 records):
  • Sept. 4: SMU (7-7)
  • Sept. 17: Idaho (6-7)
  • Oct. 1: Arkansas at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas (10-3)
Home Big 12 games:
  • Sept. 24: Oklahoma State (11-2)
  • Oct. 15: Baylor (7-6)
  • Oct. 29: Missouri (10-3)
  • Nov. 19: Kansas (3-9)
  • Nov. 24: Texas (5-7)
Away Big 12 games:
  • Oct. 8: Texas Tech (8-5)
  • Oct. 22: Iowa State (5-7)
  • Nov. 5: Oklahoma (12-2)
  • Nov. 12: Kansas State (7-6)
Gut-check game: Oklahoma State. It was a toss-up game last year, and it should be a toss-up once again. Last year's Thursday night game was an instant classic, and I'd expect a similar, high-scoring affair once again. The winner gets the inside track on a BCS berth. The Cowboys played one of their worst offensive halves during the first half of this game last season, but adjusted and won 38-35. The offense scored 24 points in the second half, and the defense added seven more by returning a Jerrod Johnson fumble 63 yards for a score -- one of Johnson's five turnovers on the night. I'd expect this one to go down to the wire once again. The 12th Man could prove valuable.

Trap game: Texas Tech. After narrowly losing to Arkansas in 2010, Texas A&M played by far its worst game of the year the following week. The Aggies were trampled at home by Missouri, 30-9, and fell to 3-3. This season, after an Arkansas game I'd pick them to lose as of right now (that whole no wins over SEC teams in six tries since 1995 is tough to ignore), the Aggies have to travel to always-dangerous Lubbock to face a hungry Texas Tech team with an offense that should still be solid and a defense that may be starting to figure itself out in early October. The Red Raiders nipped Missouri in Lubbock last year, and somebody always seems to leave Lubbock with a shocking loss.

Snoozer: Idaho. No Nathan Enderle? No shot. And even then, it was a long one. Turnovers made a date with Florida International in College Station last year turn scary, but this is a more mature Texas A&M team, at least one mature enough not to fool around with Vandals. Or at least I'd like to think so.

Non-con challenge: Arkansas. This is a great rivalry for both sides. The Hogs finally cracked the BCS for the first time in 2010, and the Aggies will try to get back for the first time since 1998. Both teams face an uphill climb in their conferences, but it's entirely possible that both could be in the BCS as at-large bids. Year three of a 10-year series deal -- that could stretch to 30 years -- should be another great game with a fantastic split-crowd and a bowl-game atmosphere in Cowboys Stadium.

Chance to impress: Oklahoma. I've alluded to it previously, but there's a trend in Norman. When the Sooners and their fans sense their nation's best 36-game home winning streak could be in jeopardy, they answer in a big way. Oklahoma has blown out the three biggest threats in each of the past three seasons -- Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Florida State -- and I'd expect the same thing to happen to the Aggies when they travel to Norman. (For what it's worth, the Aggies lost 65-10 the last time they made the trip, in 2009.) All good things must come to an end, but I believe a good Big 12 team that is perhaps underestimated early in the season will slay the giant. My guess is the loss won't come in a marquee game like this.

Analysis: All things considered, it's a pretty balanced home-away schedule for the Aggies, who get a favorable 5-4 home-away balance in this round of conference schedules. The Aggies also have one of the Big 12's toughest nonconference schedules, kicking it off with a marquee Sunday game on the opening weekend against an improving SMU team. We'll talk best/worst case scenarios as the season creeps closer, but the Aggies' schedule is loaded with swing games that will ultimately decide if they end their season in Arizona as Big 12 champs prepping for the Fiesta Bowl, or a middle of the pack team headed for the Insight Bowl.

Click here for more Big 12 schedule analysis.

Schedule analysis: Oklahoma

May, 17, 2011
5/17/11
9:00
AM ET
The Big 12's full schedule isn't out yet, but a few teams across the league have released their individual schedules. In no particular order, we'll take a look at them.

Next up: The Sooners of Norman.

Nonconference (with 2010 records):
  • Sept. 3: Tulsa (10-3)
  • Sept. 17: at Florida State (10-4)
  • Oct. 1: Ball State (4-8)
Home Big 12 games:
  • Sept. 24: Missouri (10-3)
  • Oct. 8: Texas (5-7)--at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas
  • Oct. 22: Texas Tech (8-5)
  • Nov. 5: Texas A&M (9-4)
  • Nov. 12: Iowa State (5-7)
Away Big 12 games:
  • Oct. 15: Kansas (3-9)
  • Oct. 29: Kansas State (7-6)
  • Nov. 19: Baylor (7-6)
  • Dec. 3: Oklahoma State (11-2)
Gut-check game: at Florida State. Winner doesn't take all, but it does get early season validation as a national title contender, and perhaps the favorite. The Sooners rolled the 'Noles in Norman last year, but both of Oklahoma's losses last season were road games in primetime in tough environments. This will be another one.

Preliminary hurdle: Texas A&M. The Aggies' shot at the Sooners takes its billing below Bedlam mostly because it's in Norman, where the Sooners have been known to transform into an NFL team. That's especially true when fans recognize that the 36-game home winning streak is in jeopardy and respond with big-time performances of their own. Ask Texas Tech in 2008 (65-21), Oklahoma State (27-0) in 2009 and Florida State (47-17) in 2010. All three posed big home threats, the biggest of the season for the Sooners. All three left with lopsided losses. Can Texas A&M buck the trend?

Snoozer: Ball State. Brady Hoke helped the Cardinals reach bowl games in 2008 and 2009. After he left, the Cardinals lost to Liberty in 2010. It's hard to imagine this team going from that to anything close to competing with Oklahoma in Norman. If you're a mean/ignorant person and insist on having your wedding or major family event on a fall home football Saturday in Oklahoma, your guests won't be as mad at you if you schedule it on Oct. 1.

Trap game: Missouri. Avenging last season's loss should be motivation enough, but the Sooners will be coming off an amped-up game against Florida State and returning home. Beating Oklahoma was one hump for the Tigers last season, but winning in Norman would be another. If the Sooners play at least close to their potential, they should win, but Missouri is one of the team's on Oklahoma's schedule with a realistic chance to beat the Sooners at home this season. For an alternate trap game, see the Sooners' return trip to Baylor on Nov. 19. They had something to prove in Waco last season. Not the case this season.

Must-see date: Oklahoma State. Last season's was a classic, and this season's should be the same. Plenty of offense to go around, and the Big 12 season finale might be a major player in more than just the Big 12 standings. How about the Heisman, Biletnikoff Award, Davey O'Brien Award and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year? It's possible that all four could hang in the balance on the final Saturday night of the season in Stillwater, and be decided on the field.

Analysis: The Sooners' neutral-site date with Texas gives them a 4-4-1 home-away schedule, and it's fairly balanced, despite having to make return trips to both Stillwater and Waco, where Oklahoma won last season. The Sooners' nonconference schedule should rank among the Big 12's toughest, but the schedule is spaced out well.

The Florida State-Missouri back to back is probably the toughest two-week stretch for the Sooners, but every other big game is separated by at least one that Oklahoma should be heavily favored to win. The schedule hardly sets up a national title run, but it won't make one inordinately difficult, either.

Click here for more Big 12 schedule analysis.

Schedule analysis: Iowa State

May, 11, 2011
5/11/11
10:00
AM ET
The Big 12's full schedule isn't out yet, but a few teams across the league have released their individual schedules. In no particular order, we'll take a look at them.

Next up: The Cyclones of Ames.

Nonconference (with 2010 records):
  • Sept. 3: Northern Iowa (7-5)
  • Sept. 10: Iowa (8-5)
  • Sept. 16: at Connecticut (8-5)
Home Big 12 games:
  • Oct. 1: Texas (5-7)
  • Oct. 22: Texas A&M (9-4)
  • Nov. 5: Kansas (3-9)
  • Nov. 18: Oklahoma State (11-2)
Away Big 12 games:
  • Oct. 8: Baylor (7-6)
  • Oct. 15: Missouri (10-3)
  • Oct. 29: Texas Tech (8-5)
  • Nov. 26: Oklahoma (12-2)
  • Dec. 3: Kansas State (7-6)
Gut-check game: at Baylor. The Cyclones are likely to enter their conference opener at 1-2 or 2-1, though 3-0 isn't impossible. Baylor and Missouri are probably the two best teams on Iowa State's schedule that the Cyclones have a real chance to beat, but the outcome against the Bears could give us a good indication of what to expect out of Paul Rhoads' team.

Good luck with that: Oklahoma. Last year, the Cyclones lost 52-0 in Norman. This year, the Sooners are even better and the Cyclones are adjusting to life without their two best offensive weapons. Oklahoma will be gearing up for what could be a monster showdown with Oklahoma State the next week, but does anyone want to bet that Iowa State is the team to end Oklahoma's mammoth 36-game home winning streak?

Snoozer: Northern Iowa. This ain't Kurt Warner's team anymore. The Cyclones rolled to a 27-0 win last year, and while it might not be as lopsided this time around, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone but Iowa State fans tuning in to this one.

Non-con challenge: Iowa. The Streak -- 17 quarters without a touchdown for the Cyclones -- ended in last year's game, but Iowa State still lost, 35-7. Iowa State hasn't won since 2007 and has just two wins since 2003. The past two seasons, Iowa has outscored their in-state rivals 70-10. Rhoads has done a lot for Iowa State, but one thing he hasn't done is compete with Iowa. Will that finally change?

Must-see date: Kansas State. This game might end up being irrelevant, or it might be for the right to extend your season. Last year's Farmageddon was an underrated game, and the 2009 game was decided on a blocked extra point. Both times, Iowa State came out on the losing end. Don't be surprised if both teams enter this game at 5-6 and play for a spot in a bowl game.

Analysis: The most obvious takeaway: What a brutal, brutal road schedule. Every road opponent was in a bowl game last year, and two played in BCS games. The Cyclones could realistically go winless on the road this year, but if they don't, wins are still going to be hard to come by. If Iowa State is going to get back in a bowl game, they'll have to get it done at home. That would require knocking off Texas in the Longhorns conference opener.

Rhoads' signature victories the past two seasons have been wins in Lincoln, Neb., in 2009 and the program's first win ever over Texas in 2010. The common thread among those two teams? Very, very poor offense. I don't see a real opportunity on this schedule for Rhoads to make noise with another shocking win. Beating Iowa would be a huge step, but far from shocking. The same goes for UConn. Texas tanked last year, but don't forget, the Longhorns were ranked and coming off a win in Lincoln over the Huskers when Iowa State came into Austin and won.

Iowa State joins Oklahoma State in yesterday's schedule analysis as one of the Big 12 teams with five road games in conference play, and every one will be tough. Iowa State isn't likely to be favored in any of them. I don't like Iowa State's chances to make a bowl next season, but then again, few did the past two seasons and the Cyclones did it in 2009 and nearly did it again in 2010. The Cyclones will have to find some offense and solid play from the quarterback spot, but we'll see if Rhoads can field yet another overachieving team.

Click here for more Big 12 schedule analysis.
The Big 12's full schedule isn't out yet, but a few teams across the league have released their individual schedules. In no particular order, we'll take a look at them.

First up: Let's take a look at the Pokes of Stillwater.

Nonconference (with 2010 records):
  • Sept. 3: Louisiana-Lafayette (3-9)
  • Sept. 8: Arizona (7-6)
  • Sept. 17: at Tulsa (10-3)
Home Big 12 games:
  • Oct. 8: Kansas (3-9)
  • Oct. 29: Baylor (7-6)
  • Nov. 5: Kansas State (7-6)
  • Dec. 3: Oklahoma (12-2)
Away Big 12 games:
  • Sept. 24: Texas A&M (9-4)
  • Oct. 15: Texas (5-7)
  • Oct. 22: Missouri (10-3)
  • Nov. 12: Texas Tech (8-5)
  • Nov. 18: Iowa State (5-7)
Gut-check game: At Texas A&M. Last year, we didn't know how good either of these teams were at the end of the Cowboys' 38-35 win. It ended up deciding the Big 12 South. Had Texas A&M won, the Aggies would have won the division outright. This season, they'll get their shot in College Station, and the winner of this game could go on to a BCS berth. Texas A&M fans probably couldn't help but ask themselves what would have happened last season had Ryan Tannehill started, instead of Jerrod Johnson, who accounted for four interceptions and a fumble returned for a touchdown. We'll find out in this early season clash between two possible top 10 teams that will sort out the top of the new, divison-less Big 12.

Trap game: Baylor. The Bears will have two chances to prove themselves before their game in Stillwater at Boone Pickens Stadium. After TCU to open the season and Texas A&M before OSU, the Bears will come off a bye with what they hope is a renewed defense looking to erase an embarrassing lopsided loss on the same field in 2010.

Snoozer: Kansas. Last season, Kansas played pretty well against the Cowboys and kept it close early, leading after the first quarter and trailing just 20-14 at half. Then the Jayhawks were outscored 28-0 in the second half of the late-season matchup in Lawrence. Kansas should be better this season, but nowhere near good enough to make it interesting in Stillwater.

Non-con challenge: Arizona. Laugh if you must, Cowboys fans. But I recall a Nebraska team that laughed when it got matched up with Washington in a bowl game a few months after beating it by five touchdowns on the Huskies' home field. The Cowboys rolled over the Wildcats, 36-10, in the Alamo Bowl, capping off an 0-5 finish for Mike Stoops' team. But his quarterback, Nick Foles, is back. So is his best receiver, Juron Criner, a possible All-American and the best receiver in the Pac-12. It's hard to imagine Stoops, a defensive coach, not learning plenty from the bowl game, and the Cowboys will be facing their first real test of the season.

Must-see date: Oklahoma. Oklahoma State got the best break of any team in the Big 12 with the new nine-game conference schedule. Because of the tweaking to the schedule, the Sooners have to play in Stillwater for a second consecutive season, and last season's game decided the Big 12 South. This season's game, moved to championship weekend and likely set for prime time, could decide the Big 12 or even more.

Analysis: Big 12 teams better get used to unbalanced schedules in the new league setup. That means five road games and four home games, a sometimes overlooked aspect of a nine-game conference schedule. Teams that schedule ambitiously in nonconference play better do it with a home game. Oklahoma State caught a break with the Sooners' return north, but will be one of the league's teams that has to hit the road five times in conference play. A short drive east to Tulsa will be a tougher early season test than it sounds, but it's a solid nonconference schedule and a league schedule that sets the Cowboys up to do well.

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