Oct. 13: Oklahoma (10-3) at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas
Oct. 20: Baylor (10-3)
Nov. 10: Iowa State (6-7)
Nov. 24: TCU (11-2)
Away Big 12 games:
Sept. 29: at Oklahoma State (12-1)
Oct. 27: at Kansas (2-10)
Nov. 3: at Texas Tech (5-7)
Dec. 1: at Kansas State (10-3)
Must-see game: Oklahoma. It doesn't matter what the records are or how good either team's going to be. This game is an annual classic soaked in fried dough, turkey legs and corny dogs at the State Fair of Texas. More often than not, this game is about proving a point and stealing the inside track to the Big 12 title. Don't be surprised if that's the case in 2012.
Gut-check game: at Oklahoma State. Neither of these squads are among the favorites to win the Big 12, but both teams have an outside shot at making it happen. Texas has lost two consecutive games to the Cowboys after not losing to OSU since 1944. Both of those were in Austin. OSU is breaking in lots of new faces. Texas is maturing. Want to prove you're back on the way to the top of the Big 12 totem pole? Better win this one, Longhorns.
Chance to impress: West Virginia. Texas will probably be narrowly favored in this game, but West Virginia is the preseason Big 12 media darlings, coming off a 70-point outburst in the Orange Bowl. The Mountaineers have the most explosive offense in the Big 12 and Texas is supposed to have the league's best defense. If Texas truly wants to turn heads, this is the game to make it happen. It'll be playing a top 10-team and an offense loaded with hype. Manny Diaz & Co.? Better shut 'em down.
Snoozer: New Mexico. Texas' schedule, to its credit, is the only one in the Big 12 without an FCS team on the docket. Hats off to Texas in that sense. That said, all the teams Texas does play aren't very good, even if they're reasonably big names. Wyoming very well may be the best team the Longhorns play in nonconference. Ole Miss and New Mexico combined for a whopping three wins last season, and New Mexico might be the worst FBS team in the country. Bob Davie took the job to try to clean it up, but it won't be easy. Texas might run for 1,000 yards in this game alone.
Final analysis: Texas' schedule sets up the Longhorns well for success. They'll face six 10-win teams in 2012, but four of them come to Austin. The Longhorns have had their problems in Lubbock, but Texas Tech will struggle to stop the run, and two-win Kansas takes up one of Texas' four road trips. The Longhorns have their balanced 4-4-1 home-away-neutral schedule thanks to the Cotton Bowl date against Oklahoma. In the new Big 12, which employs nine-game, round-robin conference schedules, the difference between the toughest and easiest schedules is minuscule. That said, Texas is definitely on the easier end of the spectrum this season. It'll need to mature as last year's freshman invasion on offense become sophomores.