Breaking Down the 2013 Big 12 Football Schedule
The Big 12 schedules are out and a few interesting things are noted.
All Big 12 teams take three bye weeks this year. The reason for this is because the Big 12 again extended its regular season to Championship Saturday—while the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC will be holding their conference championships, the Big 12 scheduled a few games to presumably keep its teams in voters' and/or pollsters' minds.
Showcasing Big 12 powerhouse teams—Oklahoma and Texas will be playing in two separate games—on Championship Saturday is a brilliant move.
We've gone ahead and looked at each team's slate of games and sorted out who has the toughest schedule, who has the easiest schedule—plus a whole lot more.
The Toughest Schedule
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We have a few teams that made this list.
Texas Tech plays at West Virginia and at Oklahoma in two consecutive weeks and then closes its regular season on the road at Texas.
TCU plays both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State on the road and also travels to Kansas State late in the season.
Texas plays BYU, Ole Miss and Kansas State in September.
But Oklahoma's schedule appears to be the toughest of all. None of the Sooners' non-conference games are FCS schools: Louisiana-Monroe, Tulsa and Notre Dame (at South Bend).
Moreover, Oklahoma's final two games of the regular season are road games at Kansas State and at Oklahoma State.
The Easiest Schedule
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All Big 12 schedules are tough because of the nine-game conference slate, but if we have to pick out which team has the easiest overall schedule, the Kansas State Wildcats get the nod.
Why? For one, the Wildcats have only four road games.
Second, Kansas State's non-conference schedule is light and fluffy: North Dakota State, Louisiana (Lafayette) and UMass.
Third, of the Wildcats' four road games, one of them is at Kansas, about an hour-and-a-half away in Lawrence. The other three road games are at Texas, at Oklahoma State and at Texas Tech.
This schedule of eight home games will certainly make season ticket holders happy.
The Worst Stretch
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Almost every team's schedule has a stretch of games that boggles the mind—it's usually a slate of elite teams or back-to-back road games. Some teams escape that tough stretch while others are saddled with the gauntlet.
Oklahoma has a tough five-game stretch: West Virginia, Tulsa, at Notre Dame, TCU and Texas (at Dallas).
Baylor's five-game gauntlet comes at the end of the regular season: Oklahoma, Texas Tech (at Arlington), at Oklahoma State, at TCU and Texas.
Texas Tech's winner, winner, chicken dinner schedule is also back-loaded but instead of a five-game stretch it's a six-game stretch: at West Virginia, at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor (at Arlington) and at Texas.
Roadblocks to Winning the Conference or BCS Championship
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While the Big 12 doesn't hold a conference championship, the team who wins the Big 12 still gets at the very minimum a Fiesta Bowl berth, so there's a lot on the line for these teams.
Without that conference championship, head-to-head competition becomes that much more important because one particular match-up could determine who goes to the Fiesta Bowl and who goes to the Cotton Bowl. Or the BCS Championship in Pasadena, CA.
TCU plays at Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State and at Kansas State, but its season opener against LSU could determine whether the Horned Frogs are competing for the crystal football or the gold football.
Oklahoma State opens its season at Houston, TX against Mississippi State. If the Cowboys want to challenge for the Big 12 crown or the BCS, Mississippi State is a must-win. Their schedule isn't that difficult, but beating a mid-tiered SEC team may impress the pollsters.
If Texas can go 4-0 against New Mexico State, BYU, Ole Miss and Kansas State, then the Longhorns should be very highly-ranked in the AP. Oklahoma and TCU will be standing in Texas' way, however.
Oklahoma only lost twice in the 2012 regular season—both times at home in Norman—but the two teams that beat the Sooners last year are on their schedule again this year: Notre Dame and Kansas State. This time, the Sooners will have to play them both on the road.
Finally, Kansas State has to beat Texas and Oklahoma State in back-to-back games (with a bye in between) as well as TCU and Oklahoma in back-to-back games.
Best Non-Conference Match-Ups
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Big 12 teams play three non-conference games on their schedules, and while these games usually aren't very exciting as a whole, there are still some outstanding match-ups.
Iowa State vs Iowa: Every year this game seems to be a question mark. It's anyone's game.
Texas vs BYU: These two teams played two years ago in Austin, and Texas won 17-16. This year Texas travels to Provo, UT.
Oklahoma vs Notre Dame: The Sooners lost to the Fighting Irish 30-13 at home last year, but this year the game will be in South Bend, IN. Like last year, this year's game could have national championship implications.
Oklahoma State vs Mississippi State: A prolific offense pitted against a tough SEC defense? Yup, this one should be DVR-worthy.
TCU vs LSU: Both LSU and TCU have very good defenses, but it'll be interesting to watch how these teams' offenses move the chains in what will probably be a low-scoring game.
Best Early Games of the Year
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Kansas State at Texas: Let's face it, the Wildcats will have lost a lot of veterans when these two teams square up on September 21, but we've all learned never to count out Bill Snyder-coached teams. One of these teams will be 0-1 in conference play in September. Circle the date.
Oklahoma vs West Virginia: In the second week of the season we'll learn how the Sooners and Mountaineers' offenses move the ball without their standout quarterbacks, Landry Jones and Geno Smith, respectively.
Texas Tech vs TCU: The Horned Frogs may have quarterback Casey Pachall back under center after a rehab stint, but Texas Tech will be without quarterback Seth Doege and head coach Tommy Tuberville, who is now at Cincinnati.
TCU vs LSU: The LSU Tigers will travel to Arlington, TX to play the TCU Horned Frogs in a game which will actually favor TCU in home field advantage. This game may be very low-scoring but should still be a dandy.
Worst Non-Conference Match-Ups
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Kansas State's entire non-conference schedule.
Kansas State has one of the more bizarre non-conference schedules because its footprint is all over the U.S. The Wildcats play North Dakota State, Louisiana (Lafayette) and UMass. Not one of these games should get any season-ticket holder excited for football in the first three weeks of the season.
Oklahoma State at Texas-San Antonio.
Okay, technically UTSA is an FBS team, but only barely—2012 was its first year with that designation and it's still in transition, so it's not eligible for FBS post season play. Still, the Cowboys aren't impressing anyone by saying they play two FBS teams on their non-conference schedule.
WVU vs Georgia State
Georgia State is also an FBS newbie, and like UTSA they are also not eligible to compete in FBS post season until 2014. West Virginia gets the same treatment as Oklahoma State—pathetic scheduling that's fooling no one.
Oklahoma State vs Lamar.
Here's what you need to know about Lamar: the Cardinals' stadium in Beaumont, TX holds 16,000 fans, which is considered small by some Texas high school stadium standards.
West Virginia vs William & Mary
Isn't there a better way to get Mountaineer fans excited for football than this? West Virginia fans get to watch their home opener against FCS team William & Mary, then wave goodbye as their team travels to play at Oklahoma and then return back to the stadium to watch their team host Georgia State. UGH.
Baylor vs Buffalo.
It's hard to get excited over this match-up, isn't it?
Texas vs Ole Miss.
When will the biggest Big 12 big boy schedule an SEC big boy in a home opener?—playing Arkansas in 2021 in the second week of September does not qualify. Oklahoma State played Georgia in 2009 and Kansas State played at Auburn in 2007 but Texas playing Ole Miss (again) doesn't really make any statement, does it?
Worst Scheduled Bye Weeks
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So which teams' bye weeks are not very well-timed?
Two of West Virginia's three byes occur before and after its last game of the season against Iowa State.
Texas Tech has a bye sandwiched between Texas State and Kansas.
TCU has a bye sandwiched between Texas Tech and SMU and also has a bye before and after its last game of the season against Baylor.
Kansas has its first bye in week one so it gets an extra week to prepare for South Dakota.
Baylor's first bye is also in the first week of the season, so it will have an extra week to prepare for Buffalo.
Iowa State has two byes before the end of September and thus has to play nine consecutive games without a bye.