Big 12 Football: Power Ranking the 5 Toughest In-Conference Schedules

Sean Frye@Sean_E_FryeFeatured ColumnistSeptember 10, 2013

Big 12 Football: Power Ranking the 5 Toughest In-Conference Schedules

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    The Big 12 is undoubtedly one of the most competitive conferences in the entire country. Last season, nine of the 10 teams in the league made a bowl and eight teams got four or more wins in conference. 

    The competitive nature of the Big 12 is sure to hold true in 2013.

    In the only matchup between two Big 12 teams this season, the Oklahoma Sooners squeaked by the West Virginia Mountaineers 16-7. The game was close despite Oklahoma being picked second in the Big 12 preseason poll while West Virginia was ranked eighth. 

    So with the rest of the Big 12 season coming up, here's a look at the five toughest in-conference schedules within the league. 

5. Iowa State Cyclones

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    The Iowa State Cyclones, picked ninth in the Big 12 preseason poll, have a particularly tough Big 12 schedule. 

    The first four weeks for the Cyclones' in-conference schedule include road trips to Texas Tech and Baylor, sandwiched by home games against Texas and Oklahoma State. 

    Road trips to Manhattan, Kan. and Norman, Okla. to face the Kansas State Wildcats and Oklahoma Sooners are also on the Cyclones' slate. 

    Iowa State doesn't get to face a team ranked in the bottom three of the conference until Week 13 when it hosts the Kansas Jayhawks. A trip to Morgantown, W. Va. ends the season. 

    For a team that has never won more than three Big 12 games under Paul Rhoads and lost to Northern Iowa of the FCS in Week 1, finding wins in Big 12 is pretty hard for even the most optimistic Cyclone fan. 

4. West Virginia Mountaineers

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    The West Virginia Mountaineers are fresh off a Week 2 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners. Playing in Norman is certainly no easy task for any college football team, especially so early in the season. 

    But the Big 12 schedule doesn't get hardly any easier for the Mountaineers, who were picked eighth in the conference preseason poll, throughout the rest of the year. 

    Over a four week stint from Oct. 19 - Nov. 9, West Virginia faces Texas Tech, Kansas State, TCU and Texas. They also face Oklahoma State at home and travel to Baylor in Weeks 5 and 6 before even getting to a bye week on their schedule. 

    The Mountaineers travel to three of the top five teams in the Big 12 preseason poll, so quarterback Paul Millard and company have a long road ahead of them this year. 

3. Kansas Jayhawks

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    When you haven't won a Big 12 game in 21 straight tries, every game in league play is tough. 

    But when you have to travel to three of the top four teams in the conference's preseason poll, than your schedule is even tougher. 

    Well that's what the Kansas Jayhawks have to deal with this season as they look to get off an over two-year schneid in Big 12 play. 

    After a Week 6 matchup against Texas Tech which starts the conference season for the Jayhawks, the team must play all five of the top five teams in the preseason poll in consecutive weeks. 

    The Jayhawks also don't get a bye week during their conference season, as they play all nine conference teams over nine weeks. 


2. Texas Tech Red Raiders

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    The Texas Tech Red Raiders' Big 12 slate begins with three road dates in four weeks and ends with two straight road games. 

    In the last five games on Texas Tech's schedule, the Red Raiders travel to Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas while hosting Oklahoma State and Kansas State. That's a brutal stretch with four of the top five teams in the preseason poll as well as both of last season's conference champions in that stretch. 

    Baker Mayfield, the up-and-coming Texas Tech quarterback who has looked good early on this season, will show his true character in what is a tough Big 12 slate for the Red Raiders. 

1. Oklahoma Sooners

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    Road trips to Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State are the toughest part of this year's Big 12 slate for the Oklahoma Sooners. 

    What is sure to exacerbate the difficulty of the conference schedule for the Sooners is the fact that they have Trevor Knight, a freshman who has just two college games under his belt, at quarterback this season.

    Knight isn't used to the bright lights of the Big 12 and he is sure to slip up as the season progresses.

    The Red River Rivalry on Oct. 12 at the Cotton Bowl may be a tough one as well for the Sooners, who are still trying to find its new identity after losing four-year starting quarterback Landry Jones.