The Big 12 will have plenty of opportunities to showcase its talent against outside competition in 2018.
West Virginia and Texas face multiple Power 5 nonconference opponents. TCU meets Ohio State in a huge Week 3 clash at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Oklahoma’s slate includes games against two of college football’s most intriguing coaches. The rest of the league schedules are fairly hit or miss.
The Big 12 can bolster its reputation with a good showing in nonconference action. But some teams are better suited than others to add some respect to the conference’s prowess.
Here are the Big 12’s nonconference schedules ranked 1-10:
1. West Virginia
Nonconference schedule: Sept. 1 vs. Tennessee (at Charlotte, N.C.), Sept. 8 vs. Youngstown State, Sept. 15 at North Carolina State.
West Virginia’s Week 1 trip to Charlotte, N.C., to face Tennessee and Week 3 road game at N.C. State are tough to top. The Mountaineers will have to claw for both. And if the first half of West Virginia’s 2016 meeting with Youngstown State meant anything, coach Dana Holgorsen’s potent offense could be in for a fun test against the Bo Pelini-led Penguins.
Nonconference schedule: Sept. 1 vs. Maryland (at Landover, Md.), Sept. 8 vs. Tulsa, Sept. 15 vs. Southern Cal.
Zero true road games is a good thing for Texas. The Longhorns get a revenge game of sorts in Landover, Md., but Tom Herman’s group should be better suited to win this year’s meeting after Maryland stunned Texas in its 2017 opener. Tulsa shouldn’t be an issue. USC will be a challenge, but this year’s Trojans shouldn’t be as strong as 2017 and Texas gets them at home.
Nonconference schedule: Sept. 1 vs. Southern, Sept. 8 at SMU, Sept. 15 vs. Ohio State (at Arlington, Texas).
Cupcake on Week 1? Check. No Chad Morris at SMU in “The Battle for the Iron Skillet?” Check. Marquee game against a legitimate College Football Playoff contender at Jerry World? Uh, yeah. TCU has the toughest individual nonconference game this season in the Big 12. And it’s not close.
But the last Big 12 team that met the Buckeyes wasn’t intimidated by the challenge when Oklahoma traveled to Ohio State last year. Baker Mayfield’s flag plant from last season still resonates across the state of Ohio.
Nonconference schedule: Sept. 1 vs. Florida Atlantic, Sept. 8 vs. UCLA, Sept. 22 vs. Army.
Coach Lincoln Riley gets to square off against Lane Kiffin and Chip Kelly the first two weeks of the season. It’s not quite 2016 when the Sooners got Tom Herman and Urban Meyer, but Oklahoma won’t be able to sleepwalk through its early schedule. Even Army could be a tough game if the growing pains are as a prominent for the Sooners as some expect.
5. Texas Tech
Nonconference schedule: Sept. 1 vs. Ole Miss (at Houston), Sept. 8 vs. Lamar, Sept. 15 vs. Houston.
Texas Tech doesn’t cross state lines during its nonconference slate, but Ole Miss and Houston should provide coach Kliff Kingsbury a chance to cool his proverbial hot seat a bit. Well, at least for the early part of the season. The Red Raiders also get Lamar at home.
6. Kansas State
Nonconference schedule: Sept. 1 vs. South Dakota, Sept. 8 vs. Mississippi State, Sept. 15 vs. Texas-San Antonio
Kansas State and Mississippi State will be a sneaky fun game during Week 2. Bulldogs coach Joe Moorhead isn’t short on talent. And Kansas State could surprise a few teams next season. South Dakota and UTSA don’t move the needle, but three nonconference home games is never a bad thing for a team that could go 5-7 just as easily as it could go 8-4.
7. Oklahoma State
Nonconference schedule: Sept. 1 vs. Missouri State, Sept. 8 vs. South Alabama, Sept. 15 vs. Boise State.
Oklahoma State has the best Group of 5 opponent of any Big 12 team on its schedule. Boise State could earn the Group of 5 New Year’s 6 bowl bid in 2018, while the Cowboys are just trying to figure out how to replace Mason Rudolph and James Washington. Missouri State and South Alabama shouldn’t be so bad, either.
8. Iowa State
Nonconference schedule: Sept. 1 vs. South Dakota State, Sept. 8 at Iowa, Sept. 22 vs. Akron.
Iowa State-Iowa is always a tough game, but going off the trajectory of each team, this slate isn’t nearly as strong when you dismiss the rivalry aspect. Beating the Hawkeyes in Iowa City won’t be easy for a rising Cyclones team, but South Dakota State and Akron should be wins. And the Cyclones have won two of their last three games at the Hawkeyes and five of their last 10 at Kinnick Stadium.
Nonconference schedule: Sept. 1 vs. Abilene Christian, Sept. 8 at Texas-San Antonio, Sept. 15 vs. Duke.
Yes, Duke is a Power 5 football program. Yes, Baylor technically has to play UTSA on the road and it will be a “payback game.” No, this schedule is not good. Coach Matt Rhule won’t drum up any excitement with this schedule, but Baylor could surpass last year’s win total by Week 4.
Nonconference schedule: Sept. 1 vs. Nicholls State, Sept. 8 at Central Michigan, Sept. 15 vs. Rutgers.
Kansas vs. Rutgers is the type of game you play on “NCAA Football 14” when you and your friend are tired of using Alabama and Ohio State, and you both want more of a challenge. This game ultimately ends with one friend being super mad, because someone finds out their terrible team has a third-string quarterback with a 90 rating for “speed” and they abuse the triple option to victory.