29 June, 2023
For the first time since 2011, the Big 12 will no longer use round-robin scheduling, making the strength of schedule metric more important than ever. The team that advances to the 2023 Big 12 Championship Game may depend on whatever club has a clean route given the diverse schedules in a one-time 14-team layover season.
BYU, Cincinnati, UCF, and Houston are the four teams that will make the move to the Big 12, and each team will face at least two of the newcomers. However, only two opponents in each team’s final Big 12 season play Texas and Oklahoma. On the other hand, just one returning Big 12 team (Oklahoma State) received all four new games.
Naturally, nonconference games will be a major topic of debate. There are several national contenders on the Big 12 schedules, including Alabama, Oregon, and Utah. With 11 Power Five games on the schedule and only one FCS game in between, only one team faces two Power Five opponents during nonconference play.
Along with the opponents, game times and places also key. It is not enjoyable to play teams in Texas in the heat of September. Both refrain from visiting West Virginia in November. All of it is taken into consideration as we rate every Big 12 schedule from toughest to easiest.
1. West Va.
The Mountaineers put together what appears to be the ideal situation to terminate a coach. West Virginia travels to compete against top-10 teams. Season opener for Penn State; Week 3 matchup at Pittsburgh. The remainder of the schedule consists of games against Texas Tech and TCU, two road trips to UCF and Oklahoma, and a final road game against Baylor. The sole consolation is avoiding Texas, but even that won’t be sufficient to qualify for a bowl game in 2023.
The best non-conference game in college football this year was played by Texas, which went on the road to Tuscaloosa to take on the renowned Alabama Crimson Tide. It will be challenging to travel to Baylor, TCU, Houston, Iowa State, and Kansas State while playing Texas Tech with a trip to the Big 12 championship game on the line. In the crucial third season under Steve Sarkisian, the Longhorns’ schedule included the top five Big 12 teams according to the SP+ ranking.
3. Iowa St.
One of the few schools in the Big 12 to face both Texas and Oklahoma in the duo’s final Big 12 season is Iowa State, which competes annually against rival Iowa in the Cy-Hawk Series. The Cyclones might only be likely to be favored at home against Kansas, but road games against Baylor and Kansas State could both be very challenging. Matt Campbell faces a challenging task.
4. Kansas State
After humiliating the Tigers 40-12 the previous year in nonconference play, the Wildcats play Missouri in the rematch. While UCF and TCU are still wild cards at this stage, early road trips against Oklahoma State and Texas Tech could be challenging tests. The games against Kansas, which are on the road and should feature a highly motivated Jayhawks team, are not against BYU, Cincinnati, or West Virginia, which are listed on the schedule as sure victories.
5. Tech Texas
Week 2 sees Texas Tech play the Ducks, and former Oregon starter Tyler Shough greets his old squad in the desert. Additionally, the Red Raiders will play each of the other four Texas schools on the road, including Baylor’s nemesis and Texas. With TCU, UCF, and Kansas State all visiting Lubbock, the home schedule also doesn’t offer much room for error. The good news is that Texas Tech could beat any of three opponents in a classic night game with the support of a reenergized home crowd.
In the nonconference schedule, the Jayhawks take on Big Ten West challenger Illinois, but their first three conference games are at home against two of the four new clubs. There are no other teams that had a record greater than.500 in Big 12 competition the previous season, with the exception of a monster away game versus Texas. The penultimate game of the year, the Sunflower Showdown, will be the center of attention in Lawrence.
The 2023 TCU schedule is split into two parts. Early games against Colorado, Houston, and SMU will be challenging, but they can all be won. The Horned Frogs’ road trips to Kansas State, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma in the second part of the season are only broken up by home games against Baylor and Texas. If TCU isn’t careful, things could get out of hand.
Baylor will visit Utah in Week 2 for the final marquee nonconference matchup on the Big 12 schedule. Utah is the two-time defending Pac-12 champion. A victory would greatly improve the Bears’ standing in the country. Waco, Texas has challenging contests against Texas and Texas Tech, and between challenging away trips to Kansas State and TCU come contests at home versus Houston and West Virginia. The schedule is evenly distributed enough to allow the Bears to enter a crucial season.
The most challenging schedule of the new arrivals is set in motion by an early morning car trip to Arkansas. While favorable contests against West Virginia and Kansas are on the road, home games against Texas Tech, Iowa State, and Oklahoma won’t be a walk in the park. To win a bunch of close games, Kalani Sitake’s staff will need to maneuver through tight situations without being hurt.
Houston must play Texas, Kansas State, and Baylor in fast succession from October 21 to November 4. The remaining games on the schedule are doable if the Cougars can get through that stretch. Although UTSA will be a challenge, Houston does not play a Power Five club in nonconference play. In their games at home against Cincinnati and West Virginia, the Coogs should be favorites. The season will be determined by that historic game against the ‘Horns.
The highlight of the Knights’ easy nonconference schedule is a trip to Boise State, but they begin their Big 12 campaign with a bang as they travel to face Kansas State, the reigning Big 12 champions. Although there will be challenging road trips to Oklahoma and Texas Tech, home games versus Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Houston offer a few noteworthy displays. There will be notable nonconference matches, but the Knights find a decent balance in their debut Big 12 schedule.
Cincinnati receives the other three new additions to its schedule to start the new era, as well as a marquee home game versus Oklahoma to open Big 12 play. Their strength of schedule benefits greatly from missing Kansas State and Texas, as well as from concluding with Kansas, West Virginia, and Houston. The first test for Scott Satterfield’s program will be a matchup against Pittsburgh in the early going of the season.
13. Oklahoma State
To play Houston, the Cowboys just make one trip to Texas. During the 2022 season, Oklahoma State only plays four conference road games, two of which are against conference newbies and the other two are against the conference’s bottom two teams. If everything goes according to plan, Oklahoma State can win eight games without having to exert much effort.
The Sooners are the only returning program in the Big 12 and one of three teams without a Power Five nonconference matchup after the SEC requested that Oklahoma abandon its series with Georgia. The top three teams in the conference—Kansas State, Baylor, and Texas Tech—are also absent for the Sooners. The TCU team’s resurgence will present the hardest road challenge. The Sooners’ road to Big 12 contention is entirely manageable.