The Big 12's schedule is set, and this year, we didn't have to wait until just a few months before the season to see it.
We'll take a closer look at each Big 12 team's schedule with some analysis over the coming weeks. Next up: the Kansas State Wildcats.
Aug. 31: North Dakota State
Sept. 7: Louisiana
Sept. 14: UMass
Sept. 21: at Texas
Oct. 5: at Oklahoma State
Oct. 12: Baylor
Oct. 26: West Virginia
Nov. 2: Iowa State
Nov. 9: at Texas Tech
Nov. 16: TCU
Nov. 23: Oklahoma
Nov. 30: at Kansas
Non-con challenge: North Dakota State. I ought to have "challenge" in quotations here, but don't overlook the Bison here, who solidly beat Colorado State last season in their only matchup with an FBS team last season and beat Kansas back in 2010. The two-time FCS national champions will bring a whole lot of confidence to K-State, who has a history of struggling in openers with FCS teams in recent years and will be replacing more starters than any team in the Big 12, including a new quarterback. Danger! This has possible upset written all over it, but K-State should win easily if it plays well.
Eyeing revenge: Baylor. Oklahoma State got its revenge on Iowa State with a three-touchdown beatdown of a then-ranked Cyclones team in Stillwater in 2012, and this time around, K-State will get another chance against a Baylor team that ruined a perfect season and its national title hopes. Expect a big-time atmosphere and a whole lot of anger in Bill Snyder Family Stadium on that night.
Gut-check game: at Texas. K-State is something of a wild card this season, with a lot of new faces and a coach who always seems to get the right guys in the right spot. Still, on paper, this doesn't look like a super talented team. Texas does, though the Longhorns have proven little in the past three seasons. K-State's last conference game was a Longhorn beatdown to clinch the Big 12 title, but K-State's odd mastery over the Longhorns (7-2 since the Big 12's birth) will be tested in this tough early matchup.
Chance to impress: TCU, Oklahoma. I don't expect Kansas State to be in contention for a title this late in the season, but TCU and/or Oklahoma should be, and K-State is absolutely good enough to knock either team off in Manhattan. Could that be a game that shows who K-State could be heading into 2014? The odds may be against K-State in both of these games, but if either of those teams heads to Manhattan eyeing a Big 12 title, you can expect both will absolutely know that leaving with a win won't be easy.
Final analysis: Kansas State has the good fortune of playing just four games on the road during what should be a rebuilding year in 2013 for the Wildcats. One of those road games is at Kansas, too. That could mean good results, perhaps buoying what may otherwise be a difficult season. When you talk opponents, it's largely a balanced schedule, with Texas and Oklahoma State kicking off the early Big 12 schedule and TCU and Oklahoma closing it, but five of the final seven games of the season will be played in Manhattan. We'll see if that pays off.