As we move closer to spring practice in the Big 12 -- it starts next week -- why not peer ahead to fall? There are many ways to examine 2017 schedules around the league, but we'll start with a look this week at two games that immediately stand out: the must-win and trap games.
Up next: the Texas Longhorns.
Must-win game: Oct. 14 vs. Oklahoma
It's the must-win game every single year, and it's always more interesting when a new head coach makes his Red River Rivalry debut. There's no doubt Tom Herman understands the importance of making a grand statement in the Cotton Bowl this fall against the Big 12's back-to-back champs. After the performance Houston put together against the Sooners in 2016, we should be in for one heck of a coaching chess match. This game is so much bigger when these teams arrive in Dallas undefeated. If the Sooners can knock off Ohio State and Texas stuns USC, you've got a Red River brawl with serious Big 12 Game of the Year potential. Even if that's not the case, it's more of a must-win than usual for the Longhorns because an upset win could produce an incredible amount of momentum for Herman's first season in Austin.
Trap game: Nov. 11 vs. Kansas
Boy, Texas lost a bunch of trap games during the past two years. The losses at Kansas and Cal in 2016 were about as bad as it gets, and the 2015 Iowa State game was even worse. Considering how far the Longhorns have fallen, it's difficult to pinpoint a traditional trap on their 2017 schedule. The late-season road games -- Baylor, TCU and West Virginia -- are always difficult and impossible to overlook. Maryland might not be an easy opener, but Herman and his coaches have a long, long time to prepare. A Thursday night game at Iowa State could be tricky, but the staff gets 12 days to prep. I have no choice but to circle the November home game vs. the Jayhawks, which comes after what could be a brutal five-game stretch with no weeks off. Motivating Texas players that week should be easy, but we'll see how banged up this team is after a challenging October slate.