This week, we've been breaking down the individual schedules in the Big 12. In today's Big 12 roundtable, we compare the conference schedules to determine who has the toughest road, who has the most favorable slate and the chances that TCU and Baylor both make it to November unscathed:
Who faces the roughest in-conference stretch?
Brandon Chatmon: West Virginia’s October stretch is the easy answer. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Baylor, with the Cowboys as a lone home game, is a stretch that would test any team in the nation. The Mountaineers' schedule is the only reason I don’t put WVU in the top three or four heading into the season, and this four-game stretch is at the heart of that tough schedule.
Jake Trotter: Texas having to face Oklahoma State, TCU on the road and Oklahoma in back-to-back-to-back weeks is pretty brutal, especially on the heels of what should be a difficult nonconference schedule. But Kansas State's October isn't easy, either. The Wildcats have to play Oklahoma State, TCU, Oklahoma and Texas in four consecutive weeks. That kind of stretch could knock the Wildcats out of the mix early as they attempt to retool off last year's veteran squad.
Max Olson: I think Baylor is in for a crazy November chock full of important tests. Kansas State on the road on a Thursday night. Then home against an Oklahoma team that will want revenge. Then back on the road to face Oklahoma State. Then a shortened week of prep (during a holiday, no less) before the grand showdown at TCU on Black Friday. I'm not sure the Bears will be seriously tested in the season's first two months. November will define their season.
Who has the most favorable in-conference schedule?
Chatmon: I’d lean toward Oklahoma State. The Cowboys get Texas early, when Charlie Strong’s team is still finding itself, and hosts TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma. A road trip to West Virginia won’t be easy and a trip to Texas Tech is always a challenge. But overall, I think Oklahoma State has to feel good about its Big 12 slate.
Trotter: I agree with Brandon. All you can ask for is a chance at the Big 12 title, and if the Cowboys can take care of business early, they'll have a chance at the Big 12 crown in November. Oklahoma State's struggles with Oklahoma have been well-documented, but the Cowboys this time will be coming off a win in Norman. Oklahoma State has played extremely well at home against Baylor, destroying Baylor's 2011 RG III squad and the Bears' 2013 Big 12 title team. The Cowboys also have won both meetings against a Big 12 TCU in Stillwater. The schedule sets up Oklahoma State to be a factor in the Big 12 race.
Olson: Yep, it's unanimous. Oklahoma State has it good, at least on paper, and getting to stay home and face three of the best teams in the Big 12 in Stillwater is a significant plus. I'd also throw in that, unlike several Big 12 schedules, Oklahoma State actually has the luxury of a midseason bye week (Oct. 17) that should help them heal and regroup for the stretch run.
Among TCU and Baylor, who will have the toughest time getting to November unscathed?
Chatmon: TCU will have the tougher time making it past Halloween undefeated. The Horned Frogs have road trips to Minnesota, Texas Tech and Kansas State. And don’t forget, their lone trip to Ames, Iowa, as a member of the Big 12 was a 21-17 victory over Iowa State in 2013 after a Trevone Boykin touchdown run with less than a minute left. Meanwhile, Texas and West Virginia are TCU’s home games. Gary Patterson’s team could go undefeated through the first two months of the season, but the road to 8-0 has some real potholes.
Trotter: Neither really has that difficult a schedule before November. TCU's might be slightly more challenging. But the Horned Frogs will still be heavy favorites in Minneapolis, Lubbock and Manhattan. Baylor's toughest true road game before November might be SMU. The slate sets up both to be undefeated going into November, which would make the final month of the season in the Big 12 a whole lot of fun.
Olson: I think the answer to this one depends on how good West Virginia and Texas Tech end up being in 2015. I think both are going to be bowl-bound teams and either could put TCU and Baylor through tough, four-quarter battles early in conference play. The presence of Minnesota makes TCU's schedule slightly more difficult, but otherwise both have it fairly good in the first two months if they can get past West Virginia and Texas Tech.