Ranking the Big 12's nonconference schedules

Not all nonconference schedules are created equal. This is their story.

The heavyweights

1. Oklahoma -- Utah State, Florida State, Air Force, at Cincinnati

A tough schedule came back to bite the Sooners in 2009. Will that be the case again this year?

2. Iowa State -- Northern Illinois, at Iowa, Northern Iowa, Utah

Coach Paul Rhoads isn’t hiding from one of the conference’s toughest nonconference schedules that won’t get any easier in conference. He spoke to his players directly about the schedule in the team’s first meeting of the spring.

3. Colorado -- Colorado State (at Denver), at Cal, Hawaii, Georgia

Colorado’s nonconference schedule will help prepare them for a Big 12 slate, but it won’t make their final win-loss look any prettier. The Buffs had a tough schedule last season and went 1-3.

The one-game wonders

4. Baylor -- Sam Houston State, Buffalo, at TCU, at Rice

The Bears will be close to home, but they’ll be playing on the road at a top 10 team. No amount of Robert Griffins are very likely to save the Bears from losing that one.

5. Texas A&M -- Stephen F. Austin, Louisiana Tech, Florida International, Arkansas (at Arlington, Texas)

Jerrod Johnson and Ryan Mallett, two of the nation’s best quarterbacks, going at it inside Cowboys Stadium? Sounds like must-see TV to me. Both teams will have improved defenses, but Arkansas will be coming off a bye week after playing Alabama.

6. Kansas -- North Dakota State, Georgia Tech, at Southern Miss, New Mexico State

Georgia Tech lost three linemen and its best running back from last year’s team, but the defending ACC champs won’t fall too far. Southern Miss is a little underrated, too.

Nothing to be ashamed of

7. Nebraska -- Western Kentucky, Idaho, at Washington, South Dakota State

Idaho is underrated, and like the Huskers, Washington is on the rise. But barring an upset out at the Puget Sound, the Huskers should be 4-0 entering conference play.

8. Texas Tech -- SMU, at New Mexico, Weber State, Houston

The Red Raiders win for weirdest schedule. Their season starts on a Sunday and conference play ends in mid-November before Tech closes the season with Weber State and Houston. They’re also the only Big 12 team to not play a team from a major conference, but they’ll see lots of spread offense against SMU and Houston.

Soggy french fries dipped in weak sauce

9. Oklahoma State -- Washington State, Troy, Tulsa, at Louisiana-Lafayette

Troy has not been kind to the Cowboys in the past, but anything less than 4-0 would be a disappointment for OSU.

10. Texas -- Rice (at Houston), Wyoming, UCLA, Florida Atlantic

Plenty of warm-up time for Garrett Gilbert. Texas won’t have to do much Fighting to finish 4-0 outside of the Big 12, and finish with Florida Atlantic as a tune-up for a regular-season finale against Texas A&M.

11. Kansas State -- UCLA, Missouri State, UCF, at North Texas

The Wildcats are no strangers to this spot, but why are they playing at North Texas? And why does it close their season? A trip to LA like they made last season in the first year of the home-and-home with the Bruins might have moved them up.

12. Missouri -- Illinois (at St. Louis), McNeese State, San Diego State, Miami (OH)

Missouri can’t help how the Illini have fallen since a Rose Bowl berth, but a neutral-site matchup with a team in the bottom half of the Big Ten plus three yawn-worthy home games? That puts you here.