Schedule analysis: Oklahoma State

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 Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Full schedule:

  • Aug. 31: vs. Mississippi State at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas

  • Sept. 7: at Texas-San Antonio at the Alamodome

  • Sept. 14: vs. Lamar

  • Sept. 28: at West Virginia

  • Oct. 5: vs. Kansas State

  • Oct. 19: vs. TCU

  • Oct. 26: at Iowa State

  • Nov. 2: at Texas Tech

  • Nov. 9: vs. Kansas

  • Nov. 16: at Texas

  • Nov. 23: vs. Baylor

  • Dec. 7: vs. Oklahoma

Non-con challenge: Mississippi State. This game was one of two that sparked a dispute between Mike Gundy and athletic director Mike Holder, but it's happening, and it'll attract a ton of attention on the first weekend of the season. Dan Mullen has built the Bulldogs' program in the brutal SEC West, but the Pokes will be a tough draw in Texas. We'll see more Big 12-SEC matchups this season than we've seen in awhile, but this will be one of the best.

Gut-check game: Kansas State. It's tough to tell what to expect from K-State this year, who returns just eight starters from last year's title team, but even at home, K-State has given OSU tons of trouble lately. It nearly knocked off the Big 12 champs in 2011 and had the most success slowing OSU's offense in 2010, though it did so without Justin Blackmon. K-State will probably be a tougher matchup than West Virginia, and we'll learn a bit about the Cowboys in this early-season matchup.

Eyeing revenge: Oklahoma. I've been saying it for a year or so now, but if you take the pageantry of the state fair out of the equation, Bedlam is gaining quickly on Red River as the Big 12's best rivalry. The last three games have been incredibly memorable, and two of them were played with the Big 12 title on the line. The Sooners knocked OSU out of the title chase with a dramatic comeback and overtime win in Norman last season, but the rivalry goes back to Stillwater to close the season this year. Don't be surprised if a win for either team in this game means a share of the Big 12 title or the league championship outright.

Chance to impress: at Texas. Texas looks good on paper, and don't be surprised if the Nov. 16 matchup is something of an elimination game in the Big 12 title race. You've got to knock off the other contenders to win a title, and OSU will have to try and win its third game in Austin in four years. That won't be easy, but OSU seems likely to have a good shot to control its own fate in the Big 12 race if it goes down to the 40 Acres and comes back to Stillwater with the win.

Upset watch: at Iowa State. I mean ... obviously, right? I'd say there will be some special motivation for OSU's first return to Ames since that painful upset in 2011 that dashed the Pokes' national title hopes, but Paul Rhoads knows defense and everyone in the Big 12 knows the Cyclones are dangerous in Ames. It's one of the most underrated venues in the league.

Final analysis: What a way to close the season for Oklahoma State. It's a backloaded schedule, and if OSU is going to win the title, it will have to earn it with games against Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas to close the season. Don't be surprised if two of those teams (or maybe even all three) control their fates in the Big 12 title race to close the season. The Mississippi State game to open the season will be a good test early on that pays off in conference play, and doesn't have the same level of pressure as the 2009 opener against Georgia that was one of the most hyped season openers in school history. The good news for OSU is in a year that it looks like a contender, it gets five league games at home and goes on the road just four times (West Virginia, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Texas) and gets fellow contenders Oklahoma and TCU in Stillwater. That's welcome, and my pick as the Big 12 favorite this season has a schedule that sets them up for success and, perhaps, a second Big 12 title in three years.