We're officially at the halfway point of the Big 12 nonconference game ranking. Let's take a closer look as we inch toward the best of the bunch.
15. Oklahoma vs. Tulsa: The in-state games are always a bit more interesting, especially when you consider how many of the major programs across the country won't play games against mid-major conference opponents within state lines. Oklahoma hasn't shied away from suiting up against Tulsa lately: This will be the ninth meeting in the past 20 years. The Golden Hurricane actually knocked off the Sooners in Norman back in 1996 (OU went 3-8 that season), but the past three meetings have all been decided by 33 points or more.
14. Kansas at Rice: Competitiveness plays a huge role in these rankings, and the bottom line is this should be one of not many competitive Big 12 games out of conference. The Jayhawks lost on a last-second field goal in Lawrence last season, becoming the first Big 12 team to lose to the Owls since the breakup of the Southwest Conference. Even if it's a low bar, it's impossible now to view a win in Houston as anything but a step forward for the Jayhawks.
13. Oklahoma vs. Louisiana-Monroe: The Warhawks are dangerous, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Sooners sweating late in this game. Kolton Browning showed he was a gamer last season in a win over Arkansas and in a near upset of Baylor in Monroe. OU's defense is in for a much tougher test than I'm betting most Sooner fans realize, and this should be a sneaky-fun opener in Week 1.
12. Kansas State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette: Similar to the OU-Monroe game, the Ragin' Cajuns aren't a pushover from the Fun Belt Conference. This is a tough situation for K-State: It will impress exactly no one by winning this game, but Terrance Broadway is absolutely capable of earning a win in this game. This same program is one that held a halftime lead against an 11-win Oklahoma State team back in 2010.
11. Iowa State at Tulsa: These two teams will meet for a third time in about one calendar year. The story of both games was second-half dominance. Iowa State did it in Ames to open its 2012 bowl campaign. Tulsa embarrassed the Cyclones in the Liberty Bowl, despite 25,000 ISU fans there to support their squad. They'll meet in a third locale this time, but a loss here could mean a bowl game is already out of reach. Four wins in Big 12 play is a tall order. ISU needs to go 3-0 in nonconference play.