The Big 12 has 10 teams and a nine game conference schedule. That leaves room for three out-of-conference games for each league member, meaning there will be 30 nonconference games in total for the second straight year.
The nine game conference slate has eliminated one nonconference game for every team and in theory at least, added a potentially tougher game against a conference foe. And the result? An almost embarrassing set of non-conference games. Is this supposed to make the Big 12's TV partners happy?
Granted, losing Missouri and Texas A&M and adding West Virginia and TCU on such short notice complicated matters to a certain extent. Maybe because of that it's too early to be jumping to conclusions, but if this is how teams are going to handle their nonconference scheduling from now on then the league is better off going back to an eight game schedule. Better yet, get back to an eight game schedule by adding two more teams and returning to the Big 12 as we all grew to know it.
The 2012 non-conference schedule is downright ugly. The marquee game is Notre Dame's visit to Oklahoma. That is good. Outside of that, however, there is simply nothing that approaches the adjective "marquee" in any way, shape or form.
Before ranking the best and worst of the non-league schedule here's a glimpse at those 30 games.
There are nine games total against teams from the FCS level. Every Big 12 has one of their schedule with Texas being the only exception.
There are seven games against teams from another BCS conference (or independent - i.e. Notre Dame). Texas Tech, Baylor, and Kansas are the three schools without a game against another BCS league opponent.
The favorite non-BCS league on the schedule is Conference USA with six games against the Big 12. That is followed by the Sun Belt and Mountain West with three each, and the MAC and WAC with one apiece. As for the BCS leagues, the Big 12 will play three ACC teams, and one each from the Pac-12, Big Ten, and SEC, in addition to OU's game vs. Notre Dame.
So without further ado, the rankings of the best out-of-conference schedules.
1. Texas: opponents - Wyoming, New Mexico, at Mississippi. This is number one? Yes, which should give you a good idea how weak this year's non-conference schedule really is. The Longhorns secure the number one spot for two reasons, they don't play an FCS team and play a game against a BCS team on the road. That said, that BCS road game is against Mississippi who finished 0-8 last year in the SEC. And New Mexico isn't exactly a juggernaut, finishing 1-11 last season and now have Bob Davie as their head coach.
2. Oklahoma: opponents - at UTEP, Florida A&M, Notre Dame. The Sooners claim the second spot based solely on their game against Notre Dame, although the Irish haven't exactly been at the top of the college football food chain in recent years. But hey, the Notre Dame name is still worth something, right?. They also open the season with a road game against UTEP who finished last year with a 5-7 record in Conference USA. I'll overlook the Florida A&M game since, well, everyone is doing it.
3. Iowa State: opponents - Tulsa, at Iowa, and Western Illinois. The Cyclones open against a decent Tulsa team before having to play in-state rival Iowa in Iowa City. As for Western Illinois, no comment except to say the Leathernecks lost to Missouri last season, 69-0, with the Tigers outgaining them 744 to 44 yards, and no that's not a typo.
4. (tie) TCU: opponents - Grambling State, Virginia, at SMU. In their first season in the Big 12, the Horned Frogs host a decent team from the ACC in Virginia (8-5 last year) and play at SMU who has been solid under June Jones. Could be better, could be worse.
4. (tie) Kansas State: opponents - Missouri State, Miami, and North Texas. Kansas State visited Miami in 2011 and their win over the Hurricanes propelled them to a 10-3 season. Miami returns the favor this season and should once again provide a stern test for Bill Snyder's squad. Dan McCarney also returns to his former Big 12 stomping grounds as North Texas plays at Kansas State, as well.
6. Oklahoma State: opponents - Savannah State, at Arizona, and Louisiana Lafayette. The Cowboys will play Arizona for the third season in a row, this time without Mike Stoops as their head coach. The game against the Wildcats has potential depending on exactly how fast Rich Rodriguez can turn around the Wildcats - and it'll have to be fast given this game is in week number two. UL-Lafayette is coming of a respectable 9-4 season in the Sun Belt which will round out the Cowboys schedule.
7. West Virginia: opponents - Marshall, James, Madison, Maryland. The highlight of the Mountaineers non conference schedule is Maryland, a team that finished 2-10 a season ago. Enough said.
8. Baylor: opponents -SMU, Sam Houston State, and Louisiana-Monroe. The Bears should have plenty of time to get used to life without Robert Griffin with three very winnable games to open the season, the toughest being a visit from SMU.
9. Kansas: opponents - South Dakota State, Rice, at Northern Illinois. Hey, Charlie Weis could start 3-0 and win more games than Turner Gill did all last season! That is, of course, if they can win at Northern Illinois who is coming off an 11-3 year in the MAC.
10. Texas Tech: opponents - Northwestern State, at Texas State, New Mexico. For the second straight season, Texas Tech opens with the easiest non-conference slate which is tough to do in 2012 when looking at everyone else's schedule. The Red Raiders would have two FCS opponents if it not for Texas State entering the WAC this upcoming season. They'll have plenty of time to work on their defense which was one of the worst in the Big 12 last year, although it might hard to take too much from the results against these three teams.