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Big 12 Schedule Outlook

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The Big XII has not had a team in the BCS championship game in any of the last three seasons and the conference is struggling to maintain its national stature with the recent and future expansions of the SEC, Big Ten, and ACC. Big XII play is certainly exciting however with a fast pace and high scoring games commonplace. Here is a look at the 10 teams in the Big XII and the schedules ahead in 2013.
 
Baylor Bears: Most expected a big fall from Baylor last season after the amazing 10-3 season led by Robert Griffin III. Baylor fell to 8-5 but it was a season with some big wins, beating then #2 Kansas State, as well as a ranked Oklahoma State team and then blowing out UCLA in the Holiday Bowl. Art Briles has done a remarkable job, now 33-30 in six years for a program that was not competitive in the previous decade in the conference. There is a lot of turnover again on the roster and a new quarterback in charge but Lache Seastrunk should be one of the most productive running backs in the nation and the Bears still have several excellent receivers. The schedule is difficult, particularly with a brutal 5-game finish to the season. Baylor could be bowl eligible by the end of October but they may need to be, as a winless November is a real possibility.
 
Conference Schedule Breakdown: Four home games, four road games, and one neutral site game in Arlington
 
Toughest Back-to-Back: Baylor will have to play Oklahoma State and TCU on the road in consecutive weeks in late November, add that Oklahoma and Texas Tech games precede the road trip and that the finale is at home against Texas it is a remarkably difficult closing stretch, especially for a team that is just 2-7 S/U on the road the last two years despite great success everywhere else.
 
Biggest Non-Conference Game: The Big XII only features three non-conference games with every team playing each other. Baylor has a very weak three-game set with the only challenge being a home game with Louisiana-Monroe in a game with a bye week on both sides. UL-Monroe gave Baylor a big scare last season as the Bears only won 47-42 in a wild game and one of the Sun Belt favorites should not be overlooked. 
 
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Iowa State Cyclones:
The Cyclones have had back-to-back bowl seasons the last two years but several signs point downward this season despite Paul Rhoads proving to be a great fit to lead the program. Iowa State has one of the least experienced teams in the conference and also one of the toughest conference slates with only four home games with the home slate featuring tough games with Texas, Oklahoma State, and TCU. Iowa State also has difficult tests in two of the three non-conference games this season.
 
Conference Schedule Breakdown: Four home games and five road games
 
Toughest Back-to-Back: The Iowa State defense will have its hands full with road games in consecutive weeks against Texas Tech and Baylor in mid-October. Add that the two game road set is sandwiched around home dates with two of the conference favorites Texas and Oklahoma State it will be a very tough month of October for the Cyclones, especially on defense trying to contain some of the most prolific offenses in the nation.
 
Biggest Non-Conference Game: The home meeting with Iowa will set the tone for the season. Iowa State has taken control of the state with wins the last two seasons in the rivalry combined with down years for the Hawkeyes. Beating Iowa again would be a huge boost for the program and if the Cyclones are to entertain a third straight bowl trip it is certainly a must-win game.
 
Kansas Jayhawks: The Jayhawks went 1-11 behind Charlie Weis last season but improvement seems imminent with a favorable schedule and a second year in the offense now led by highly regarded BYU transfer Jake Heaps at QB. No schedule in this conference is easy and moving up to bowl eligibility may be a stretch this season but Kansas should have better fortune after several painful narrow losses last year. The road slate in conference play is extremely difficult but Kansas should be able to win a few home games and at least triple last season’s win count.
 
Conference Schedule Breakdown: Five home games and four road games
 
Toughest Back-to-Back: Playing at Texas and then at Oklahoma State to start the month of November should be particularly grueling for Kansas and the surrounding games will not make it any easier. In fairness Kansas actually only lost by six to Oklahoma State and by just four against Texas last year but both of those games were in Lawrence.
 
Biggest Non-Conference Game: While Louisiana Tech may be a higher quality opponent compared with Rice on the schedule, avenging last year’s 25-24 loss to the Owls has to be a big priority for Kansas this season. Kansas has not won a road game since 2009, going 0-15 the last three years so it is certainly not a given that Kansas will win against a Rice squad that looks improved.
 
Kansas State Wildcats: After a surprising rise last season, reaching #2 in the polls and finishing 11-2 it is hard to know what to expect for Kansas State this season. The defense lost virtually every key player and Heisman finalist Collin Klein also graduated. Bill Snyder should not be underestimated however and this is a program that is 21-5 the last two years. Overall Kansas State has a relatively favorable schedule as they have winnable games at home although that means some tough road games ahead. A weak non-conference schedule should allow for a strong start before two of the biggest games of the conference season open up Big XII play.
 
Conference Schedule Breakdown: Five home games and four road games
 
Toughest Back-to-Back: After opening up Big XII play at Texas in a very tough game Kansas State will have a critical stretch after a bye week with a road game at Oklahoma State and then hosting Baylor. The Bears knocked Kansas State out of the national title picture last season so that will be a huge game and Oklahoma State looks like one of the top contenders in the conference as the Wildcats will know where they stand early.
 
Biggest Non-Conference Game: Louisiana is not a team to overlook as Kansas State has had some non-conference struggles in recent years, barely beating Eastern Kentucky two years ago and struggling with North Texas last season. Louisiana has been one of the top Sun Belt teams the last year years and will be up for the challenge.
 
Oklahoma Sooners: This is a rare season where Oklahoma is not pegged as a serious national title contender but that may be to its advantage after a several good but somewhat disappointing seasons in a row. Oklahoma has several challenging games away from home and a difficult non-conference schedule with three teams that combined for 31 wins last season. Oklahoma has a lot of new players in on defense but still plenty of talent on offense but this schedule will take a toll with few breaks along the way.
 
Conference Schedule Breakdown: Four home games, four road games, and a neutral site game in Dallas.
 
Toughest Back-to-Back: The key stretch of games should be with the key non-conference game against Notre Dame on the road in a big revenge game and then a tough home game with TCU before heading to the Red River rivalry game with Texas. That stretch of games will propel Oklahoma to the top of the national title hunt or leave the Sooners with another also-ran season.
 
Biggest Non-Conference Game: Last season Oklahoma was a double-digit favorite at home against an undefeated Notre Dame team that had climbed to #5 in the polls. The Sooners lost 30-13 legitimizing the run for the Irish and knocking Oklahoma out of the BCS bowl discussion. Oklahoma heads to South Bend after a bye week in the last week of September for one of the biggest games of the season.
 
Oklahoma State Cowboys: While the starting quarterback may be unsettled at this point, Oklahoma State is poised to be one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the conference and a true contender both in the Big XII and the national picture. While Oklahoma State must play in Austin the rest of the schedule lines up favorably for a special season in Stillwater.
 
Conference Schedule Breakdown: Five home games and four road games
 
Toughest Back-to-Back: Late in the season the most critical stretch of the year could be in play depending on how things shake out early in the year. The mid-November game against Texas figures to be hugely important in the Big XII standings and the follow-up game is a tricky home game with an explosive Baylor team in a possible letdown spot. Both teams beat Oklahoma State last season in close games. 
 
Biggest Non-Conference Game: The opener with Mississippi State in Houston will be a huge game for the Cowboys to hold up for the Big XII. Oklahoma State will be a solid favorite but even a middle-of-the-road SEC team should not be taken lightly.
 
TCU Horned Frogs: After a down season expectations are elevated for TCU this year and they will have the opportunity to make some noise with several big games on the schedule including a huge opening game. The conference schedule is difficult with a several tough road games against the upper echelon teams in the Big XII but Coach Patterson is 20-2 S/U on the road the past four seasons and this is a team that can make a run at the conference title after struggling on and off the field in the debut season in the conference last season.
 
Conference Schedule Breakdown: Four home games and five road games
 
Toughest Back-to-Back: TCU will have to play Oklahoma State and Texas in back-to-back weeks in late October with the first game on the road. TCU could have a few losses at that point with a few tough games early and that stretch will determine a great deal regarding the spot on the Big XII postseason ladder that the Frogs will fall into.
 
Biggest Non-Conference Game: The opening game with LSU in Arlington will be a huge chance for TCU to prove its worth as a new member in the Big XII. Playing in a favorable venue with serious exposure will be huge for the program if they can score the upset, playing as a much smaller underdog that most likely expected.
 
Texas Longhorns: After three mediocre seasons in a row expectations are sky high for a loaded Texas team with just about everyone back from last season. Texas also draws one of the most favorable schedules in the conference with most of the big games at home and nice spacing between the most difficult opponents. Texas does have two tricky non-conference games however and this is a team that has lost nine home games in the last three seasons.
 
Conference Schedule Breakdown: Four home games, four road games, and a neutral site game in Dallas.
 
Toughest Back-to-Back: Texas has struggled at home in recent years and a key stretch may come early in the season given the high expectations, facing Mississippi and Kansas State in consecutive home games. Following up a trip out west to face BYU will be taxing and the rush defense that really struggled last season will face stiff tests in consecutive weeks with a lot of pressure on the team.
 
Biggest Non-Conference Game: The road trip to BYU will be a challenge especially since BYU lost by just a single point against the Longhorns in Austin two years ago. The home game with Mississippi will be more important as a Big XII vs. SEC matchup and a key game for recruiting. Last season Texas won with ease 66-31 but Ole Miss has reloaded with a great deal of talent and will make it a game.
 
Texas Tech Red Raiders: Texas Tech brings back former QB Kliff Kingsbury to lead to the team and there will be some adjustments on both sides of the ball. Texas Tech does have a light non-conference slate ahead but the Red Raiders have several tough away games in Big XII play and it will be tough to match last season’s eight-win season given the transition season and the overall strength of the conference. The Red Raiders could get off to a great start however and a 5-1 first half seems very possible before hitting a brutal late season slate.
 
Conference Schedule Breakdown: Four home games, four road games, and a neutral site game in Arlington.
 
Toughest Back-to-Back: Playing Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weeks could be a great challenge late in the season and could spell the start of the decline for the team after some potential early success. Texas Tech lost by a combined score of 100-41 last season in those two matchups and the road game in Norman is a second straight road game after a long trip to West Virginia.
 
Biggest Non-Conference Game: For a first time head coach the opening game can be critically important and it should also be the most difficult non-conference game for the Red Raiders, facing a formidable SMU squad. SMU nearly beat Texas Tech in 2010 and the Mustangs scored over 30 points per game last season.
 
West Virginia Mountaineers: It was a rude welcome to the Big XII for West Virginia, going just 4-5 and really struggling defensively. At one-point West Virginia was 5-0 and ranked #5 in the nation before losing five games in a row in conference play and this year’s team won’t have Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey, or Tavon Austin. West Virginia has long travel ahead with five conference road games and it will be tough to even remain bowl eligible with this slate for a team that has almost entirely new personnel on offense.
 
Conference Schedule Breakdown: Four home games and five road games
 
Toughest Back-to-Back: Given the long travel, back-to-back road games at Kansas State and then at TCU could be exceptionally difficult, especially given that the trip follows up homecoming and then will also precede a big home game with Texas. West Virginia will likely need to win at least one of those games to reach six wins and it will be a tough scheduling situation to get it done.
 
Biggest Non-Conference Game: West Virginia was a 25-point favorite against Maryland last season but this year the line should be much slimmer. The game is in Baltimore which should be an experience the players look forward to but it also falls in between huge conference games with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
 

  
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