The Big 12 released its 2017 football schedule on Tuesday. With the Big 12 bringing back the conference championship game next season, there are plenty of changes to look forward to (or not).
1. There’s only one bye week per team since the Big 12 added a championship game this season. This should be factored in when you consider the SEC conveniently schedules a mid-November FCS opponent which essentially acts as a bye week. A strong argument can now be made that the Big 12 has the most difficult scheduling system of all the Power 5 conferences: 9 conference games, a round-robin schedule, and a championship game. That should be worth something to the committee. But, who the hell knows with this group because the rules seem to change on a yearly basis.
2. Red River Rivalry. Obviously, the game stays the second weekend in October to coincide with the State Fair of Texas. But, I believe Tom Herman is going to bring an intensity and an edge to this rivalry that it hasn’t seen in decades since Darrell Royal and Barry Switzer. Can we get Herman to accuse Stoops of spying on his practice, circa 1976? Herman is not going to cow-tow to Stoops and it will likely piss off ole Bobby, who will not be used to this kind of relationship with the head coach at Texas. Mack Brown and Bob Stoops were rivals, but Brown was too much of a schmoozer to really create much animosity in the rivalry. Then, Charlie Strong and Bob Stoops had so many connections in their respective coaching trees, the two were pretty much friends. But, with a new sheriff in town in Austin, this rivalry could get back to where it should be, as one of the best in the game, right behind Michigan and Ohio State.
3. So, the Big 12 moved around rivalry weekend to try and avoid two teams playing each other in back-to-back weeks the final two weeks of the season. OK, but why the hell is Oklahoma playing West Virginia in the last regular-season game of the year? At this point, that could very well be a rematch the following week. WVU returns a ton and adds Will Grier at quarterback, while Oklahoma brings back Baker Mayfield and lots of young players with a ton of talent that were injured or green this past season. There were so many different ways to schedule it so these two teams wouldn’t meet on November 25th, but apparently that was too complicated for the Big 12 schedule makers.
4. Speaking of WVU, they are playing in the only Week 1 game worth watching in the Big 12. The Mountaineers play former Big East rival Virginia Tech in DC at FedEx Field. The two teams haven’t played since 2005 and there will be high expectations for both programs after WVU’s 10-win season and Virginia Tech coming off a trip to the ACC Championship Game. I might need to find my way down to DC for that game.
5. The Big 12 may very well be highlighted in primetime as the ESPN/ABC Game of the Week in back-to-back weeks early in the season. In Week 2, Oklahoma plays at Ohio State. Expect both those teams to be ranked in the top-10 in the preseason. Then, in Week 3, Texas takes on USC. Tom Herman’s first “big game” as head coach of the Longhorns. You know ESPN/ABC will be dying to start the “Tom Herman is the greatest coach this side of Urban Meyer” discussions as soon as possible. Remember how insane ESPN went after UT beat Notre Dame. TEXAS is BACK BABY! Whoops…
6. With Kliff Kingsbury entering a must-win season, or at least “must reach a bowl game” season, it certainly isn’t an easy start. The Red Raiders non-conference includes a great FCS program in Eastern Washington (who beat Washington State this season), a solid Power 5 program in Arizona State, and then Houston on the road. The Cougars may not be as good as they were this past season under Herman, but Major Applewhite still has a ton of talent to work with, including star defensive tackle Ed Oliver. Could Kingsbury be 1-2, or dare I say, 0-3, heading into Big 12 play? They won’t go 0-3, but damn, 1-2 doesn’t seem crazy, does it? Let’s hope they can get Patrick Mahomes back in the fold.
7. Kansas State and Texas Tech got the shaft on the bye weeks. Both are off Week 2 (September 9th) and then have to play 11 straight games to close out the regular season. Brutal.
8. I know the non-conference schedules were set prior to this week, but a sneaky good match up will be Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh. I realize Pitt took a big blow with the loss of offensive coordinator Matt Canada to LSU, but the Panthers appear to have turned around their program for the best and will be a tough Power 5 opponent for the Cowboys.
9. New Baylor coach Matt Rhule gets a rude awakening to the Big 12 conference. He starts conference play with Oklahoma, K-State, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Texas. The Bears schedule then eases up once the calendar flips to November. But, Rhule is quickly going to find out that he’s no longer in the AAC.
Oh, and side note: Baylor plays a POWER 5 school in the non-conference! Although, it is Duke. Still… baby steps, baby steps.
10. Iowa State is the only Big 12 school to end its season with two road games (Baylor, Kansas State). So, the last home game for the Cyclones will be November 11th vs. Oklahoma State. Conversely, Oklahoma State wraps up the year with a pair of home games (Kansas State, Kansas). Every other school in the conference ends with one road/home or one home/road game.
11. If Oklahoma State finds itself pushing for a Big 12 Championship Game berth late in the season, the schedule makers gave them a gift with the Kansas Jayhawks in the final week of the season. While Oklahoma and WVU will have to play each other, the Cowboys will be over in Stillwater like “we’re just resting our starters for next week, losers! Let us know who wins and we’ll see you next week!”
12. So, who will I see in Dallas at Jerry’s World on December 3rd? I can’t wait to get to the Big 12 Championship Game. Some may hate it, I think it’s great for the conference to bring back the biggest game of the year and create a communal atmosphere for the conference, where Championship Weekend becomes a celebration for both teams and fan bases involved. It’s good for the conference and it’s good for college football.
**If you want a chance to win FREE Big 12 gear from your favorite team, be sure to sign up for our weekly newsletter! **