After the release of the Big 12 football schedule for the 2021 season this week, I already can’t wait for football to get here. The conference should, once again, have an enormous amount of depth where almost any team can win on any given Saturday. So with that being said, I’m going to share with you the games that will help define the outcome of the 2021 season. These are not the “best” games of the season, but rather the match ups that will frame how next fall plays out in the conference. We will go in order of the date the game is being played.
TCU vs. Texas, October 2nd, 2021
Last year’s last-second loss by the Longhorns basically helped put Tom Herman on the hot right out of the games. And this early-season Big 12 showdown will also give us a very early indication as to which team might be able to be the “surprise” Big 12 contender. Texas fans may scoff at that notion, but sorry, for right now everyone not named Oklahoma or Iowa State who is in the Big 12 race at the end of the season will be a “surprise” team. And for TCU, Gary Patterson is finally trying to snap the three-season streak of mediocrity. He’s had Texas’ number since joining the Big 12 with a 7-2 record vs. UT the last nine seasons. If that continues, there will be lots of optimism in Fort Worth.
Oklahoma vs. Texas, October 9th, 2021
This has to be on the list. It will be the week after Texas plays TCU. If the Longhorns beat the Horned Frogs, the hype builds. If they lose, this is basically a must-win game to stay in Big 12 contention in early October. That’s probably not where Steve Sarkisian wants to find himself heading into his first Red River Rivalry game. But such is life as head coach of the Texas Longhorns. Also, with it being Sarkisian’s first time in this game, there is even more intrigue surrounding it as it will help determine the trajectory of the Big 12 standings for the rest of the season.
Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State, October 23rd, 2021
As good as the Cyclones have been under Matt Campbell, Mike Gundy has had Iowa State’s number, winning eight of the last nine match ups. What makes this an extra tough spot for Iowa State is it comes a week after a rivalry game against Kansas State in Farmageddon. If Iowa State is serious about winning a Big 12 Championship and maybe crashing the College Football Playoff, Matt Campbell is going to have to take down Mike Gundy’s Cowboys. Plus, Oklahoma State might be the darkhorse team in the Big 12 we don’t talk enough about, and this Saturday match up could re-define the conference race.
Iowa State vs. Texas, November 6th, 2021
This game was an absolute classic on Black Friday this past season. It’s the game that essentially determined who would play Oklahoma for the Big 12 Championship and may have ultimately been the nail in the coffin for Tom Herman’s job. Out of this game came the five-star culture vs. five-star players that took Ames, Iowa by storm. In this season, it could also be a determining factor as to who will play in the 2021 Big 12 Championship Game. Could Iowa State be undefeated at this point and still hoping for a CFB Playoff run? Will it be an elimination game for Texas in the Big 12 race? Both things are very possible and with the game coming in November, there will be huge implications.
Oklahoma vs. Iowa State, November 20th, 2021
The Sooners and Cyclones meet late in the season in a game that could end up being played again two weeks later in the Big 12 Championship on December 4th. They split their meetings last year with both games decided by one score. In fact, the last six meetings have been decided by 10 points or less. While this game may not be an elimination game for the Big 12 Championship, it very well could be an elimination game for the College Football Playoff race. It’s very possible we see ESPN’s College GameDay in Norman for this match up and the Big 12 will be the center of the college football universe on this Saturday.
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