The 2021 Big 12 football schedule was released last week and it sure got fans buzzing about the upcoming season. Kansas State fans already knew who they are going to play and where, so the bye week and the order of opponents were the most important reveals. K-State has a tough road starting the season, so how the team performs in the first half of the schedule will likely end up defining whether it is a successful season or not. I’ll break down the schedule and give my way-too-early predictions for the upcoming football season.
September 4th, Stanford in Dallas, Texas
The first game of the season against Stanford was originally supposed to be a return home game for the Wildcats. Instead, it was moved to a neutral site in Dallas, Texas, and will be the college football Kickoff Classic. Stanford finished the 2020 season 4-2, winning their last four games. They will be starting a new quarterback, with senior Jack West and sophomore Tanner McKee competing for the job. K-State has an advantage in having an experienced quarterback in Skylar Thompson, but this game will not be an easy one to start the season. I’d feel a lot better about it if it was a true home game.
September 11th, Southern Illinois in Manhattan
Southern Illinois plays in the Missouri Valley Conference, which is playing a spring conference season starting this weekend. It should be interesting to see how this affects them, if at all. Regardless, K-State should take care of business against the Salukis.
September 18, Nevada in Manhattan
Nevada finished the 2020 season 7-2 overall and 6-2 in the Mountain West Conference. They beat Tulane in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to finish the season. This one won’t be easy for the Wildcats. Nevada is a good team.
September 25th, at Oklahoma State
For the 21st time in the 26 year history of the Big 12, the Wildcats start conference play on the road. I chuckled and shook my head when I first glanced at the schedule and saw K-State starting Big 12 play on the road yet again. The league never makes it easy on K-State, that’s for sure. This is a tough game to start the conference season.
October 2nd, Oklahoma in Manhattan
It doesn’t get any easier for the Wildcats in week two. K-State will go for three straight victories against the Oklahoma Sooners.
October 16, Iowa State in Manhattan
K-State gets a bye week on October 9th, so they have two weeks to prepare for Iowa State. What a gauntlet to start the conference season, playing three of the Big 12 favorites all in a row.
October 23, at Texas Tech
K-State finished a game ahead of Texas Tech in the 2020 league standings and the Wildcats beat the Red Raiders by 10 last season in Manhattan. A road game in Lubbock won’t be easy, but this is a winnable game.
October 30th, TCU in Manhattan
K-State beat TCU by seven points in Fort Worth last season in what was freshman quarterback Will Howard’s first collegiate start after a season-ending injury to Skylar Thompson. Recent games between these teams have been very close and competitive.
November 6th, at Kansas
K-State looks to win their 13th game in a row against the Jayhawks. There is no reason to think they won’t get it done.
November 13th, West Virginia in Manhattan
West Virginia beat K-State by 27 in Morgantown last season. It was the first of five straight Wildcat losses to end the season. The Wildcats have lost five straight against the Mountaineers.
November 20th, Baylor in Manhattan
Baylor won last season’s meeting in Waco on a last-second field goal. K-State looks to return the favor this coming season. They won’t have to worry about Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer anymore since he transferred to Utah.
November 27th at Texas
The Wildcats got hammered by Texas last season 69-31 in a game that was never close. Trying to get revenge in Austin won’t be easy as I’m not sure the Wildcats have done enough to close the talent gap between the two teams.
It’s going to be tough for Kansas State to improve on their four conference wins in 2020. I think their best-case scenario is winning all of their non-conference games and beating Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, TCU, Kansas, and Baylor to finish 5-4 in the Big 12 and 8-4 overall.
The worst-case scenario is losing the opening game to Stanford, maybe losing to Nevada, and losing the first three Big 12 games against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Iowa State. A 2-4 or 1-5 start would be disastrous for the Wildcats. In general, I feel good about the Southern Illinois, Baylor, Texas Tech, and Kansas games but feel all the rest of the games are toss-ups or likely losses.
If things go well for K-State, I can see them finishing as good as 8-4 and if things go bad I can see them finishing as bad as 4-8. Getting off to a strong start will be crucial for a successful 2021 season.
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