The Big 12 Conference officially released the 2024 football schedule on Tuesday, January 30, giving everyone their first look at the conference with a new total of 16 members.
With the addition of four new teams, combined with the exit of Oklahoma and Texas, the new 16-team league will be made up of some of the most exciting and successful football programs in recent memory.
That means wildly entertaining conference races, weekly action that is must-see TV, and some of the best personalities that the sport has to offer.
But when it comes to the schedule itself, how did the conference do? What stood out about the new scheduling matrix, and which teams benefitted, or suffered, the most in the new-look Big 12’s first season?
Here are the top things I took away from the 2024 Big 12 football schedule.
Two Bye Weeks for Everyone in 2024
The 2024 schedule will feature two bye weeks for each team, which is more a result of the 2024 calendar than it is about the scheduling matrix. According to NCAA Bylaw 17.11.4, “an institution shall not play its first contest (game or scrimmage) with outside competition in football prior to the Thursday preceding Labor Day.” Labor Day falls on September 2 this year, meaning FBS teams will be permitted to begin their season on Thursday, August 29, with most teams kicking things off on Saturday, August 31. That gives everyone 14 weeks to play their 12-game schedule, thus giving every team two bye weeks. That’ll certainly come in handy for teams dealing with attrition during the conference slate.
However, the disparity in time between some bye weeks is a bit perplexing. Kansas has bye weeks in Week 7 and Week 10, meaning they’ll play just two games in a four-week span. Meanwhile, UCF has a bye in Week 4 and then plays seven games before its second BYE in Week 12. I know travel conflicts and the timing of home and away games play a factor there, but it still feels a bit weird.
No Big 12 “Home Stretches” for Several Teams
Having a favorable home- or road- stretch in conference play used to be a trend in the Big 12. Having consecutive games at home or on the road could define a team’s season, as it could either provide some much-needed momentum or derail the train, depending on the scenario. Last season, 13 of 14 teams had at least one instance of home games in consecutive weeks. In 2024, it’s a little bit different.
Iowa State, Colorado, and Kansas play true alternating schedules, with home games alternating with away games and/or bye weeks all season long. With nonconference games excluded, Utah, TCU, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Iowa State, Colorado, and Cincinnati never play back-to-back home games against Big 12 competition. It used to be that having three home games in a row wasn’t uncommon, but that’s not the case anymore. In fact, there’s just one team in the conference that played four home games in the span of five weeks, which brings me to my next point.
Somebody in the Big 12 Scheduling Department Likes Joey McGuire
Texas Tech will play four of its first five games in Lubbock, giving them the only stretch on the entire Big 12 where they’ll play three consecutive home games. After taking on Abilene in Week 1, Texas Tech will take on Washington State in Pullman. Then they’ll return home and face North Texas, Arizona State, and Cincinnati in Jones AT&T Stadium before having to leave again.
I am a big fan of Joey McGuire and what he is building in Lubbock, and it appears that someone in the scheduling department shares in that sentiment. If the Red Raiders can take advantage of that stretch and play their way to 5-0 before heading to Arizona on October 5, it could set up for a massive game against the Wildcats.
13 Potential “Midweek” Games
During Big 12 Media Days last summer, we heard the discussion that the conference was looking at playing more “midweek games” on Thursday and Friday nights in the future. There were also reports prior to Media Days that the Big 12 would be looking into a venture of that sort. Last year, the Big 12 played seven “midweek” games, with two games coming in the opening week of the season against Non-Power Five teams and another two on Black Friday.
In 2024, there’s a potential for up to 13 games to be played on days other than Saturday, with four in Week 1, two in Week 14, and another seven in the weeks in between. However, six of those other games still have Saturday listed as a possible date for the game, so there actually a potential for there to be less midweek games than we saw a season ago. That’s rather disappointing considering how much weight was seemingly put into the Big 12 occupying potential windows on Thursday and Friday nights. In all likelihood, there will be more Big 12 games in non-traditional time slots this year, but I was hopeful that it might be at least a weekly thing for the conference’s sake.
A Wasted Opportunity for Rivalry Week
They had a chance to make things right, and they blew it. It could’ve been perfect. We could’ve had a glorious Week 14 filled with heated rivalries and wild finishes between bitter enemies, but the Big 12 opted to spread the games out like we’ve seen in recent years. In the new-look Big 12, there are nine matchups that are considered rivalries if you ask opposing fanbases. I’ll cut the conference some slack with two teams in the league having multiple rivalries, so there’s a total of seven games that could’ve been featured on Rivalry Weekend. However, it doesn’t look like that conversation was ever even brought to the table.
Arizona and Arizona State will keep their annual battle for the Territorial Cup alive on the final week of the season, which is certainly a welcome addition to Big 12 lore. (Thank you, new guys. You get it.) However, the other rivalry game being played in Week 14 wasn’t even protected by the league when it had the chance! K-State vs. Iowa State, otherwise known as Farmageddon, has become one of the best games of the year in Big 12 country. The good news is, it’s being played in Week 14 next season, as it should be. The bad news is, we’re still on schedule to see the game, which has been played for 107 consecutive years and counting, get skipped in 2027. If Kansas vs. Kansas State is more important, then why is it being played in Week 9?
What about the other potential rivalry games?
Baylor vs. TCU? Week 10.
BYU vs. Utah, also known as the Holy War? Week 11.
Houston vs. Texas Tech? They don’t even play in 2024.
Rivalry games used to be woven deeply into the fabric that made college football unique, inspiring, and different from other sports. Now, it appears the almighty dollar has gotten this one too.
Don’t worry. When EA Sports College Football 25 finally drops, my first rule as College Football Commissioner will be to protect the right rivalries and have them dedicated to the final week of the regular season… as they should be.