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Three Most Difficult Big 12 Football Schedules in 2024

Oct 7, 2023; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Colorado Buffaloes head coach Deion Sanders walks the sidelines as his team takes on the ASU Sun Devils at Mountain America Stadium.

The 2024 Big 12 Schedule was finally unveiled on Tuesday morning, giving Big 12 fans the chance to start planning their routes for the football season next fall.

Not all routes are created equally though, as the path to Arlington is certainly more treacherous for some than it is for others.

Today, we’ll take a look at the three most difficult 2024 football schedules in the Big 12, and tell you what makes each of them so daunting.

 

Here’s how I did it.

Earlier this month, I produced a Way-Too-Early Power Ranking for the Big 12 in 2024.

After some adjustments for coaching changes, transfer portal moves, etc., I ranked each team’s schedule based on the average ranking of their Big 12 opponents, the average power ranking of the teams they’ll face on the road, and then made final tune-ups (nonconference schedule, home field, Vegas odds, etc.)

The metrics used will be based on rank within the Big 12. For example, if a team’s average Big 12 opponent (based on my power ranking) is 7.5, that means the average opponent they’ll face is right around seventh or eighth in our power ranking. Then, where that average ranks among the other teams will be found in parentheses. The lower the number, the more difficult the schedule.

Make sense? Alright, here we go.

 

1. Arizona State Sun Devils

Average Big 12 Opponent: 6.33 (1st)
Average Road Opponent: 6.60 (4th)
Nonconference S.O.S: 6th

Arizona State is coming off a disappointing final season in the Pac-12, going 3-9 (2-7 Pac-12) in Kenny Dillingham’s first season. Unfortunately for the second-year coach, things don’t get any easier in 2024.

For starters, ask any Texas Tech fan how fun that game against Wyoming will be. If they get through that, Jeff Lebby’s high-flying offense comes to town the following week before the Sun Devils head to San Marcos to take on Texas State. Remember how that went for Baylor last season?

Then, when Big 12 play starts, ASU play at Texas Tech before a bye week, followed by back-to-back home games agaisnt Kansas and Utah (potentially on a short week) in October. The month of November is what makes this such a difficult schedule, as Arizona State has road games against three of the top four teams in our power rankings: at Oklahoma State (11/9), at Kansas State (11/16), and at Arizona (11/30). Ouch.

 

2. Colorado Buffaloes

Average Big 12 Opponent: 6.78 (2nd)
Average Road Opponent: 5.75 (2nd)
Nonconference S.O.S: 4th

Deion Sanders didn’t find the kind of success that he and Colorado were hoping for in 2023, falling to 4-8 (1-8 Pac-12) after beginning the season at 3-0. As Coach Prime and the Buffs transition over to the Big 12, there will still be a mountain to climb.

Colorado opens up the season against FCS powerhouse North Dakota State (Can you say trap game?) before heading to Lincoln (Neb.) to take on the Cornhuskers. Then, after going to Fort Collins to take on in-state rival Colorado State, the Buffs will host Baylor to open up Big 12 play. Not so bad right? Well…

A trip to UCF in Week 4 takes CU into a BYE week, followed by a game against Kansas State, a trip to Arizona, and then a visit from Cincinnati. Then, after the second BYE, Colorado enters the defining stretch of the season: at Texas Tech (11/9), vs. Utah (11/16), at Kansas* (11/23), and vs. Oklahoma State (Fri, 11/30).

There’s not much room for error if the Buffaloes want to get to a bowl game in 2024, and those final four games are going to be one hell of a litmus test for Sanders’ program in Year 2.

3. West Virginia Mountaineers

Average Big 12 Opponent: 7.44 (4th)
Average Road Opponent: 7.25 (7th)
Nonconference S.O.S: 1st

Last season, West Virginia was presented with what we believed was one of the most difficult schedules in the league, but they managed to go 9-4 and keep Neal Brown in Morgantown. They’ll need that same sort of energy once again in 2024, as the schedule is once again a tall task.

West Virginia is one of two teams in the Big 12 that will face two Power Four opponents in the nonconference slate, opening the year at home vs. Penn State and then going to Pitt in Week 3. After playing two rivalry games in the first three weeks, the Mountaineers will then host Kansas before their first BYE, and they’ll certainly need it.

The month of October provides the meat of the schedule for West Virginia: at Oklahoma State (10/5), vs. Iowa State (10/12), vs. Kansas State (10/19), and at Arizona (10/26). Their second BYE comes in Week 10 before they close out the season at Cincinnati, vs. Baylor, vs. UCF, and at Texas Tech.

If WVU is 6-2, or maybe even 7-1, heading into November, there’s a very good chance they’ll be one of two teams in the Big 12 title game. That’ll be much easier said than done though.

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