Big 12 schedule rankings
Cornhuskers lead way as conference toughens up
Posted: Thursday June 21, 2007 1:41PM; Updated: Thursday June 21, 2007 4:20PM
A few years ago Big 12 Commissioner Kevin Weiberg urged league schools to upgrade their nonconference football schedules, which were typically infested with mid-majors and dotted with Division I-AA teams.
It appears the schedule-makers heeded his request, at least to some degree.
Big 12 schools in 2007 will face 10 opponents from other BCS conferences, which sets up several marquee nonconference games. Those matchups include: Nebraska vs. Wake Forest, Nebraska vs. USC, Oklahoma vs. Miami, Texas A&M vs. Miami, Oklahoma State vs. Georgia and Kansas State vs. Auburn.
But it's not like the Big 12 teams completely granted Weiberg's plea. Eight Division I-AA schools are on Big 12 schedules.
Of course, Big 12 advocates will argue the number of powerful programs in the conference provides the strength in scheduling, and that's true to a point.
Behind the ranking: While some Big 12 teams prefer to schedule Division I-AA opponents, the Cornhuskers' non-league foes include USC, Wake Forest and Nevada -- all of which played in bowl games last season. They also play Ball State, which put a scare into Michigan late last year. Trips to Texas and Missouri highlight the conference itinerary.
Toughest game: Boasting a Heisman Trophy contender in quarterback John David Booty and a talented, experienced defense, USC is seemingly everyone's preseason No. 1. The Trojans' trip to Lincoln on Sept. 15 is their first legitimate chance to prove they're as good as anticipated.
Cakewalk: Iowa State's pass defense was among the weakest in the country in 2006, while Nebraska's passing attack should be solid again behind the arm of Sam Keller.
Trap game: Normally, an opponent coming off an 11-victory season can't set a trap. But Nebraska defeated Wake Forest 31-3 in 2005. The Huskers might not believe the Demon Deacons can duplicate the magic of a year ago. More likely, though, Nebraska has to be careful not to look ahead to USC the following week.
Changes from last season: Coach Bill Callahan must be wondering who he angered? Louisiana Tech, Troy and Division I-AA Nicholls State are off the slate. Nevada, Ball State and Wake Forest were added. USC is the only nonconference opponent that was also on last year's schedule.
2. Texas A&M
Behind the ranking: A trip to Miami is the only nonconference threat, but the real test will be road games against Texas Tech, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Missouri.
Toughest game: It would be easy to say Texas or Oklahoma, but any year the Aggies are forced to travel to Lubbock there is a chance for disaster. The last two trips there resulted in a 56-17 blowout in 2005 and a 59-28 blowout in '03. The Aggies can never seem to get a grip on Mike Leach's offense when the game is in Lubbock.
Cakewalk: A&M should get off to a 3-0 start. The Aggies open with Division I-AA Montana State then face Fresno State and Louisiana-Lafayette -- all at Kyle Field. That leads up to a trip to Miami. Well, the stroll was nice while it lasted.
Trap game: Between trips to Nebraska and Oklahoma is a home game against Kansas on Oct. 27. The Aggies needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns to rally past the Jayhawks in Lawrence last year. Of course, playing at home will boost the Aggies. Right? Not really. The Aggies are 9-11 at home in Big 12 games over the last five seasons and were 1-3 at Kyle Field last year.
Changes from last season: Army was the strongest nonconference opponent A&M faced in 2006. This year it's Miami. Bit of a difference.
3. Iowa State
Behind the ranking: State rival Iowa is always there and is by far the best of the non-Big 12 competition. It's the conference schedule where Iowa State really gets hosed. The Cyclones have to play Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech from the South Division. By the way, the Cyclones also go to Nebraska and Missouri.
Toughest game: Iowa State hasn't beaten Oklahoma since 1990, and in the last four games the Sooners have averaged 41.7 points to the Cyclones' 7.2. Quarterback is a big question facing OU this season, but the Sooners will likely have that figured out by the time they travel to Ames on Oct. 20.
Cakewalk: Calling Northern Iowa a cakewalk might seem inaccurate considering Iowa State only won 28-27 last season. But that's still a Division I-AA team facing a BCS conference team on the road. Here's betting Iowa State wins more comfortably this year.
Trap game: Toledo came close to trapping the Cyclones in Ames before falling in triple overtime in last year's season-opener. This time the Cyclones play the Rockets in the fourth game of the season -- on the road. That matchup comes a week after playing Iowa and a week before facing Nebraska.
Changes from last season: Kent State replaces UNLV on the nonconference schedule. Texas and Oklahoma come to Ames, but the Cyclones go on the road for three of their five games against North Division opponents.
Behind the ranking: Starting off with state rival Colorado State, Arizona State and Florida State could put the Buffaloes in a 0-3 hole. They get Oklahoma and Texas Tech from the South Division. Nebraska and Missouri both come to Boulder, so that's a plus.
Toughest game: Arizona State might be due for a breakout year with 10 returning starters on offense. The trip to Tempe doesn't figure to be easy for the Buffaloes, who were beaten by the Sun Devils 21-3 last year. The Sept. 8 date is so early that Colorado's new starters may still be settling in.
Cakewalk: You've got to favor Colorado at home against Miami (Ohio), which managed just two victories in 2006
Trap game: In spite of their struggles in '06, the Buffaloes still defeated Iowa State. This year they go to Ames a week after hosting Missouri and two weeks before taking on rival Nebraska.
Changes from last season: Subtracting Division II Montana State and Georgia and adding Miami (Ohio) and Florida State largely amounts to a push. This year the Buffaloes make two trips against South Division teams instead of one, and they get the top North Division teams -- Nebraska and Missouri -- in Boulder.
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