The best way to measure one conference up against another is to look at non-conference. The 2022 Big 12 non-conference schedules are all over the place. The conference is the epicenter of the most change over the next few years. For the final time (hopefully), the Big 12 will be home to just 10 teams.
In this series, we will continue to look at each team’s out-of-conference slate and rank them based on difficulty. There are some teams who have serious gauntlets. Other teams have a cakewalk.
The Easiest Big 12 Non-Conference Schedules
Oklahoma: vs UTEP, vs Kent State, @ Nebraska
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The Sooners are going to look very different in 2022. They’ve lost their coach, their quarterbacks, and what feels like half of their roster via The Portal. New coach Brent Venables will have his work cut out for him, but not out of conference. Last year, OU swept its three non-Big 12 foes. Although, they did sweat against Tulane and Nebraska. Watch out for UCF transfer, Dillon Gabriel, though. He can ball.
Oklahoma and UTEP will meet for just the fifth time in history. In those previous four meetings, Oklahoma has won by an average score of 51-7. Even with so much uncertainty, there is no reason the Sooners shouldn’t continue the trend. Meanwhile, Kent State was the MAC runner-up last year, sporting a (7-7) record. They’ll have to re-tool after losing Dustin Crum. But live in a competitive but not great division so even with a loss, the Golden Flashes will look to repeat.
Finally, round two of Oklahoma vs Nebraska, the old Big 12 rivalry. This will be just the second matchup of the two since 2010 (which, coincidentally, was the Big 12 Championship Game). The Sooners own a 46-38-3 lead in the series. The Cornhuskers aren’t quite what they used to be but they lost just about every one of their games last year by a score. This will be another good matchup but Oklahoma should come out on top.
Oklahoma State: vs Central Michigan, vs Arizona State, vs Arkansas Pine-Bluff (FCS)
The second easiest of the Big 12 non-conference schedules belongs to the Big 12 runner-up. Oklahoma State won all three non-conference games last year…barely. Their average margin of victory in those three games was 4.33. Spencer Sanders returns for his 10th year of eligibility to finally win a Big 12 title.
The most difficult game will be against Central Michigan, oddly enough. The Chippewas are picked to finish third in the MAC West but they are home to one of the nation’s most underrated running backs, Lew Nichols III. Nichols led the nation in rushes and rushing yards and led the MAC in rushing touchdowns and won the MAC Offensive Player of the Year.
Arizona State…What can be said? The program seems reluctant to embrace NIL, they lost way too many athletes to the Transfer Portal, and the Sun Devils faithful are anxious, to say the least.
Kansas State: vs South Dakota (FCS), vs Missouri, vs Tulane
Big 12 leaders in YAC since 2020 (RBs only)
🥇 Deuce Vaughn: 704
🥈 Breece Hall: 513
🥉 Bijan Robinson: 498 pic.twitter.com/JnKg9vZEeD
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Next up, home to another underrated running back, the Kansas State Wildcats and Deuce Vaughn look to improve upon their eight wins in 2021. Last year, KSU burst out of the gate by winning all three non-conference games.
South Dakota (FCS) is no slouch but Kansas State should be able to take care of business against the Jackrabbits. Mizzou and Kansas State re-kindle their old Big 12 rivalry this fall as well. KSU trails the all-time record with Mizzou, 32-60-5. The Tigers lose leading passer Connor Bazelak to the Portal. We got a look at what Brady Cook could do in the bowl game loss against Army and it wasn’t bad, overall.
Finally, Tulane won just two games last year. Even if Kansas State takes a step back (which I don’t foresee), this should be an easier victory for the Wildcats.
Baylor: vs Albany (FCS), @ BYU, vs Texas State
From here on out in the Big 12 non-conference schedules, each team will have at least one good or solid team to face. The 2021 Big 12 and Sugar Bowl Champs are the favorite to repeat and run it back.
The two FBS foes on Baylor’s non-conference slate are repeats from last year. Baylor knocked BYU from the rankings in November in a two-touchdown victory. This matchup will be just as exciting this year. As for Texas State, Baylor struggled. The Bears won just 29-20. They never trailed but they also never put away a lesser opponent.
Kansas: vs Tennessee Tech (FCS), @ Houston, vs Duke
Did Kansas beat Texas in football? pic.twitter.com/ngMGNxPoTg
— Andrew Joseph (@AndyJ0seph) November 14, 2021
The most difficult of the “easiest” Big 12 non-conference schedules just so happens to belong to the bottom-dweller, Kansas. The Jayhawks won just two games last year, one of which was out-of-conference. The other?
Kansas beat Texas. In football.
All jokes aside, Kansas has been a sorry program and will likely struggle again. Houston is looking to be a very good team out of the American and will likely beat Kansas as Coastal Carolina did last year. As for Duke? The Blue Devils are not one of the stronger ACC programs. Kansas is going to wish this was basketball because the Jayhawks own an 8-5 winning record over Duke on the court while they’ve lost two of the three on the football field.
This year, the Big 12 has 10 teams. In 2023, it’ll have 14 teams. In 2025, it’ll be back to 12. Confusing, right?
Regardless, the conference that seemed to be on its last leg heading to the 2011 realignments is looking like it’s going to join the Big Ten/SEC arms race. While the rumors are unsubstantiated, there have been speculations that the conference will poach a few Pac-12 programs. What will this conference look like once the dust settles?
Mid-American: Easiest; Hardest
Conference-USA: Easiest; Hardest
Mountain West: Easiest; Hardest
Sun Belt: Easiest; Hardest
American Athletic: Easiest; Hardest
Pac-12: Easiest; Hardest
Big 12: Easiest; Hardest
ACC: Easiest; Hardest
SEC: Easiest; Hardest
Big Ten: Easiest; Hardest