Ranking 2014 Big 12 nonconference skeds

February, 13, 2014
Feb 13
9:00
AM ET
The Big 12 nonconference schedule in 2014 is full of intriguing matchups. Collectively, the league will face both teams that played in the national championship game, in addition to the team that won the previous two national titles.

Then again, not every nonconference schedule is all that intriguing. So who has the toughest nonconference slate? And who has the softest? We rank them below, beginning with the most difficult (*denotes FCS opponents):

SportsNation

Which of these Big 12 teams has the toughest non-conference schedule in 2014?

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    5%
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    9%
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    10%
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    24%
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    52%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,877)

1. WEST VIRGINIA: Alabama (11-2) in Atlanta, *Towson (10-3), at Maryland (7-6)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .718
  • Toughest opponent: Alabama
  • Weakest opponent: Towson
  • 2013 bowl teams: 2
  • Quick take: This is a make-or-break season for coach Dana Holgorsen, but he will get no breaks from a brutal nonconference schedule. Alabama is still loaded and will be looking to take its bowl loss to Oklahoma out on the Mountaineers. Maryland beat West Virginia 37-0 at a neutral site last season, and with 17 starters returning, should be better this season.
2. TEXAS: North Texas (9-4), BYU (8-5), UCLA (10-3) in Arlington, Texas
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .692
  • Toughest opponent: UCLA
  • Weakest opponent: North Texas
  • 2013 bowl teams: 3
  • Quick take: It won’t take long to find out if new coach Charlie Strong will have an immediate impact on the Longhorns. UCLA could open in the preseason top 10, and BYU figures to be solid again. Texas is the only Big 12 team to play three teams coming off bowl games, including North Texas, which has been a tough out under coach Dan McCarney.
3. OKLAHOMA STATE: Florida State (14-0) in Arlington, Texas, *Missouri State (5-7), UTSA (7-5)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .684
  • Toughest opponent: Florida State
  • Weakest opponent: Missouri State
  • 2013 bowl teams: 1
  • Quick take: The Cowboys might have two cakewalks. But they also have the toughest nonconference game in the league in that neutral-site clash with the defending national champs. Only Utah State returns fewer starters in the FBS than Oklahoma State, and those young players could get a rude welcome to the starting lineup from the Seminoles.
4. KANSAS STATE: *Stephen F. Austin (3-9), Auburn (12-2), UTEP (2-10)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .447
  • Toughest opponent: Auburn
  • Weakest opponent: Stephen F. Austin
  • 2013 bowl teams: 1
  • Quick take: The Wildcats have one of their biggest nonconference home games ever against Auburn, which travels to Manhattan for a Thursday clash Sept. 18. The rest of the schedule is trash, but nobody will care if K-State can topple the SEC defending champions.
5. IOWA STATE: *North Dakota State (15-0), at Iowa (8-5), Toledo (7-5)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .750
  • Toughest opponent: Iowa
  • Weakest opponent: North Dakota State
  • 2013 bowl teams: 1
  • Quick take: North Dakota State is technically an FCS school, but as Kansas State found out last season, the Bison don’t play like one. North Dakota State has won three straight FCS titles. Iowa should be a preseason Top 25 team and coasted past the Cyclones in Ames last season. A 2-1 mark here is a must if Iowa State wants to get back to bowl eligibility.
6. OKLAHOMA: Louisiana Tech (4-8), at Tulsa (3-9), Tennessee (5-7)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .333
  • Toughest opponent: Tennessee
  • Weakest opponent: Louisiana Tech
  • 2013 bowl teams: 0
  • Quick take: With Tennessee still finding its way and returning only 10 starters, the Sooners ought to run through this slate with little resistance. The game at Tulsa will basically be an Oklahoma home game. To Oklahoma’s credit, the Sooners join Texas as the only two Big 12 teams without an FCS opponent on the schedule.
7. KANSAS: *Southeast Missouri State (3-9), at Duke (10-4), Central Michigan (6-6)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .500
  • Toughest opponent: Duke
  • Weakest opponent: Southeast Missouri State
  • 2013 bowl teams: 1
  • Quick take: A year ago, this wouldn't have looked like much of a nonconference schedule. Duke, however, turned the corner last season and made the ACC championship game. Southeast Missouri State should be a gimme, but Central Michigan probably won't. The Chippewas lose only two starters from last season.
8. TCU: *Samford (8-5), Minnesota (8-5), at SMU (5-7)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .553
  • Toughest opponent: Minnesota
  • Weakest opponent: Samford
  • 2013 bowl teams: 1
  • Quick take: The Horned Frogs basically have the same schedule as last season, except Minnesota replaces LSU. TCU never really recovered from that opening loss to the Tigers, but could easily jump to 3-0 against this slate.
9. TEXAS TECH: *Central Arkansas (7-5), at UTEP (2-10), Arkansas (3-9)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .333
  • Toughest opponent: Arkansas
  • Weakest opponent: Central Arkansas
  • 2013 bowl teams: 0
  • Quick take: With 15 starters back, Arkansas should be improved in Bret Bielema’s second season, but Texas Tech ought to be a comfortable favorite in Lubbock. The rest of the schedule should give Kliff Kingsbury a chance to get a look at some younger players.
10. BAYLOR: SMU (5-7), *Northwestern State (6-6), at Buffalo (8-5)
  • Opponents’ 2013 combined winning percentage: .513
  • Toughest opponent: Buffalo
  • Weakest opponent: SMU
  • 2013 bowl teams: 1
  • Quick take: Buffalo, the only decent team on this schedule from last season, returns only 10 starters and loses All-American linebacker Khalil Mack. SMU was mediocre in 2013, and there’s no reason to believe the Ponies will be any better. Baylor is the only Big 12 team without an opponent from one of the five major BCS conferences on its nonconference schedule. A weak nonconference slate could create a problem if Baylor emerges into contention for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

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