Take Two: Best nonconference matchup?

June, 3, 2014
Jun 3
10:30
AM ET
It's Take Two Tuesday, when we give takes on a burning topic related to the Big 12.

Tuesday's topic: Which nonconference matchup featuring a Big 12 team will be the best nonconference game in 2014?

Take 1: Max Olson -- Texas vs. UCLA

I can’t pick Oklahoma State-Florida State or West Virginia-Alabama simply because I don’t think either underdog stands a chance in those games. But this third neutral-site game should be a doozy.

By the time it faces Texas on Sept. 13 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, UCLA will almost undoubtedly be a top-10 team with an elite quarterback in Brett Hundley, the nation’s top two-way playmaker in Myles Jack and legitimate playoff hopes.

That’s a real credit to Jim Mora, who in two years has done a fantastic job reviving this program and taking over the city of Los Angeles. Texas fans know this well by now -- after all, Mora was reportedly a front-runner for the Longhorns head coaching job this offseason.

What Texas doesn’t know is what to expect from Charlie Strong’s debut year, especially when meetings with likely top-10 teams UCLA, Baylor and Oklahoma all come in the first half of the season.

The Longhorns will have to survive a home game against BYU first, but regardless of the result of that game, a night game against UCLA on national TV will provide a huge platform for Strong to send a message about the defense he’s bringing to Texas. A win might do wonders for Texas’ momentum entering Big 12 play.

The opposite would be true, as well: If UCLA romps, it’s a convincing statement that the Bruins should be in the national title picture.

Take 2: Brandon Chatmon -- Auburn at Kansas State

The Big 12 has a bunch of terrific nonconference matchups -- Oklahoma State-Florida State, Alabama-West Virginia, Oklahoma-Tennessee, Iowa State-Iowa, Texas Tech-Arkansas -- the list goes on and on.

None of those matchups intrigue me as much as the Wildcats’ home battle with the national runner-up.

Gus Malzahn has made Auburn a fun team to watch and quarterback Nick Marshall should continue to build on an exceptional junior season, which saw him account for 3,044 total yards (passing and rushing).

I’m more interested, however, in seeing how K-State and Bill Snyder handle the speed and athletes that Auburn will bring to Manhattan, Kan. Receiver Tyler Lockett can make plays against anyone and Jake Waters finished the 2013 season playing as well as any quarterback in the Big 12. The Wildcats also feature an underrated defensive line that could develop into one of the Big 12’s best and deepest defensive fronts this fall.

Add a hostile Thursday night environment in a nonconference game that will be Auburn’s first road test of the season and things could get real, real interesting at Bill Snyder Stadium on Sept. 18.

Max Olson | email

Big 12 reporter

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