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Thursday, June 04, 2009

The 2009 Big 12 Non-Conference Preview

With football season seemingly right around the corner, now is the time to begin to look at the non-conference schedules all around the country. And of course, there's nowhere better to begin looking than the Big 12.

Since the inclusion of the BCS, the debate as to whether or not it is worth it to schedule tough non-conference opponents has only grown. On one hand, you'll have those who argue that playing a tough non-conference schedule will only benefit and ready your team for a tough conference slate. The fellas at Dawg Sports (Georgia) make an excellent correlation during the Mark Richt era of how a tougher schedule translated to a more successful season. On the other hand, there are those who argue that its all about the wins for the BCS. The Bleacher Report also uses an excellent example, only this time they use the 2007 Missouri Tigers and Kansas Jayhawks. The BCS selected a one-loss Kansas team over a two-loss Missouri team - although Missouri beat Kansas that same season. The Jayhawks played CMU, Southeastern Louisiana, Toledo, and FIU in their non-conference and avoided Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech in league. This a topic definitely worth diving into in the near the future...

Below you will find each team's schedule with an analysis and prediction of how each Big 12 team will fare in their non-conference schedules. Have at it.

Big 12 North

  • Colorado State 9/5
  • @ Toledo 9/11 (Friday)
  • Wyoming 9/19
  • *@ West Virginia 10/3
Dan Hawkins expects big things in 2009 from this team and he should - his job could be on the line. Don't let the Toledo game scare you as they won 3 games last season and should be worse in 2009. West Virginia will be a long, strange trip (that reference is for you Dan) for the young Buffs. Senior QB Jarrett Brown of WVU is a dual-threat but has only started two games in his career. I believe Colorado has a defense to contain Noel Devine and enough offensive firepower to win here. Colorado will start 4-0.

Iowa State
  • North Dakota State 9/5
  • *Iowa 9/12
  • @ Kent State 9/19
  • Army 9/26
Paul Rhoads knew what he was getting himself into here and it's not good. Chalk up NDSU and and Army. Iowa's Shonn Greene has moved on to the NFL, but the Hawkeyes have a proven QB in Ricky Stanzi returning along with a stout defense (including 3 potential All-Big 10 linebackers and 4 returning starters in the secondary) that was almost impossible to run against last season. Kent State (4-8) the following week could show everyone exactly how bad ISU will be. Iowa State will be 3-1 (gulp) heading into their 2009 Big 12 massacre.

  • Northern Colorado 9/5
  • @ UTEP 9/12
  • Duke 9/19
  • *Southern Miss 9/26
Mark Mangino and the Jayhawks will devour their first three opponents by whatever score they want it to be. Southern Miss should be one of the favorites to win Conference USA and if all goes well, Kansas could be the only team in their way to a possible undefeated season and BCS berth. However, Todd Reesing would have to have an extremely bad game that would allow S. Miss to stay close in this shoot-out. Kansas will be an easy 4-0 heading into Big 12 play.

Kansas State
  • UMass 9/5
  • @ Louisiana-Lafayette 9/12
  • *@ UCLA 9/19
  • Tennessee Tech 9/26
Bill Snyder will be fielding a better than expected Wildcat team in his first year back. Louisiana-Lafayette will be his first test - albeit not a big one - as they finished 6-2 in the Sun Belt last season and will have a good team again. Skippy Neuheisal and the Bruins will be a formidable opponent for the Wildcats that you can catch @ 9:15 CST on FSN on the 19th. UCLA returns 16 starters from last season and should have a stacked defense. Whether they will have an offense this season or not remains to be seen, but I think this game - second straight long trip - will be too tough for this team. Kansas State will be 3-1 heading into October.

  • *Illinois (n) 9/5
  • Bowling Green 9/12
  • Furman 9/19
  • *@Nevada 9/26
The Tigers return four players on a defense that finished 117th defending the pass last season - even with several players that you'll see in the NFL this season. Not promising, especially with rookie QB Blaine Gabbert stepping in with a crop of new players. Illinois' defense won't be quite as bad as Missouri's, but with QB Juice Williams and WR Arrelious Benn back, they'll have arguably the best offense in the Big 10. Nevada returns major dual-threat QB Colin Kaepernick who became the 5th Qb to throw for 2,000 and rush for 1,000. Missouri would have had their hands full last year in this game and this year obviously won't be any easier. Missouri will be 2-2 heading into Big 12 play.

  • Florida Atlantic 9/5
  • Arkansas State 9/12
  • *@ Virginia Tech 9/19
  • Louisiana-Lafayette 9/26

Bo Pelini will have two games to ready the Huskers for their showdown at Virginia Tech. The Hokies will already be battle tested with their 9/5 game vs. Alabama in the Georgia Dome. We'll see how the ACC favorites fare there, but it still won't take away the fact that they will be loaded with experience and the game is in Blacksburg. If only Nebraska could have travelled to Blacksburg last leason and hosted this season, then imagine how much better you'd feel? Nebraska will be 3-1 heading into Big 12 play.

Big 12 South


  • *@ Wake Forest 9/5
  • Connecticut 9/19
  • Northwestern State 9/26
  • Kent State 10/3
Art Briles was named the most underrated coach by the fine blog Heisman Pundit - check out his 2010 recruiting class so far. Wake Forest finished a disappointing 4-4 last season in the ACC and lost the majority of their defense. Connecticut was a solid 8-5 last year but will be without RB Donald Brown who accounted for the majority of the offense. Baylor QB Robert Griffith will not have the luxury of running behind Jason Smith, but nonetheless, he will be one of the more exciting players to watch this season. Baylor - yes Baylor - will be 4-0 heading into the Big 12.

  • BYU (n) 9/5
  • Idaho State 9/12
  • Tulsa 9/19
  • *@ Miami, FL 10/3

Bob Stoops will have the Sooners playing with a bit of a chip on the shoulder heading into this season as Texas has become the darling pick of the Big 12 and of college football this season - and he probably couldn't be happier about it. BYU returns 8 seniors on defense and QB Max Hall and RB Harvey Unga will have great seasons. Miami's season will go as QB Jacory Harris goes as we all know there is plenty of talent to go around. They'll be dangerous on any given Saturday and will have already played games @ Florida State and @ Virginia Tech (week before OU) - ouch! Oklahoma will be 4-0 heading into the Big 12.

Oklahoma State
  • *Georgia 9/5
  • Houston 9/12
  • Rice 9/19
  • Grambling State 9/26
Mike Gundy has the best triple-threat in the nation with QB Zac Robinson, RB Kendall Hunter, and WR Dez Bryant. As veteran Georgia QB Joe Cox goes, so will the Bulldog offense. With one of the best offensive lines in the country, 5 talented running backs, and WR AJ Green, they will have some of the pieces back in place. Make no mistake that Oklahoma State knows the importance of this game in Stillwater for their program's perception on a national scale. Houston returns Case Keenum and will be formidable in C-USA again but just not near as talented as OSU. Oklahoma State will be 4-0 heading into Big 12 play.

  • Louisiana-Monroe 9/5
  • @ Wyoming 9/12
  • UTEP 9/26
  • *Central Florida 11/7
Mack Brown will certainly have some coaching to do this season, and by that I mean mentally preparing the Longhorns for each and every game because they will be playing as the favorites all season long. Texas plays Texas Tech at home on September 19th which will no doubt be a nightmare for the Red Raiders after last year's game. Central Florida has improved each and every year under George O'Leary and will host what should be a fun game to watch late in the season. Texas will be 4-0 in non-conference play.

Texas A&M
  • New Mexico 9/5
  • Utah State 9/19
  • UAB 9/26
  • *Arkansas (n) 10/3
Mike Sherman could quite possibly be sitting on the hot seat in only his second season as head coach. Texas A&M was atrocious on both lines last season, but they do return most of their skill players on offense. The talent is there to improve on their 4-8 record but only if Sherman can get his players to buy into his system. Arkansas has a brutal schedule this season but Michigan transfer QB Ryan Mallett is said to be the best QB the Razorbacks have seen in quite some time. He will have plenty of talent around him and the offense will be good, but the defense ranked dead last in 2008 in the SEC. I still am not buying into Mike Sherman and the mentality of the Aggies. Texas A&M will be 3-1 heading into Big 12 play.

Texas Tech
  • North Dakota 9/5
  • Rice 9/12
  • *@ Houston 9/26
  • New Mexico 10/3

Mike Leach proves year in and year out that it doesn't matter who plays - its all about the system. QB Taylor Potts will have plenty of talented receivers to throw to and this offense shouldn't miss a beat. Mike Leach also proves year in and year out that he doesn't like a tough non-conference schedule. Houston will relish the chance to play a Big 12 Texas Tech team at home this season. QB Case Keenum, who many say could break the record books this season, was the C-USA player of the year and returns all of his weapons for what will be a scary team. Although I don't like to use the word defense here, Texas Tech should be able to outscore the Cougars simply because they have more talent to slow them down. Texas Tech will be 4-0 heading into Big 12 play.