Breaking down toughest Big 12 schedules, from Oklahoma to Baylor, for 2021 college football season

After an eventful offseason, the Big 12 season is ready to kick off.

The 2020 campaign saw plenty of shake-up with teams like Kansas State picking up a major upset win, Iowa State emerging as a legit contender and Oklahoma State showing it too can hang with the perennial powers like Oklahoma and Texas.

Of course, this is the only conference that features a full round-robin schedule, meaning each Big 12 team will face every other in-conference foe. That means strength of schedule will rely on nonconference foes, the timing of difficult games and whether games are played at home or on the road. 

Sporting News is breaking down each Big 12 team’s schedule and taking a look at who is going to have it the easiest, and who will have it the hardest.


Dave Aranda struggled in his first season at the helm of Baylor as the Bears went just 2-7. However, the team’s 2021 slate is shaping up well. The only ranked matchups — Iowa State, Texas and Oklahoma — are all at home. The first three games of the season are all winnable, but it’s the next three that could go a long way toward determining the shape of the season as the Bears played Iowa State to a narrow 38-31 loss last year and was close with West Virginia in a 27-21 defeat as well. The Oklahoma State game was not quite as close — 42-3. Winning any of those three games would go a long way toward changing the narrative of the program. BYU is a non-conference tester.

Verdict: Easy

Iowa State

Iowa State will have its No. 7 ranking tested right out of the gate with an in-state rivalry matchup against No. 18 Iowa. The only saving grace for that game is that it will be at Jack Trice Stadium instead of Kinnick Stadium. The Cyclones will be able to coast a bit toward the middle of the year, facing UNLV, Baylor and Kansas right after the Hawkeyes before its bye. They will also have the fortune of hosting Oklahoma State and No. 21 Texas in some tough matchups, though they’ll have to face reinging Big 12 champ Oklahoma on the road.

Verdict: Hard


Kansas already comes into the season with the disadvantage of being, well, Kansas. Now add in the fact that the Jayhawks are playing three of their four ranked opponents this year on the road with the lone exception being the No. 2 team in the country. Kansas lost by at least three touchdowns in all but two games last season, and this season doesn’t seem to offer much more promise. Its best chance for a win comes in Week 1 against South Dakota, but then it has to face No. 22 Coastal Carolina. 

Verdict: Moderate

Kansas State

Kansas State stunned the college football world when it beat Oklahoma last season, and ultimately jumped all the way up to No. 16 in the AP Poll before losing the final five games of the season. This season, the Wildcats will face some challenges right out of the gate with a neutral site game against Stanford, and a string of tough games against Nevada, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Kansas State will host its two highest-ranked foes in Oklahoma and Iowa State, but that early season stretch is a brutal one for any team.

Verdict: Hard


Oklahoma figures to be one of the most dominant teams in college football in 2021, so it was already unlikely many teams would match up well. But the start of its season is really going to be a cake walk. The Sooners will now host Tulane as the game was forced to be moved from New Orleans due to Hurricane Ida, and then face Western Carolina, a Nebraska program in turmoil and West Virginia. The first test of the year will come with a road matchup against Kansas State and a neutral site matchup against Texas. The ending of the campaign is the toughest stretch with a rematch of the Big 12 championship with Iowa State and a road clash against Oklahoma State. But of course, the biggest advantage for Oklahoma is who the Sooners don’t have to face: Oklahoma. Put all that together, and you have a schedule that sets the Sooners up well to run the table.

Verdict: Easy

Oklahoma State

The Cowboys were just on the outside looking in when the first AP rankings came out, but they’ll have a chance to get in pretty early in the season. The nonconference slate of games for Oklahoma State is a breeze, and facing Kansas State and Baylor at home before the bye should help the Cowboys begin the season 5-0. This schedule is heavily backloaded with the toughest matchups all near the end of the season. Right out of the bye, Oklahoma State hits the road for ranked matchups against Texas and Iowa State and it ends the year with TCU, Texas Tech and Oklahoma.

Verdict: Moderate


First-year coach Steve Sarkisian has his work cut out for him. The opener is a must-have, can’t-lose game even though Louisiana is a quality program coming off a 10-1 season. At Arkansas figures to be uncomfortable in an environment that will be hopping. Oklahoma is an obvious landmine in Dallas, and Iowa State is on the road. The Longhorns also have to go to TCU, which normally wouldn’t be a problem until you consider UT is just 2-7 against the Frogs since 2012 and hasn’t come within 10 points in its last three visits to Fort Worth.

Verdict: Hard


The season started to turn around for TCU late in the year. After starting the 2020 campaign 1-3, the Horned Frogs went 5-1 in the final six games of the season. This year, the schedule for TCU features two tough nonconference opponents early in the year with Cal on Sept. 11, a bye the following week and SMU on Sept. 25 before starting a challenging Big 12 stretch of games with Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma. The bye is very early in the season, which means TCU won’t have much of a break as it fights through the year before ending with a road clash against Iowa State.

Verdict: Hard

Texas Tech

The nonconference slate for Texas Tech is winnable with a Houston team that is down compared to recent years and a pair of light opponents at home in Stephen F. Austin and FIU. Then, it gets tough. Back-to-back road games against Texas and West Virginia and a home clash with an improving TCU team, then a five-week stretch that features Kansas State, a road game against Oklahoma, a home game against Iowa State and another home game with Oklahoma State. The bye comes at a good time though as it separates the Oklahoma and Iowa State games.

Verdict: Moderate

West Virginia

Kansas State might have the most challenging start to the season, but West Virginia isn’t far behind. A road game against an improved Maryland team and a home clash with Virginia Tech make for a pair of challenging nonconference opponents to begin the year. A road matchup against Oklahoma only adds to the difficulty the Mountaineers will face early. The return from the bye doesn’t make things any easier. A road matchup with TCU and four straight games against Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas stack up the remaining toughest teams all in a row.

Verdict: Hard


Before Oklahoma leaves for the SEC, they have another Big 12 championship to win — unless Iowa State can stop them. #football #college #sooners #big12

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