Sugar Bowl

Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy is slated to take the podium at 12:25 p.m. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World

Oklahoma State, whose 2015 nonconference football schedule consisted of Central Michigan, Central Arkansas and UTSA, announced a home-and-home series with Arizona State recently.

Kansas State, who played South Dakota, UTSA and Louisiana Tech last year, has scheduled four Pac-12 home-and-homes between 2016 and 2029.

Baylor, ridiculed for scheduling SMU, Lamar and Rice last season, still has Liberty, Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word on future dockets. But at least the Bears recently announced a home-and-home with BYU to go with one already scheduled with Utah.

“That’s something we really preached at the conference meeting when all of us were together, the ADs and the conference presidents — get these out-of-conference schedules tougher,” David Boren, University of Oklahoma president and Big 12 board of directors chair, said recently. “I’ve been jaw-boning that with other conference schools... It’s getting substantially better.”

Fans have the College Football Playoff to thank for that. The first guideline listed for the CFP selection committee to follow is conference championships won. The second is strength of schedule.

Explaining the Big 12’s decision to reinstall a league football championship, Boren said: “We knew we needed the 13th data point. That statistically shows it helps your chances of getting into the playoff. But the other thing that’s very important is strength of out-of-conference schedule.”

Fans, too, have themselves to thank for better September football matchups. It is becoming more convenient to enjoy fall Saturdays from the comforts of home at the same time it is becoming less cost-effective to shell out hundreds of dollars to watch Power 5 teams beat FCS cupcakes by 60 points.

It is a problem for Power 5 athletic directors who need football revenue to support the rest of their department while helping fund facility upgrades/stadium renovations. These ADs must give their fan base a reason to keep buying tickets. Scheduling Arizona State, Stanford and BYU instead of Central Arkansas, South Dakota and Incarnate Word is an attractive place to start.

But let’s see how the Big 12 is attacking the issue in general. Here’s a ranking of future nonconference football schedules, from most courageous and fan-friendly to least:

1 – Texas

2016: Notre Dame, UTEP, at Cal

2017: Maryland, Central Florida, at USC

2018: at Maryland, USC

2019: at Rice, Louisisana Tech, LSU

2020: USF, at LSU

2021: at Arkansas

2022: at South Florida, Ohio State

2023: Rice, at Ohio State

2024: at Michigan, USF

2027: Michigan

Five college football giants in Notre Dame, USC, LSU, Ohio State and Michigan. A delicious matchup against an old Southwest Conference rival. Attractive second-tier games against Cal and Maryland. An absence of laugh-track games.

Texas’ football scheduling almost makes up for the league-wide grief it catches for the Longhorn Network.

1A – Oklahoma

2016: at Houston, ULM, Ohio State

2017: UTEP, at Ohio State, Tulane

2018: Fla. Atlantic, UCLA, Army

2019: Houston, at UCLA

2020: at Army

2021: at Tulane, Nebraska

2022: UTEP, at Nebraska

2024: Tulane

2025: Michigan

2026: at Michigan

TBD: LSU home and home

Blue bloods in Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan and LSU. Desirable road trips to UCLA (Hollywood!), Army (West Point!) and Houston (driveable!).

Joe Castiglione and Bob Stoops have this down pat.

3 – TCU

2016: South Dakota State, Arkansas, at SMU

2017: SMU, at Arkansas

2018: Ohio State, at SMU

2019: at Ohio State

2020: at Cal

2021: Cal

2022: at Colorado

2023: Colorado

2024: at Stanford

2027: Stanford

We have reached the point where Big 12 playoff contenders should be scheduling at least one must-see game a season.

TCU has become that contender, and is scheduling accordingly with the possible exception of slumbering Colorado.

4 – West Virginia

2016: Missouri, Youngstown State, BYU (Landover, Md.)

2017: Va. Tech (Landover, Md.), East Carolina, Delaware State

2018: Tennessee (Charlotte), at North Carolina State

2019: at Missouri, NC State

2020: at East Carolina, Maryland

2021: at Maryland, Virginia Tech

2022: at Pitt, at Va. Tech

2023: at Penn State, Pitt

2024: Penn State, at Pitt

2025: Pitt

Among the reasons Oliver Luck was so highly regarded as West Virginia AD before taking a position with the NCAA — that football schedule.

5 – Kansas State

2016: at Stanford, Missouri State, Fla. Atlantic

2017: Central Arkansas, at Vanderbilt, Charlotte

2018: South Dakota, Mississippi State, UTSA

2019: Presbyterian, Bowling Green, at Miss. State

2020: Buffalo, Vanderbilt

2021: Stanford

2022: Abilene Christian

2024: Arizona

2025: at Arizona

2026: Washington State

2027: at Colorado

2028: Colorado

2029: at Washington State

Bill Snyder has come a long way since his first term at K-State, when you had to drag him kicking and screaming into a September game against Southern Illinois.

6 – Texas Tech

2016: Stephen F. Austin, at Arizona State, Louisiana Tech

2017: Eastern Washington, Arizona State, at Houston

2018: Missouri State, Houston

2019: Montana State, UTEP, at Arizona

2020: at UTEP, Wyoming, Arizona

2021: at Houston

2022: Houston, at North Carolina State

2023: at Wyoming

2027: NC State

It would appear the Big 12 and Pac-12 have formed something of an unofficial scheduling alliance. There is nothing wrong with that, especially for Big 12 fan bases foreign to Salt Lake City, Seattle, Palo Alto/Berkeley, Eugene and Tempe.

7 – Oklahoma State

2016: Southeast Lousiana, Pitt, Central Michigan

2017: Tulsa, at South Alabama, at Pitt

2018: Central Mich., South Alabama, Boise State

2019: at Oregon State, at Tulsa

2020: Oregon State, Tulsa, South Alabama

2021: Rice, Tulsa, at Boise State

2022: Arizona State

2023: at Arizona State

Mike Holder has been pushing for a tougher out-of-conference schedule. Mike Gundy has never been wild about the idea, but is on board as long as the Cowboys aren’t playing juggernauts in September.

The appearance of Pitt, Boise State, Oregon State and Arizona State shows that both men are getting their way.

8 – Baylor

2016: Northwestern State, SMU, at Rice

2017: Liberty, UTSA, at Duke

2018: Abilene Christian, at UTSA, Duke

2019: UTSA, at Rice

2020: Ole Miss (Houston), La. Tech, Incarnate Word

2021: at La. Tech, Texas State, BYU

2022: La. Tech, at Texas State, at BYU

2023: Texas State, Utah

2024: at Utah

Baylor added BYU last March, one month after ESPN reported in 2015 a Bears-Ole Miss 2020 season opener, and Utah. So the Bears are on the right track.

It’s going to take more than that, though, to make up for dreadful September games between 2012 and 2019.

9 – Iowa State

2016: Northern Iowa, at Iowa, San Jose State

2017: Northern Iowa, Iowa, at Akron

2018: South Dakota State, at Iowa, Akron

2019: Northern Iowa, Iowa, ULM

2020: South Dakota, at Iowa, UNLV

2021: Northern Iowa, Iowa, at UNLV

2022: Southeast Missouri, at Iowa, Ohio U.

2023: Northern Iowa, Iowa, at Ohio

2024: Arkansas State

2025: at Arkansas State

It has been said Iowa State is a football mid-major playing in a Power 5 conference. That schedule, Iowa aside, is a big reason why.

10 – Kansas

2016: Rhode Island, Ohio U., at Memphis

2017: Southeast Missouri, Central Michigan, at Ohio

2018: at Central Mich., Rutgers

2019: at Houston

2020: Houston

2023: Illinois

2024: at Illinois

An out-of-conference schedule is hardly worth discussing given the current state of KU football.



Sports Columnist

Proud father of Gretchen and Holden. Devoted husband to Christy, who has been my best friend since biology class at Booker T. Washington. I covered the Oklahoma Sooners for 15 years. That was both challenging and rewarding. Now I get to write columns.