The Ultimate Schedule: Big 12 North

August 15th, 2009

Big 12 Schedule “Rules”:

-         Four non-conference games

-         Eight conference games (three against the South Division)

-         Big 12 Championship Game


Week 1: Missouri vs. Illinois (September 5th in St. Louis)


These two rivals will once again get together in St. Louis, but there’s a little more urgency for both fan bases since next year’s meeting will signal the end of the series for the time being. The Tigers have won the last two, but some of the key offensive figures in those wins are now out of eligibility. Blaine Gabbert will make his first start as a Tiger against an Illinois team looking to redeem itself following a disappointing 5-7 2008. Both teams will step onto the field with something to prove; it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.


Other Game Considered: Colorado State @ Colorado (9/6)


Week 2: Iowa @ Iowa State (September 12th)


Despite how poorly the Cyclones have played the last two seasons the battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy is usually a spirited one. But despite a dismal 5-19 overall record the departed Gene Chizik did leave with a split of two games with the Hawkeyes. New head coach Paul Rhoads takes over the rebuilding project with ISU back in the familiar role of underdog. In this series the Cyclones have won seven of the last eleven with the most recent triumph coming in Ames on a last-second field goal in 2007. Not much is expected of Austen Arnaud and company while Iowa is expected by many to finish in the top half of the Big Ten. Another upset? In rivalry games you never know.


Other Game Considered: Kansas @ UTEP (9/12)


Week 3: Nebraska @ Virginia Tech (September 19th)


Last season’s meeting was a barnburner in Lincoln, with the eventual ACC champions leaving with a 35-30 victory. Unfortunately for Nebraska the defeat was the first of three straight losses (Missouri and Texas Tech), but in closing their season 6-1 the Cornhuskers have shown that they’re close to turning the corner under Bo Pelini. A win in Blacksburg, one of the nation’s toughest places to play as a visitor, would be a sure sign that Nebraska is well on their way “back”.


Zac Lee will be facing his first significant road test, but I-backs Roy Helu Jr. and Quentin Castille have the talent needed to take some of the pressure off of the signal-caller. Defense and special teams will also be important if the Huskers are to prevail; if Tech QB Tyrod Taylor is allowed to run roughshod it will be a long day for Nebraska. All in all this is a very good test for a team hoping to win the North Division.


Other Games Considered: Kansas State @ UCLA (9/19), Duke @ Kansas (9/19)


Week 4: Bye Week (September 26th)


Southern Miss visiting Kansas and Missouri visiting Nevada would be good games to take in, but will either be as tough a test as Colorado visiting West Virginia on October 1st? No other matchups on the slate for this weekend have as much appeal, so it’s a good time to take a week to recharge the batteries.


Week 5: Colorado @ West Virginia (October 1st)


The 17-14 overtime win for the Buffs last September was thought by some to be a sign that head coach Dan Hawkins had Colorado headed back towards the top of the Big 12 North. But CU was plagued by inconsistent play in just about every phase of the game and was unable to mount a serious challenge within the division. Now they hit the road to take on a team that’s undergoing a bit of a transformation.


Noel Devine is still in Morgantown but Pat White isn’t, leaving the quarterbacking duties to Jarrett Brown. Brown is 2-0 as a starter and saw time in other games due to the occasional injuries suffered by White. In front of a wild crowd the Buffaloes will need a big game from their triumvirate of running backs (Demetrius Sumler, Darrell Scott and Rodney Stewart) along with some big plays from a receiving corps that currently lacks a proven big play threat.


Other Game Considered: Iowa State vs. Kansas State (10/3 in Kansas City)


Week 6: Nebraska @ Missouri (October 8th)


Despite the fact that the North Division race looks to be wide-open among the top three, Nebraska’s trip to Columbia could be an eliminator for the loser. The Tigers embarrassed the Huskers in Lincoln last season, picking up their first win at Nebraska since 1978. But Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman are all gone, as is then-offensive coordinator Dave Christiansen. The Tigers will need to have some playmakers emerge, and the hope for head coach Gary Pinkel is that he will have found some answers by this point in the season.


Nebraska will look to improve defensively, having given up more than four hundred yards of total offense in just three quarters in last season’s meeting. The winner goes a long way in cementing its spot in the divisional race, while the loser finds itself in an uphill battle.


Other Games Considered: Colorado @ Texas (10/10), Kansas State @ Texas Tech (10/10)

Week 7: Texas Tech @ Nebraska (October 17th)


Last season’s meeting ended up being much closer than many expected it to be, with the Red Raiders having to squeak out a 37-31 overtime victory in Lubbock. New quarterback Taylor Potts should be well-tested by the time the trip to Lincoln rolls around, having already faced Texas in Austin in mid-September. Head coach Mike Leach has the ability to simply plug in someone at quarterback and they throw up a 4,000 yard season. If Nebraska’s front four can get to Potts in a fashion similar to what Ole Miss and Oklahoma were able to do last season their chances at a win improve substantially. If you allow Potts to sit back and find guys at his own pace you’re in for a long afternoon, so the onus is on Ndamukong Suh and company to make sure he’s rushed.


Other Games Considered: Missouri @ Oklahoma State (10/17), Kansas @ Colorado (10/17)


Week 8: Texas @ Missouri (October 24th)


Let’s just say that there won’t be many teams happier to see the end of October than the Missouri Tigers. Their schedule is brutal, with a visit from Nebraska followed by Oklahoma State, Texas and a trip to Boulder on Halloween. But back to the Longhorns, who visit Columbia hoping to have the same level of success that they experienced in last year’s meeting. Chase Daniel was harassed constantly and when the game ended Texas had rolled to a 56-31 triumph.


With Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley and a host of other key contributors back on the Forty Acres 2009 could be a national championship season for head coach Mack Brown. But it’s tough to go on the road, especially when you’ve got a bull’s eye on your back, so Texas had better be ready for Missouri’s best shot. One area to watch: Missouri’s running game. Three times last season the Tigers failed to reach the 100-yard mark as a team, and they lost all three (Oklahoma State, Texas and Oklahoma).


Other Game Considered: Oklahoma @ Kansas (10/24)


Week 9: Kansas @ Texas Tech (October 31st)


Last season’s meeting got out of hand quickly, as Graham Harrell and company steamrolled the Jayhawks 63-21 in Lawrence. Kansas should have the firepower necessary to keep up with the Red Raiders this time around, but a shootout would not be in their best interest. Defensively the Jayhawks had better show some improvement leading up to their trip to Lubbock; Texas Tech racked up twenty-nine first downs and more than four hundred yards passing in the win. What also didn’t help Kansas were five turnovers, miscues that helped spark a 49-0 run for the Red Raiders. Mark Mangino’s team knows exactly what they cannot afford to do in Lubbock if they don’t want to get embarrassed for the second consecutive season; let’s see if they can get the job done.


Other Games Considered: Nebraska @ Baylor (10/31), Missouri @ Colorado (10/31)


Week 10: Kansas @ Kansas State (November 7th)


The battle for the Sunflower State welcomes back a familiar face in Bill Snyder, who returned to his head coaching role following a couple of disappointing seasons under Ron Prince. Last season’s meeting got off to a dreadful start for the Wildcats, falling behind 31-0 by halftime in a game that was never in doubt. Kansas State turned the ball over five times and racked up nearly one hundred yards in penalties. Discipline and attention to detail are two areas in which the Wildcats must improve if they’re to challenge the Jayhawks, much less fight for North Division supremacy.


Other Games Considered: Oklahoma @ Nebraska (11/7), Texas A&M @ Colorado (11/7)


Week 11: Nebraska @ Kansas (November 14th)


This hasn’t been the kindest series to the Jayhawks in regards to history, but they have won each of the last two meetings in Lawrence. Two seasons ago Mark Mangino and company hung seventy-six on the Huskers, leaving many to wonder whether or not the Jayhawks took their foot off the pedal at all despite the blowout nature of the game. But that was during the disappointing Bill Callahan era; Bo Pelini’s first meeting with the Jayhawks resulted in a 45-35 Nebraska win in Lincoln last year.


Nebraska’s defense is expected to be one of the best units in the conference, thus earning their “Blackshirt” status. As for Kansas, a defense that ranked seventh in the Big 12 in total defense (and tenth against the pass) will have to buckle down in order to slow the tandem of Roy Helu Jr. and Quentin Castille. Unlike the last two meetings in Lawrence, expect these two to go right down to the wire.


Other Games Considered: Missouri @ Kansas State (11/14), Colorado @ Iowa State (11/14)


Week 12: Kansas State @ Nebraska (November 21st)


Had the quota for interdivisional games not been reached this would be Kansas visiting Texas in what could be a Big 12 Championship Game preview. As a result, it’s time to turn back the clock to the mid- to late-90s when the Wildcats were looking to reach the top of the Big 12. The only thing was that in Bill Snyder’s way was none other than Dr. Tom Osborne and his Nebraska Cornhuskers. Neither team has gotten back to that level as of yet, but both are working in that direction. After winning three straight in the series K-State has lost four in a row to Nebraska with the last three all being by double digit margins. Will this be a repeat of the 73-31 debacle in Lincoln two seasons ago? Wildcat fans hope not.


Other Games Considered: Kansas @ Texas (11/21), Colorado @ Oklahoma State (11/19)


Week 13: Missouri vs. Kansas (November 28th in Kansas City)


This is one of the more heated rivalries in the nation despite the fact that it didn’t get much national attention prior to their much-ballyhooed meeting two seasons ago. Two schools that haven’t liked each other dating all the way back to the Civil War will once again meet at Arrowhead Stadium, a switch that while the designated home team isn’t happy with losing a home game cannot be argued with in terms of the boost in popularity. There wasn’t anything on the line last season besides bragging right, with the Tigers having already clinched the division.


But that didn’t stop the Jayhawks from snatching victory from the jaws of defeat late in the fourth quarter, winning 40-37. Kansas will likely come in favored thanks to the presence of offensive threats Reesing and Briscoe. A trip to the Big 12 Championship Game could be riding on the result, no matter what happens on that Friday between Nebraska and Colorado.


Other Game Considered: Nebraska @ Colorado (11/27)


Week 14: Big 12 Championship Game (December 5th in Arlington, TX)


The pick here is that Texas will beat Nebraska and punch their ticket to the BCS National Championship Game in front of a pro-Texas crowd.