Tramel's ScissorTales: Which Big 12 football team has the toughest conference schedule?

Berry Tramel
The Oklahoman
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Gone is the Big 12’s round-robin football schedule. We had grown accustomed to the equitable schedule; 12 years of each team playing every other team. 

But the 14-team Big 12 in 2023 negates the round-robin schedule, and next year will be even further from the concept, as OU moves into a 16-team Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 likewise expands to 16. 

Conferences with divisions already have unequal schedules, as evidenced by the old Big 12 South in the ‘00s, and the Big Ten East and SEC West today. 

The Big Ten and SEC will scrap divisions after this season, and the Pac-12 and Atlantic Coast Conference have done so this year. 

The Big 12 embarks with four new members, six original members, two outgoing members and two midstream members (West Virginia and Texas Christian joined for the 2012 season). 

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All in a league defined by crazy parity in recent years. 

And a league with rampant parity could be decided by the schedule. Who plays who. Or, who doesn’t play who. 

We’ve looked at the OU and OSU conference schedules, determining that both were given relatively easy paths in 2023. 

But is that true? Who has a difficult path, in such an uncertain league? How do you gauge it? 

Here’s what I did. I took the Big 12 preseason media poll. Rather than go straight 1-14, I looked at the voting, and anyone with close vote totals, I split the difference. 

In other words, Texas was picked No. 1 over Kansas State, in a very tight race. So I considered UT and KSU each 1½. For third place, OU, Texas Tech and TCU were bunched together. I made them three-way ties for fourth. Baylor sixth, then OSU, Central Florida and Kansas a three-way tie for eighth; Iowa State and Brigham Young a two-way tie for 10th; Cincinnati and Houston a two-way tie for 12th; and West Virginia 14th

The obvious flaw is the betting scandal at Iowa State, which appears to be costing the Cyclones four starters, including quarterback Hunter Dekkers. Any team playing Iowa State is getting a lesser opponent than projected, but it’s not like the Cyclones were gangbusters anyway. 

So looking over each team’s opponents, here’s how I rank the schedules, from toughest to easiest.  

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Ranking Big 12 football schedules

1. Iowa State: The Cyclones could be headed for a miserable season. Iowa State misses Houston and West Virginia, who might be the two worst teams in the league, plus Texas Tech and Central Florida. Plus, Iowa State gets only four home games. 

2. Houston: The Cougars don’t play OU, Kansas, Iowa State or BYU. Only the Sooners were picked in the upper half of the preseason poll. Houston does get five conference home games. 

3. Texas: The Longhorns get all of the projected contenders while missing Cincinnati, West Virginia, OSU and Central Florida. 

4. Kansas: The Jayhawks avoid TCU, Baylor, Houston and West Virginia. The Jayhawks do get five home games. 

5. Kansas State: The Wildcats avoid OU, but the other three teams missing on the schedule are projected towards the bottom – Cincinnati, BYU and West Virginia. The ‘Cats do get five home games. 

6. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders avoid Cincinnati and Iowa State, which makes the schedule tougher, but also OSU and OU. Tech plays just four conference home games. 

7. Brigham Young: The Cougars miss out on Kansas State and Baylor, but also Cincinnati and Houston. BYU has just four Big 12 home games. 

8. Texas Christian: The Horned Frogs miss Cincinnati, UCF, Kansas and OSU – all picked seventh or lower. TCU has just four conference home games. 

9. Baylor: The Bears avoid OU, OSU, BYU and Kansas. And they get five home games. 

10. West Virginia: The Mountaineers avoid Texas and Kansas State, the league favorites, plus Iowa State and Kansas. WVU has just four conference home games. 

11. Central Florida: The Knights avoid Texas and TCU, softening their maiden season, while also missing Iowa State and BYU. But the Knights play just four Big 12 home games. 

12. Oklahoma: The Sooners avoid Kansas State, Texas Tech and Baylor, all picked among the top six, but also miss Houston. Like Texas, the Sooners play four home games and four road games, plus the neutral Red River game. 

13. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys somehow miss out on every legacy Big 12 team from the Lone Star State – TCU, Texas, Baylor and Tech. And OSU gets five conference home games. 

14. Cincinnati: The Bearcats avoid Texas, Kansas State and Tech – three of the top four picks in the preseason poll – plus BYU. UC even gets five Big 12 home games. 

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College Football Playoff committee sets recusals 

One of the tenents of the College Football Playoff is recusal of committee members when the discussion turns to teams to which they or a family member have a monetary connection. 

The CFP last week announced its recusals. 

Chet Gladchuk, Houston & Navy. Gladchuk is the Navy athletic director; his son, John, is a Houston associate AD. 

Gene Taylor, Kansas State: Taylor is the K-State AD. 

Mitch Barnhart, Kentucky: Barnhart is the UK athletic director. 

Jim Grobe, Marshall: The retired football coach is the father of Marshall golf coach Matt Grobe. 

David Sayler, Miami-Ohio: Sayler is the Miami AD. 

Warde Manuel, Michigan: Manuel is the Michigan athletic director. 

Boo Corrigan, North Carolina State & Notre Dame: Corrigan is the N.C. State AD and the brother of Kevin Corrigan, Notre Dame’s long-time lacrosse coach. The Fighting Irish won the 2023 men’s lacrosse NCAA championship. 

Chris Ault, Nevada: Ault, a retired Nevada coach, still helps the Wolf Pack with fundraising and donor relations. 

Rod West, Notre Dame: West, a business executive, is a member of Notre Dame’s board of trustees. 

Kelly Whiteside, Rutgers: Whiteside, a retired journalist, has a brother on Rutgers’ Athletic Department Hall of Fame board. 

Jennifer Cohen, Washington: Cohen is the UW athletic director. 

Here is the recusal policy: 

"If a committee member or an immediate family member, e.g., spouse, sibling or child, (a) is compensated by a school, (b) provides professional services for a school, or (c) is on the coaching staff or administrative staff at a school or is a football student-athlete at a school, that member will be recused. Such compensation shall include not only direct employment, but also current paid consulting arrangements, deferred compensation (e.g., contract payments continuing after employment has ended, or other benefits. The committee will have the option to add other recusals if special circumstances arise. 

“A recused member shall not participate in any votes involving the team from which the individual is recused. A recused member is permitted to answer only factual questions about the institution from which the member is recused but shall not be present during any deliberations regarding that team's selection or ranking. Recused members shall not participate in discussions regarding the placement of the recused team into a bowl game.” 

A playoff spokesman said the CFP stretched the recusal policy “to avoid the appearance of any conflicts.” 

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Mailbag: Future Big 12 schedule format 

The suddenly-expanded Big 12 will have 16 members next season, creating the need for a new scheduling format. And lots of ideas. 

Craig: “Just wanted to present a proposal for review for Big 12 football scheduling. Establish eight-team divisions basically using Interstate 35 as the separation. West: K-State, KU, Texas Tech, BYU, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State. East: Iowa State, Cincinnati, OSU, West Virginia, UCF, TCU, Baylor and Houston. Each team plays every team within the division (seven games) and plays four inter-division games with a two-year home-and-home, alternating every two years for an 11-game conference schedule. This would provide the conference an additional32 conference-game revenue shares. Conference championship would match each Division winner. Not sure if possible under NCAA rules, but maybe consider a semifinal with the top two division teams playing each other to make the conference championship. I would think the added conference-only revenue would amount to tens of millions of dollars for the conference.” 

Tramel: Some interesting ideas. But mostly unworkable. 

Teams control their home games as far as television. Most Big 12 teams play six or seven home games every year, and that would not really change under this format. There would conceivably be more good games, but the networks are in no financial position to pay more for those good games. Not now, at least. 

The semifinal idea would not work at all. It’s against NCAA rules, and besides, it would infringe on the 12-team College Football Playoff that arrives next season. 

Addtionally, divisions are dying out. The Big 12 pioneered the no-division format, after all the major conferences used divisions. But leagues have come around to the belief that divisions can inhibit a conference’s chances of landing its best team(s) in the playoff. 

But playing more conference games is a swell idea. Mike Gundy politicked for an 11-game conference schedule, back when the Big 12 was 12 teams.  

A great schedule would be all these leagues playing 11-game schedules, with the non-conference game a marquee opponent. That would be college football at its best. 

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ESPN sets NBA coverage teams 

Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson are out on ESPN’s A-team NBA broadcast crew. Doris Burke and Doc Rivers are in. 

That’s a classic good news/bad news situation. 

Burke will be great. She already is great, in a variety of NBA roles, from sideline reporter to analyst on the ESPN B-team. She will be great with play-by-play announcer Mike Breen, an all-time pro. 

Rivers? No reason why he shouldn’t be a joy as well. Rivers always has been one of the best coaches with whom to talk basketball. He’s frank and funny, and he’s got that great, raspy voice. 

Rivers even has a year of broadcast work – he was fired by the Orlando Magic 11 games into the 2003-04 season, quickly was signed by ABC and even called the 2004 NBA Finals with Al Michaels. 

But I hate to see Van Gundy go. Not so much Jackson, who I never thought brought a ton to the telecasts. But Van Gundy was a treasure, with his quirky remarks about the state of the game and life in general. And his basketball acumen was superb. Fans across America are calling on TNT to pick up Van Gundy and pair him with his brother, Stan, who is an TNT analyst. It’s got my endorsement. 

Other ESPN changes: 

Malika Andrews replaces Mike Greenberg on ESPN’s and ABC’s NBA Today and NBA Countdown, its pregame show, plus the halftime shows. I like Greenberg, but I don’t care one way or the other. Rarely watch it. 

Former Warriors general manager Bob Myers joins NBA Countdown as an analyst, replacing Jalen Rose. I liked Rose; Myers will have to win me over. But again, don’t really watch. 

NBA Countdown will continue to feature Stephen A. Smith (no thanks), Michael Wilbon (thumbs up) and Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter is enough). Kendrick Perkins will be on some NBA Countdowns. 

ESPN’s B Team will be Ryan Ruocco, J.J. Redick and Richard Jefferson. Sorry, but I never warmed up to the Redick/Jefferson comedy act. 

But back for his 50th season in the NBA will be Hubie Brown, who turns 90 in September. ESPN can’t give me enough of Hubie Brown. 

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The List: International NBA fans 

The Thunder is among the leaders in highest percentage of fans who are outside the U.S., according to an analysis by, using social media following. 

Here are the 30 NBA teams, ranked by percentage of international fans, with the nation supplying their largest non-U.S. following: 

  • 1. Netropolitans: 52.8%, Brazil 
  • 2. Warriors: 52.3%, Brazil 
  • 3. Lakers: 52.0%, Brazil 
  • 4. Timberwolves, 51.4%, Spain 
  • 5. Clippers, 49.7%, Brazil 
  • 6. Raptors, 49.7%, USA 
  • 7. Thunder, 49.2%, Australia 
  • 8. Celtics, 49.2%, Angola 
  • 9. Bucks, 48.9%, Greece 
  • 10. Nuggets, 47.9%, Argentina 
  • 11. Hornets, 47.7%, Australia 
  • 12. Bulls, 47.7%, Australia 
  • 13. Mavericks, 46.3%, Germany 
  • 14. Pacers, 46.0%, Dominican Republic 
  • 15. Wizards, 45.3%, Colombia 
  • 16. Rockets, 44.7%, Brazil 
  • 17. Cavaliers, 43.4%, India 
  • 18. Spurs, 43.2%, France 
  • 19. Magic, 42.7%, Canada 
  • 20. Pelicans, 42.0%, Brazil 
  • 21. Blazers, 41.1%, Canada 
  • 22. Jazz, 40.8%, Brazil 
  • 23. Heat, 38.5%, Canada 
  • 24. Suns, 36.7%, Mexico 
  • 25. Knickerbockers, 36.0%, Puerto Rico 
  • 26. Grizzlies, 35.9%, Canada 
  • 27. Kings, 35.9%, Portugal 
  • 28. 76ers, 35.7%, Australia 
  • 29. Hawks, 31.6%, Canada 
  • 30. Pistons, 23.8%, Colombia 

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today. 

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