[game release calendar]Big 12 Football: How teams rank among toughest schedules in Power 5

  

  Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

  Virginia Tech,?at Maryland,?Long Island. As usual, WVU is the only Big 12 team playing two fellow Power 5 opponents in non-conference. And one of them is Virginia Tech, probably the second-best non-conference foe among all Big 12 schedules.

  For the Mountaineers’, the Maryland and Virginia Tech matchups mark the 53rd contest in each of the respective series. West Virginia and Virginia Tech met every year from 1973 to 2005 and as conference foes from 1991 to 2003 in the Big East Conference. Both teams will be striving for the Black Diamond Trophy.

  

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  Northern Iowa,?Iowa, at Nevada-Las Vegas. A dud-free schedule. Iowa appears to be the best non-conference opponent on a Big 12 schedule, Division I-AA Northern Iowa almost always is a tough out for ISU or Iowa, and UNLV is a road game.

  Contests between Iowa and Iowa State seem to predominately be down to the wire no matter the circumstances. The Cyclones lost five in a row in the series but are looking to build off their impressive 9-3 season under Matt Campbell in 2020. Everyone loves a good nail-biter game and this one will likely not disappoint.

  

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  Louisiana-Lafayette, at Arkansas,?Rice. UT’s avoidance of I-AA opponents lifts the Longhorns over most Big 12 schedules, and ULL showed last season that it is not an easy mark.

  There is a lot of hype surrounding the Longhorns entering the 2021 season with new head coach, Steve Sarkisian. A new era dawns in Austin but the game against Louisiana is one to watch. The Ragin’ Cajuns often give the Big 12 fits, including a win over Iowa State to begin the team’s 2020 campaign. Louisiana went on to have a successful 10-1 season and this is not a game to sleep on.

  

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  Missouri State, Tulsa, at?Boise State. The game at Boise is one of the?more intriguing games, and?the OSU-Tulsa game last season was an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel.

  The last time and only time Oklahoma State and Boise State met in 2018, No. 24 ranked OSU came out on top 44-21 against No. 17 ranked Boise State. The Cowboys will be looking to repeat in 2021 and continue the streak.

  

  Ian Maule/Tulsa World via AP

  South Dakota,?at Coastal Carolina, at Duke. Give the Jayhawks credit. Two road games, one against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent, and the other against a program that would have made the 2020 College Football Playoff had there been a 12-team bracket. Coastal was scheduled to host KU last September, but the dates were swapped because of the Big 12’s Covid policies.

  Kanas begins the 2021 season with a non-conference home game against South Dakota on Sept. 4, the second matchup between the two teams. The Jayhawks defeated the Coyotes in 2013 31-14 and Kansas will then travel to Conway to take on Coastal Carolina for the third straight year. Two back-to-back non-conference games provides an interesting turn of events.

  

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  at Stanford, Southern Illinois, Nevada: Not a terrible schedule, but Stanford appears down. And Nevada last season was not on the mid-major level of Louisiana-Lafayette, Tulsa or Coastal.

  Nevada will likely be the most challenging game for Kansas State. Impressive sophomore quarterback Carson Strong led Nevada to 7-2 last season and will be looking to up his draft stock as the signal-caller in 2021. The K-State defense will be tested in this matchup.

  

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  at Texas State,?Texas Southern,?Brigham Young. Interesting schedule. BYU-Baylor is a cool game, and the Bears make the 131-mile trip down Interstate 35 to San Marcos.

  The marquee matchup against BYU will be the third meeting between the two teams. The Cougars are coming off an 11-1 season and the Bears will face a formidable foe on Oct. 16. The two teams last met in 1984 and the programs have split the previous two meetings, both winning at home. This bodes well for The bears in Waco, Texas at Mclane Stadium.

  

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  at Tulane,?Western Carolina,?Nebraska: The Sooner schedule is about the same as K-State’s and Baylor’s.?But Nebraska isn’t only down, the Cornhuskers tried to get out of the game.?If they’re not excited, why is anybody?

  The rivalry game between Oklahoma-Nebraska will take place for the first time since 2010. Nebraska left the Big 12 for the Big 10 that year and this 2021 face-off is highly anticipated. This year’s matchup takes place on the 50-year anniversary of the “Game of the Century.” In 1971 on Thanksgiving Day, the Cornhuskers defeated the Sooners, 35-31. OU hoped the game would be played during primetime due to its significance, but nonetheless, the game is sure to spark interest.

  

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  Duquesne, California,?Southern Methodist: Decent schedule, but no road games and no marquee games. I suppose SMU could make this schedule better.

  The TCU Horned Frogs and SMU Mustangs football rivalry dates back to 1915. Both teams will be vying for the iron skillset in 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the game was postponed and then later cancelled between the two schools. The last time the two teams met was in 2019, SMU defeated TCU 41-38 but TCU leads the overall series, 51-41-7. The historic contest will be one to circle on the calendar.

  

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  at Houston, Stephen F. Austin, Florida International: The game at Houston isn’t bad, but FIU went winless last season, and SFA is Division I-AA.

  The Texas Tech-Houston game will certainly bring the buzz. Texas Tech will open the 2021 season against the University of Houston as the two programs face-off in the Texas Kickoff at NRG Stadium. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN Network and regardless of the outcome, the matchup will bring in views. As everyone knows, in Texas, football is a religion. This will be the 33rd-all-time meeting between Texas Tech and Houston, with the Red Raiders winning the last three.

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