The Big 12 football schedule is loaded with intriguing games and brutal stretches, including some three-game gauntlets that could either demolish a team or earn them College Football Playoff consideration.
The conference schedule has been a dominating topic of discussion the last few seasons as outsiders criticized a bottom-heavy slate that left most of the potential playoff-impact matchups for late in the season, thus ensuring the top-tier teams remain in contention and build eye-test stock with blowout wins over inferior foes.
With that in mind, here are the five most difficult three-game stretches for Big 12 teams this season, ranked.
Sept. 23: at Oklahoma State
Oct. 7: vs. West Virginia
Oct. 14: at Kansas State
TCU has a few tricky three-game stretches. Though Kansas State is a terrific team with Big 12 championship potential, you could back up one week and include their Sept. 16 home game against SMU if you think highly enough of Courtland Sutton and the much-improved Mustangs.
Not only do they open conference play on the road against Oklahoma State, they get they top-25 foe West Virginia at home a week later.
Oct. 7: vs. Kansas State
Oct. 14: vs. Oklahoma (Dallas)
Oct. 21: vs. Oklahoma State
Texas would be higher if any of these three games were true road games.
Instead, they get two home games and one at the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma. If the Longhorns have 10-win aspirations, they'll need to go 2-1 during this October stretch.
Nov. 11: at Kansas State
Nov. 18: vs. Texas
Nov. 25: at Oklahoma
If West Virginia gets past Virginia Tech in the season opener, they could start 7-0. Then comes a home game against Oklahoma State and a brutal season-closing stretch against Kansas State, Texas, and Oklahoma.
The Nov. 11 game in Manhattan will either officially put the Mountaineers in Big 12 championship contention or remove them completely.
Sept. 23: vs. Oklahoma
Sept. 30: at Kansas State
Oct. 14: at Oklahoma State
Matt Rhule gets a rude Big 12 greeting. His first three conference games are against arguably the three best teams. The Bears do, however, get a much-needed bye week between their Sept. 30 trip to Kansas State and Oct. 14 trip to Oklahoma State.
Nov. 11: at Texas
Nov. 18: vs. Oklahoma
Nov. 25: at Oklahoma State
“We expect to go to a bowl game,” Kansas head coach David Beaty said in June. “That’s big talk but we have to go do it.”
The Jayhawks may want to hit six wins before three weeks of the season. While they knocked off the Longhorns last season and occasionally play well against upper-tier Big 12 foes at home, it's a brutal stretch for a program starving for a return to relevance.
Baylor's three-game stretch is arguably harder but the Bears have a bye week mixed in, whereas Kansas is running a true three-week gauntlet.