Fear is prevalent across college football. From NCAA sanctions and gaudy fundraising benchmarks to job security and late-game execution, the sport is laced with terror.
And the are no exceptions in the Big 12, a conference laced with big-time storylines and plenty of intrigue, among them schedules that include everything from tricky visits to Group of Five teams to playoff-impacting games.
What is the most terrifying game for each Big 12 team this season?
Most Terrifying Game: vs. Oklahoma – Sept. 23
Given the coaching change and new quarterback — among other things — it's unlikely Baylor will compete for the Big 12 title this season. But just how far are the Bears behind the title contenders?
Their Week 4 home game with Oklahoma — whom they lost to by three touchdowns in 2016 — will be a great barometer for the Bears.
Most Terrifying Game: vs. Northern Iowa – Sept. 2
The Matt Campbell era got off to a nightmare start last year with an opening loss to Northern Iowa, followed by blowout losses vs. Iowa and TCU.
Most Terrifying Game: at Ohio – Sept. 16
When Kansas visits Ohio on Sept. 16, it will have been 2,926 days since the Jayhawks' last road win. It will be almost eight years to the day since they beat UTEP in 2009.
While KU badly needs a win over Central Michigan a week earlier, the road game against a Bobcats team that comfortably beat them in Lawrence last year is enormous. This program cannot move forward without winning games on the road.
Most Terrifying Game: at Oklahoma State – Nov. 18
Kansas State has a lot of terrifying games on the 2017 schedule as they aim for a Big 12 title. It could be their Sept. 16 trip to Vanderbilt or Texas on Oct. 7. But if the Wildcats are really going to win just their third conference championship since 1934, their mid-November visit to Oklahoma State is enormous.
Most Terrifying Game: at Ohio State – Sept. 9
The Sooners got embarrassed by the Buckeyes at home last year and though they rebounded nicely and even flirted with a playoff berth, there was zero margin for error.
Again, there are other opportunities to build their résumé in the event of a loss (e.g. at Kansas State, at Oklahoma State) but winning at Ohio State on Sept. 9 would put them square in the playoff picture and give Lincoln Riley a major reinforcement that he can play with the big boys.
Most Terrifying Game: at Pittsburgh – Sept. 16
Tulsa has a powerful offense; South Alabama beat San Diego State last year; and Pittsburgh has returning playmakers and a deep roster thanks to strong recruiting classes.
If the Cowboys can beat the Panthers at Heinz Field on Sept. 16, it's likely they'll enter the Oct. 21 game at Texas undefeated.
Most Terrifying Game: at Oklahoma State – Sept. 23
It won't take long to see how far away TCU is from being one of the top Big 12 teams. Their Sept. 9 trip to Arkansas won't be easy, nor will their Sept. 16 home game vs. Courtland Sutton and SMU. But it's a week later that the Horned Frogs have a monster opportunity.
If they're 3-0, a win at Oklahoma State would vault them into Big 12 title consideration. It will be a stressful afternoon in Stillwater.
Most Terrifying Game: at USC – Sept. 16
Ignore ESPN shoving "Rose Bowl Rematch!" headlines down your gullet and appreciate the Texas-USC game for what it is: USC trying to start 3-0 to generate playoff buzz and Texas trying to prove "they're back" under Tom Herman.
Win or loss, this game is not a game-changer for the Longhorns. Still, a good showing — or win — can help greatly with optimism for the Herman era.
Most Terrifying Game: at Houston – Sept. 23
Kliff Kingsbury's seat is warming and though the schedule is daunting, there are chances aplenty for the fifth-year head coach to secure his future at his alma mater.
Their Sept. 23 trip to Houston is a big one. The Cougars are a better team who embarrassed a terrific Oklahoma team last September. They'll be favored, giving the Red Raiders a great chance to do the unexpected.
"Terrifying" might not be the right word for the program but it's definitely the right word for Kliff Kingsbury.
Most Terrifying Game: vs. Oklahoma State – Oct. 28
Like Kansas State, the Mountaineers have a bunch of scary games, starting with Week 1 against Virginia Tech in Landover, Md.
However, if the program wishes to contend for their first-ever Big 12 title, their 2017 season rides on a few conference games, most notable a late October home game vs. Oklahoma State.