Connect with us


The Big 12’s Top 10 Nonconference Games of 2024

Colorado doesn’t have a boring noncon game in its return to the Big 12.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

The college football landscape will officially be turned on its head here in a few months, as all the conference realignment agreements made over the past few years go into action.

The Big 12 will expand to 16 teams with the additions of Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah while Oklahoma and Texas head for the SEC. The Big 12 has done a good job at positioning itself in stability, probably behind only the SEC and the Big Ten. But nonconference games will provide bragging rights among the new-look conferences, so I thought it’d be fun to take a look at the Big 12’s best noncon matchups in 2024.

I excluded Baylor’s and Utah’s odd nonconferece (despite being in the same conference) game because that would’ve felt like cheating. But nonetheless, here are my picks for the top 10 nonconference games of the Big 12’s 2024 season.

10. Arkansas at Oklahoma State (Sept. 7)

I switched back and forth on this last spot a few times, but when in doubt, go with the team you cover.

Stillwater and Fayetteville are about a three-hour drive from each other, making the Razorbacks closer to OSU than any new-look Big 12 team. Despite that, OSU and Arkansas haven’t met on the gridiron since 1980. That’s before Mike Gundy had even stepped on campus as a student, much less the head coach.

The Cowboys should be the favorite come Sept. 7. OSU is coming off a 10-4 season to the Razorbacks’ 4-8 year, but the Cowboys have been known to play nonconference games a little close for comfort.

This game between two schools proud of their sports team that are separated by a short distance ought to make for a fun atmosphere.

9. TCU at SMU (Sept. 21)

The Battle for the Iron Skillet has taken place 102 times since 1915, and more often than not, the games are a lot of fun.

This will be the first rendition of the rivalry that sees a Power Five TCU take on a Power Five SMU, with the Mustangs set to join the ACC next season. SMU will be looking to prove itself as a Power Five program, and TCU will be looking to rebound from a rough 2023.

Despite SMU going 11-3 last season to TCU’s 5-7, the Horned Frogs bested the Mustangs 34-17 in the game. A TCU win would give the Horned Frogs three straight against their cross-metroplex rival.

8. Houston at Rice (Sept. 14)

Houston and Rice might be somewhat irrelevant by the time the season is over, but this crosstown rivalry was a lot of fun last season.

Rice beat the Cougars 43-41 in double-OT in 2023.

Houston underwent a coaching change this offseason, bringing in Willie Fritz after a successful tenure at Tulane that saw him win 12 games in 2022 and 11 in 2023.

But before the Cougars can climb rungs in the Big 12, they need to get ahold of their own city.

7. South Dakota State at Oklahoma State (Aug. 31)

It’s tough to say whether OSU’s toughest nonconference game will be against Arkansas or South Dakota State. One recruits well and plays in the SEC, but the other comes to Stillwater having won back-to-back FCS national titles.

Again, the Cowboys should be the favorite here (despite SDSU winning 29 straight games), but I need not remind everyone about South Alabama just a few months ago. The Cowboys bring back a lot from their 10-win 2023 squad, but they’ll have to be on their A game from the opening kickoff in 2024.

6. North Dakota State at Colorado (Aug. 31)

Year 2 of the Prime Era in Boulder will start with a tricky test.

Despite not having won a national title since 2021 (long for NDSU’s standards), the Bison have won nine national titles since 2011 and have gone a ridiculous 172-19 in that stretch. Colorado has lost 19 games in the past two seasons.

The Buffaloes will undeniably have the talent advantage, but I imagine the Bison will stroll into Boulder upset-minded.

5. Iowa State at Iowa (Sept. 7)

Based on recent history, this game will probably be a slog that the Hawkeyes will find a way to swipe away from the Cyclones.

The past six Cy-Hawk games have been been decided by 10 or fewer points, with Iowa winning five of those. Matt Campbell has won the game just once, coming via a 10-7 decision in 2022.

It’s a game that’s obviously big for state bragging rights, but it could also mean a great deal to the Big 12 if the Cyclones could go to Iowa City and beat a team that won 10 games last season and played for a Big Ten championship.

4. Colorado at Nebraska (Sept. 7)

What do you get when you add the Big 12 plus the Big Ten? The Big Eight (I think that math checks out).

Speaking of bragging rights against the Big Ten, Colorado got some for the Pac-12 last season by beating the Cornhuskers 36-14 in Boulder. Now that the Buffaloes are back in the Big 12, it’d be big for the conference to see a returning team beat a team that left.

Matt Rhule has been successful at basically every college stop he has made, though. After going 5-7 in his first year at Nebraska, Rhule went out and flipped five-star quarterback prospect Dylan Riaola from Georgia. Riaola is the No. 1 quarterback in the 2024 class, according to Rivals and ESPN.

The Huskers will also be helped by the fact that they’ll play this game at home as opposed to last season’s meeting in Boulder back when the Deion hype was overflowing.

3. Colorado at Colorado State (Sept. 14)

Colorado, in my mind, has the most intriguing nonconference schedule because there the Buffaloes are again.

I’ll probably be more intrigued by CU’s trip to Lincoln than this game, but given how last season’s meeting with Colorado State went, I couldn’t rank the Nebraska game ahead of this one in my right mind. The Buffaloes held and beat the Rams 43-35 in a drama-filled, double-OT affair in 2023.

Now the Buffaloes will have to file into what ought to be a hornet’s nest in Fort Collins and do so after playing North Dakota State and at Nebraska. At the very least, the Buffaloes will be battle tested re-entering the Big 12.

2. UCF at Florida (Oct. 5)

The Knights were somewhat of a feel-good story in their first season in the Big 12 — especially if you’re into space monsoons.

UCF finished higher in the Big 12 standings than any of the league’s other newcomers, and in 2024 the Knights will get a shot at the Gators. Florida is in a weird spot, losing its final five games of the 2023 season. Billy Napier enters Year 3 with the Gators with an 11-14 record.

This is just the fourth meeting between these schools, as UCF beat Florida in the Gasparilla Bowl. As the Knights start to prove themselves as a Power Five player in Florida, a win against the Gators could go a long way in terms of perception and recruiting.

1. Penn State at West Virginia (Aug. 31)

When the Mountaineers went to Happy Valley and hung around with the Nittany Lions last season, it was viewed as a gutsy performance for the team that was picked to finish last in the Big 12. Well, it turns out West Virginia was a solid squad.

WVU went on to win nine games last season, and the Mountaineers return quarterback Garrett Greene, who threw for 2,406 yards and ran for 772 yards last season.

Penn State was viewed as the third-best team in the Big Ten for much of 2023, and if the Mountaineers can find a way to beat the Nittany Lions to start 2024, it’ll prove WVU as a legit Big 12 title contender while also helping the Big 12 in terms of the conference pecking order.

Honorable Mentions: BYU at SMU (Sept. 6), Mississippi State at Arizona State (Sept. 7), West Virginia at Pitt (Sept. 14)

Most Read

Copyright © 2011- 2023 White Maple Media