Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops takes the approach that his fourth-ranked Sooners are getting ready to play a 10th conference game.
While Saturday’s home date with Tennessee of the SEC won’t count in the Big 12 standings, such games against the other power conferences surely will impact the perceptions of others – including the committee that will chose the four teams that will take part in the new College Football Playoff at the end of the season.
That makes this weekend an especially big one for the Big 12. Seven of the nine games are against teams from the other major leagues (SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12), with the opponents having a combined 13-1 record.
”Everybody’s paying attention to your strength of schedule and things like that, so sure, it’s always important that your league plays well,” Stoops said Monday during the Big 12 coaches weekly teleconference.
No. 19 Kansas State, the only Big 12 team not playing this week, is preparing for a home game against defending SEC champion Auburn the following Thursday.
Texas, coming off a 41-7 home loss to BYU, plays Saturday night against No. 12 UCLA in Arlington, Texas, the site of the first CFP national championship game in January and where Oklahoma State had a hard-fought 37-31 loss in its season opener defending national champion Florida State.
”It’s going to be a challenge,” Texas coach Charlie Strong said. ”Can we get this team and bounce them back from a humiliating, disappointing loss and get them to prevail and go play?”
Texas Tech is home against Arkansas, another SEC team, while Kansas plays at Duke, and West Virginia goes to Maryland a year after a 37-0 loss to the Terrapins.
Iowa State and TCU both play teams from the Big Ten, the league that took a hit with some resounding losses last weekend. The Cyclones play rival Iowa, and TCU is home against Minnesota.
”That’s how the whole game goes, and that’s the chances you take,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said, before referencing Michigan State’s 46-27 loss at Oregon after the Spartans led in the second half.
”If either one of those teams wins that game, it really spring-loads them into national championship-type situations, being part of the four playoff teams, because that’s a big win out of conference,” Patterson said. ”There’s positives and negatives that come with all of it.”
Michigan State and Ohio State of the Big Ten were in the top 10 before losses Saturday. The Buckeyes fell 35-21 to Virginia Tech for their first loss in a home opener since 1978. There was also Michigan’s 31-0 loss to Notre Dame and two Big Ten losses to Mid-American Conference teams.
Kansas State’s game at Auburn on Sept. 18 will be the last for the Big 12 against the other power leagues.
Eighth-ranked Baylor, which is the only Big 12 team that won’t play anyone from another power league, and Oklahoma State wrap up their non-conference schedules this weekend.
The Bears play Friday night at Buffalo in their third game in 13 days, and the Cowboys are home Saturday against Texas-San Antonio, the Larry Coker-coached team coming off a 26-23 loss to Pac-12 team Arizona.
”I think this is a league game for us,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said Monday. ”I told our team that, and mentioned to the press that we’re in league play. They’re very capable of winning games and having success in the Big 12 conference, and that’s really what we expect. They very well could have won the game against Arizona. They missed a field goal late in the game, and had every opportunity to win the game, and the talent level was very similar.”