We only need one date from the 2024 Big 12 schedule to sense the chaos coming – Sept. 21, the first Saturday that there are multiple league games.
The Big 12 released its 2024 football schedule Tuesday. It generated a lot of excitement. Example: Oklahoma State marks its trip to Colorado since 2008 by playing its first-ever Friday-after-Thanksgiving game. Double the pleasure.
The schedule release generated few answers. Example: Are we picking OSU or Kansas State to win the conference after seeing the rundown? Utah or Arizona? Or are we better off handicapping Oklahoma’s next snow day?
It was a fitting day for a conference whose next football season will resemble riding Titan at Six Flags Over Texas. Every Saturday will be a 245-foot plunge into turns gosh knows where, until it’s Dec. 7, the ride is over and we regather long enough to walk over to AT&T Stadium for another spin through the Big 12 title game.
“I wouldn’t know where you would start in this league,” Mike Gundy said midway through a 2023 season in which Texas represented the Big 12 in the College Football Playoff, but only after grinding through four one-score results over a five-game stretch through October into mid-November.
Now that it’s 2024, let’s start with the new schedule for the new-look conference. We only need one date to sense the chaos coming – Sept. 21, the first Saturday that there are multiple league games.
OSU hosts Utah that day. This is neat in that Gundy and Kyle Whittingham represent a combined 38 years of coaching the two programs.
It’s also the only stable thing about the matchup.
Are we picking OSU, the team that went 10-4 and 5-1 in one-score games last year? Or Utah, the team that went 8-5 and 4-2 in one-score games? Does the coin turn up heads or tails this time? Who is heads?
Do we favor OSU seventh-year quarterback Alan Bowman, who has thrown almost as many interceptions as touchdown passes since 2021? Or Utah seventh-year quarterback Cam Rising, who has redshirted more seasons than he has played?
West Virginia hosts Kansas on Sept. 21. KU quarterback Jalon Daniels is as much a back-from-injury mystery as Rising. Two guys who could be Heisman Trophy contenders, two guys who might not make it to October.
Will Daniels even outplay Garrett Greene in Morgantown?
Are we sure Lance Leipold is going to outcoach Neal Brown?
Leipold has lost the guy who called his plays the past decade, Andy Kotelnicki having relocated to Penn State. Brown has resurrected what we figured was a dead West Virginia career.
Colorado brings in Baylor on Sept. 21. Remember how bad the Bears were in losing their last five in ‘23? The Buffs were worse. They lost their last six.
Do we trust Deion Sanders to flip the neon back on because he still has his gifted son, Shedeur, quarterbacking? Or are we riding Dave Aranda and new Bears quarterback Dequan Finn, last seen winning Mid-American Conference MVP for MAC champion Toledo?
On the topic of bouncebacks, Houston is at Cincinnati on Sept. 21. The answers-seeking Bearcats changed defensive coordinators. The Cougars changed the entire staff.
We’re all still fond of Dana Holgorsen from his 2010 OSU cameo. But what if Willie Fritz is a better coach?
What if Arizona State quarterback Jaden Rashada is more than an NIL soap opera star? Will we even find out, or will the Sun Devils start Michigan State transfer Sam Leavitt at Texas Tech on Sept. 21?
What Red Raiders team shows up? The one that beat Cal by 20 to win the ‘23 Independence Bowl? Or the one that lost to Texas by 50 to close the ‘23 regular season?
BYU opens Big 12 play hosting Kansas State on Sept. 21. Maybe this season the Cougars hang onto games they should win, like the ones against OU and OSU last year. Maybe the Wildcats stumble without quarterback Will Howard (now at Ohio State) and offensive coordinator Collin Klein (now at Texas A&M).
Or could be that K-State QB1 Avery Johnson, last seen eating a giant Pop-Tart after his bowl victory over North Carolina State, is really that dude. Could be that Matt Wells, last seen advising Brent Venables in OU’s front office, will help Johnson thrive as his new position coach.
But do we know?
Do we know K-State will welcome Arizona to the Big 12 the previous week by winning that Wildcats war?
We’re well aware of Arizona combo Noah Fifita and Tetairoa McMillan from their Alamo Bowl strafing of the Sooners. We’ve got zilch on Jedd Fisch’s replacement Brent Brennan, other than he comes to Tucson from San Jose State.
Do we know who wins between UCF and TCU on Sept. 14 in Fort Worth? Besides the scoreboard?
Incoming UCF quarterback KJ Jefferson totaled 417 yards and 4 touchdowns in Arkansas’ 2022 Liberty Bowl win over Kansas. Returning TCU QB Josh Hoover threw for 646 yards and 6 touchdowns against OU and Texas last November.
Iowa State is late out of the Big 12 chute. The Cyclones are at Houston on Sept. 28.
They might be prototypical Big 12. Their head coach is equally adept at in-season turnarounds and tantrums. They have a quarterback and running back with sweet names – Rocco Becht and Abu Sama – and even juicier potential.
They also have the best tailgating scene in the Big 12. It is a buzzing corridor into Jack Trice Stadium for an even more exciting game whose outcome is as predictable as Matt Campbell’s mood.
The 2024 schedule changes nothing about that for Iowa State or anyone else in the bewildering Big 12 Conference.
The countdown to chaos continues.