Fast-forward to the final month of the college football season, and the early stages of the wildly controversial College Football Playoff selection committee poll.
It is here where we could again find Baylor or TCU in the near identical argument of nonconference strength of schedule. The only saving moment: Baylor and TCU don’t play this fall until late November, and the Big 12 already has announced that this year — no, seriously — there will be One True Champion.
They can’t screw it up this time, can they?
As idiot-proof as this looks, Baylor hasn’t helped itself with yet another awful nonconference schedule. It begins with FCS Lamar (which lost 73-3 to Texas A&M last season), and includes games at SMU (one win in 2014) and against Rice.
Meanwhile, we give you TCU, which plays at Minnesota in the season opener, and will then thump its collective chests about the strength of the Gophers (while ignoring non-con opponents Stephen F. Austin and SMU) until Baylor comes to Fort Worth on Nov. 27.
So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.
Fortunately there are Texas and Oklahoma, which annually pick up the nonconference slack for the rest of the league. A look at the non-con breakdown in the Big 12:
1. Texas: at Notre Dame, Rice, California
2. Oklahoma: Akron, at Tennessee, Tulsa
3. Texas Tech: Sam Houston State, UTEP, at Arkansas
4. Kansas: South Dakota State, Memphis, at Rutgers
5. Iowa State: Northern Iowa, Iowa, at Toledo
6. TCU: at Minnesota, Stephen F. Austin, SMU
7. West Virginia: Georgia Southern, Liberty, Maryland
8. Kansas State: South Dakota, at UTSA, Louisiana Tech
9. Oklahoma State: at Central Michigan, Central Arkansas, UTSA
10. Baylor: at SMU, Lamar, Rice
Games against Power 5 teams: 8 of 30 (27 percent)
Games against Group of 5 teams: 14 of 30 (46 percent)
Games against FCS teams: 8 of 30 (27 percent)
Breaking down the Power 5 conferences (three of five analyzed)
Games against Power 5 teams: ACC (38 percent), Big Ten (30 percent), Big 12 (27 percent)
Games against Group of 5 teams: Big Ten (57 percent), Big 12 (46 percent), ACC (36 percent)
Games against FCS teams: Big 12 (27 percent), ACC (26 percent), Big Ten (13 percent)
1. Texas at Notre Dame, Sept. 5
2. Oklahoma at Tennessee, Sept. 12
3. TCU at Minnesota, Sept. 3
4. Texas Tech at Arkansas, Sept. 19
5. Maryland at West Virginia, Sept. 26
1. Lamar at Baylor, Sept. 12
2. Stephen F. Austin at TCU, Sept. Sept. 12
3. South Dakota at Kansas State, Sept. 5
4. Central Arkansas at Oklahoma State, Sept. 12
5. Liberty at West Virginia, Sept. 12
— Why didn’t Charlie Strong name a starting quarterback in the spring, you ask? Because the Longhorns travel to Notre Dame in the season opener, and why not make both Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard work as hard as possible in the summer to get ready to play in September? The reality is Swoopes probably is ahead based on knowledge of the system. But that might last all of one quarter in South Bend, because two weeks later a dangerous Cal team comes to Austin and will force Texas to score points.
— Oklahoma might score 60 on Akron in the season opener, and we’ll learn very little about the quarterback (Trevor Knight or Baker Mayfield) and new offensive coordinator (Lincoln Riley) until Week 2 when the Sooners travel to Tennessee. As tenuous as things are in Norman these days, a loss to the Vols won’t sidetrack a back-loaded season (at Baylor, TCU, at Oklahoma State to finish November), but will certainly throw more uncertainty into a program that hasn’t of late lived up to lofty expectations.
— Ladies and gentlemen, your sleeper Big 12 team: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys return 16 starters and QB Mason Rudolph showed signs of developing into an elite player over the last three games of 2014. If the Cowboys are playing big games in November with a spot in the CFP on the line — they get TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas State at home — guess what then comes into play? That would be a non-con schedule of at Central Michigan, and home games against Central Arkansas and UTSA. Pitiful.
— It’s easy for Baylor to talk about nonconference schedules made years in advance. We get it. But someone still made those weak schedules, and someone still must look to the future to solve the problem. Baylor last played an opponent from a Power 5 league in 2009 (Wake Forest), and has two scheduled series against Power 5 teams in the future (Duke, Utah). Other future non-con opponents include Northwestern State, Liberty, UTSA, Abilene Christian, Louisiana Tech and — wait for it — Incarnate Word. It’s past time for the national elite Bears to find a neutral site Houston, Arlington, Atlanta, Orlando) and play a Power 5 heavyweight to open the season.