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Five Most Intriguing Big 12 Non-Conference Games Of 2024

Last Word interrupts Summer’s regularly scheduled activities to talk about the start of the 2024 college football season. It has nothing to do with NIL, congressional rulings, realignment, or broadcasting rights. Instead, let us sprinkle some intrigue into the universe with some Big 12 non-conference games. A 12-team playoff world in which the four highest-ranked conference champions receive a bye makes the conference races more critical. But these five games early in the season will give a great barometer for what to expect in the Big 12 conference season.

Five Most Intriguing Big 12 Non-Conference Games

Honorable Mention

A good rivalry always presents plenty of intrigue for college football fans. So Last Word would be doing some injustice without at least mentioning the battle for the Iron Skillet (TCU at SMU) and the battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy (Iowa State at Iowa). TCU won the last 13 of 16, but SMU starts its new life as an ACC program in 2024. As for the Cy-Hawk, it remains one of the more underrated rivalries in college football as each of the past six meetings has been decided by 10 points or less. Of course, when each team can’t score more than 20 points, it’s easy for games to finish within 10 points of each, but we digress. While rivalry games are always entertaining watches, these two lack any additional intrigue beyond bragging rights so they miss the cut for this year.

5. South Dakota State At Oklahoma State

Mike Gundy and his Cowboys have quite a non-conference schedule. It includes showdowns with Arkansas and a road trip to Tulsa. However, it is the matchup against two-time reigning FCS champion South Dakota State that should grab everyone’s attention. Gundy is 15-0 against FCS opponents. However, the Jackrabbits are not the run-of-the-mill FCS foe. South Dakota State owns the longest active win streak in Division I football with 29 straight victories. Oklahoma State has a reputation for stubbing their toe when they have big expectations. If they aren’t buttoned up for week one, the Jackrabbits will take down a team looking to challenge for the Big 12 title.

4. UCF At Florida

The intrigue surrounding Florida head coach Billy Napier is worthy of 1000 words on its own. But we keep our focus on Gus Malzahn’s squad with this interstate matchup. The Knights have an opportunity to earn back-to-back wins (1st of which came in 2021) against the Gators in an early-October Big 12 non-conference game. However, the atmosphere of The Swamp is not going to phase the Knights’ likely starting quarterback KJ Jefferson. He guided the Razorbacks to a win in Gainsville in 2023. UCF could very well be 4-0 when they reach this point in the season. A win by the Knights could spring a Big 12 conference run and potentially help Napier out the door.

3. Colorado At Nebraska

Expectations for the Buffalos in year two under Deion Sanders should be to make a bowl game. That is what Vegas has them pegged for, but Last Word doesn’t see them getting to one. But make no mistake, this team will be full of intrigue all season. While opening the season on a Thursday against North Dakota State with the entire college football world watching sounds spicy, the Bison are not what they were five years ago. However, a trip to Lincoln will draw plenty of eyeballs in week two. Colorado beat Nebraska 36-14 last year after Nebraska had one of the worst quarterback performances by any time in 2023. Now, the Huskers are primed for a quick turnaround in head coach Matt Rhule’s first season. The hype train for Colorado could derail or gain steam depending on the result of this rivalry game.

2. Arizona At Kansas State

Won’t this be a great opportunity for the Big 12 to prove itself against a Pac-12 dark horse contender on a Friday night? Wait…aren’t these conference foes now? It is going to take everyone’s brain time to adjust to new teams with new conference patches on their jerseys. And while these two teams are conference mates, they are squaring off in a non-conference tilt to fulfill a game against a league opponent previously set before conference realignment. Both these teams will likely start ranked in the top 25. The offensive firepower by both teams could result in a Big 12 shootout we all used to love. Technically, it won’t decide who plays for the conference title. However, it very well could be the first of two matchups between these teams.

1. Penn State At West Virginia

When we examine the landscape of the Big 12 non-conference games, there will not be a single more charged atmosphere outside of Morgantown, West Virginia when Penn State comes to town. Yes, just like in 2023, the toughest foe on the Mountaineer schedule gets presented to open the season. The Nittany Lions will likely open the season ranked in the top 10. They have a team that should be, at a minimum, competing for a playoff berth. However, Neal Brown’s team played Penn State much closer than the 38-15 score would suggest last season. The Mountaineers played with house money all year last season. If they can continue to build off the surprising nine-win season, they will be ready to go toe-for-toe with Penn State in week one. If the college football landscape is going to get shaken significantly early in the season, there would be no better place primed to do so than in week one at Milan Puskar Stadium.

Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports


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