Truth be told, we've kind of neglected football talk around here. I mean, we've had good reason to, but we're less than 90 days away from the start of the 2015 season and whether we like it or not, we should at least feign an attempt at getting excited for some action on the grid iron.
The previews mags have started to hit the shelves (though Phil Steele's mag doesn't hit stores until July), and that all but serves as the unofficial start to the upcoming season. Before we know it, media days will be here and fall camp will be kicking off.
Until then, we'll run the off season storylines into ground, starting today by looking at the non-conference schedules for our Big 12 brethren.
(listed in alphabetical order)
@SMU, Friday September 4th
Lamar, Saturday September 12th
Rice, Saturday September 26th
Hot Take: Another year and another non-conference slate void of any Power 5 opponents. Such has become the norm for Baylor under Art Briles. Baylor fans will point to the fact that Rice went 8-5 last year in defense of their schedule while conveniently leaving out the fact that SMU went 1-11. Let me be the first to congratulate the Bears on another 3-0 start, but don't come to me looking for sympathy when the playoff committee shuts you out...again.
Northern Iowa, Saturday September 5th
Iowa, Saturday September 12th
@ Toledo, Saturday September 19th
Hot Take: A fairly routine slate for Iowa State in the non-conference. Above all else, Paul Rhoads and Iowa State can't afford another embarrassing slip up against an FCS foe for a third straight year. The annual tilt with Iowa always makes for good theater and Iowa State will be looking for its fourth win in five years in the CyHawk series. The Cyclones managed to outlast Toledo a year ago in Ames, but the return bout in Ohio could be the toughest game on the non-conference schedule as the Rockets return a loaded team that is expected by many to win the MAC.
South Dakota State, Saturday September 5th
Memphis, Saturday September 12th
@Rutgers, Saturday, September 26th
Hot Take: This could be a sneaky-tough schedule for the Jayhawks and first-year head coach, David Beaty. Memphis went 10-3 a year ago while Rutgers went 8-5 in the first year in the Big Ten. Kansas has taken some recent personnel hits, meaning that a bowl trip might still be a little far-fetched, but if KU can come out of the non-conference at 2-1 or better, it might give them a chance to at least talk about getting to a bowl game for the first time since 2008.
South Dakota, Saturday September 5th
@UTSA, Saturday September 12th
Louisiana Tech, Saturday September 19th
Hot Take: Louisiana Tech might have a puncher's chance in Manhattan, but this non-conference schedule is arguably the worst in the conference. When the collective Big 12 starts touting the conference's overall non-conference record in late September, don't buy into the propaganda, specifically for reasons like the Wildcats' schedule.
Akron, Saturday September 5th
@Tennessee, Saturday September 12th
Tulsa, Saturday September 19th
Hot Take: Well, at least there's one decent match up here. Akron and Tulsa will likely be garbage, but the contest at Neyland Stadium should be a good one. The Vols and Butch Jones are slowly building something in Knoxville and are coming off a 7-6 season (where they destroyed a clearly overmatched opponent in their bowl game).
@Central Michigan, Thursday September 3rd
Central Arkansas, Saturday September 12th
UTSA, Saturday September 19th
Hot Take: What.The.Hell? I mean, you gotta be kidding me, right? This can't really be Oklahoma State's non-conference schedule, can it? Forget what I said about Kansas State and Baylor, this is the worst non-conference schedule in the league. What happened to the program that played Florida State, Mississippi State and Arizona in recent years? Then again, who am I to criticize? Congratulations on getting half way to bowl eligibility without breaking a sweat...I guess.
@Minnesota, Thursday September 3rd
Stephen F. Austin, Saturday September 12th
SMU, Saturday September 19th
Hot Take: The opener in Minneapolis will be a national showcase game on ESPN where the Frogs can make a statement. The Gophers are far from a great opponent, but if TCU can win that game convincingly on the road, it should at least carry some weight with the playoff committee. The rest of the non-conference schedule doesn't provide much as far as quality opponents, but for TCU, it's all about getting through the first 10 games, as they close out the season at Oklahoma and then against Baylor at home.
@Notre Dame, Saturday September 5th
Rice, Saturday September 12th
California, Saturday September 19th
Hot Take: Now this is a non-conference schedule. The entire country will tune in for the opener in South Bend and don't sleep on Rice or Cal. As I mentioned in Baylor's section, the Owls went 8-5 last year and this could be a possible trap game for the Horns. Rounding things out against Cal certainly won't be easy. Sonny Dykes has the Golden Bears on the up and up and Jared Goff is one of the best quarterbacks you haven't heard of and is on the radar of NFL scouts.
Sam Houston State, Saturday September 5th
UTEP, Saturday September 12th
@Arkansas, Saturday September 19th
Hot Take: This isn't too bad of a non-conference slate. Sam Houston State is a decent FCS foe and UTEP managed to scrape together a winning record in 2014. For Coach Swag and the Red Raiders though, it's all about what they do against the Hogs. Tech was embarrassed in Lubbock last year and if they haven't figured out to stop the run, Arkansas could run it right down their throats again this season.
Georgia Southern, Saturday September 5th
Liberty, Saturday September 12th
Maryland, Saturday September 26th
Hot Take: If I'm grading this non-conference schedule, I suppose it earns a passing grade. There's a Power 5 opponent, which is a helluva lot more than Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State can say. With the Terps coming to Morgantown, I imagine that the 'Eers should feel pretty good about getting out to a 3-0 start.