Winners, losers and what to expect

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After weeks – and more weeks – of waiting, the Big 12 finally has released its 2023 football schedule.

That in itself represented news Tuesday, beyond the analysis of who plays who and who got an unfriendly schedule. The schedule was supposed to be out weeks ago.

At the College Football Playoff championship game, new Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark said it wasn’t about Texas and Oklahoma negotiating to leave early for the SEC, but a matter of due diligence.

Whatever. The schedule has arrived for what just became a 14-team supersized behemoth for 2023 – thanks to BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston joining the conference. Gone is the nine-game round-robin schedule that had become a trademark of the conference. Now it’s a lot easier to eyeball winners and losers.

For conspiracy theorists, the schedule brought disappointment. Short-timers Texas and Oklahoma got fairly easy slates in what might be their last season in the league. There were no back-to-back road trips of, say, Central Florida and BYU. Texas only leaves the state twice for games. For both, the schedule is very manageable, although all four of OU’s true road games are against bowl teams from 2022.

One thing we don’t know is when Texas and OU will exit the conference for the SEC, 2024 or 2025, with the smart money on 2024. There was no announcement as both schools try to exit a year early.

At least credit Yormark for self-awareness in making the announcement.

“I would like to thank our fans for their patience awaiting this historic schedule,” he said in a statement. “Given its importance, the complexities of weaving in four new schools, adding a third time zone and ensuring alignment with key stakeholders, we were very deliberate with its development. I look forward to another highly competitive season of Big 12 football, and to welcoming our new members and their fans into the league.”

Certainly, it’s a different look beyond just the unfamiliar names.

Here’s a breakdown of winners and losers:

Winner: Big 12

Strangely enough, by waiting so long to unveil its schedule, the Big 12 actually turned what is usually a routine announcement into a thing. Whether that was part of the strategy or just the byproduct of procrastination, who knows. But it worked. People were paying attention.

Loser: TCU

Hey, each year there always seems to be someone that just can’t wait to release its schedule – and TCU was that school this season.

The Horned Frogs jumped the gun, releasing their schedule online briefly Monday before yanking it away.

It will be a challenge for TCU to duplicate last season’s success from a schedule standpoint, with five conference road games, including a Big 12 championship rematch at K-State on Oct. 21 and its first meeting with Houston since the 2007 Texas Bowl. The second half of the season is no fun: BYU, at K-State, at Texas Tech, Texas, Baylor and at Oklahoma.

TCU schedule release: Horned Frogs to start Big 12 play in Houston

Winner: Texas

The Longhorns – along with fellow defector Oklahoma — really, really didn’t want to play any of the new schools, according to Horns247. They didn’t get their way. But for a lame-duck school, Texas did just fine on its schedule. The Longhorns leave the state of Texas just twice in the 12-game regular season. There’s the rematch with Alabama in Week 2 and a Nov. 18 game at Iowa State. Things may be setting up nicely for Steve Sarkisian.

Texas schedule release: Longhorns set to reunite with old SWC opponent

Loser: DeLoss Dodds

If you recall, back in 2002, the former Texas athletic director was not amused when temporary seating was removed at Houston, leaving thousands of Texas fans without tickets. Dodds fumed and reportedly said Texas wouldn’t ever play at Houston again. “I am in shock. I am appalled,” Dodds said at the time, adding that “this whole situation in my mind is just absolutely out of whack. I am sick about it. We are very upset about this.” Well, it took 21 years but Texas is back in Houston on Oct. 21.

Winner: Oklahoma State (maybe)

The Cowboys may have gotten a break on the schedule, depending on how quickly the new schools adjust to the Big 12. Oklahoma State faces all four of the incoming schools late in the season and somehow doesn’t face Texas, Baylor, Texas Tech or TCU. And the Cowboys get what could very much be the final Bedlam meeting with Oklahoma at Boone Pickens Stadium on Nov. 4. Yes, it will be loud.

Loser: Neal Brown

The schedule doesn’t do the embattled West Virginia coach any favors. Even before Big 12 play begins, the Mountaineers have a road trip to Penn State and the Backyard Brawl with Pitt at home. Then comes Texas Tech at home and TCU on the road to start Big 12 play. West Virginia could be 2-4 or 1-5 to start as new AD Wren Baker evaluates the program.

Winner: Cincinnati

Among the new Big 12 members, the Bearcats may have gotten the biggest break. Cincinnati doesn’t have to play Kansas State, TCU, Texas or Texas Tech – teams that combined for 39 victories last season. The Bearcats also begin play in the new conference with Oklahoma, which should be a rocking atmosphere at Nippert Stadium.

Loser: Houston

If Cincinnati got a break on the schedule – at least based on 2022 results – then Houston gets a rude introduction to the Big 12. The teams that the Cougars avoid on their schedule had 24 wins last season, the lowest total of the 14 schedules.

Winner: QB reunions

Texas Tech’s Tyler Shough and Oklahoma’s Dillon Gabriel will see their former teams this coming season. In Week 2, the Red Raiders host Oregon, where Shough began his career and won a Pac-12 title. OU and Gabriel will face UCF on Oct. 21 in Norman. Gabriel threw for 7,223 yards at UCF in 2019 and 2020.

Loser: Clarity on Texas, Oklahoma

So is this the last ride for Texas and Oklahoma before heading to the SEC? We don’t really know – yet. The Longhorns and Sooners have been working feverishly to get to the SEC by 2024, although nothing is official. The two schools are trying to thread a needle that would satisfy TV rights holders ESPN and Fox, as well as the Big 12.

Winner: Black Friday

The Big 12 did its best to set up a couple of potentially meaningful games on the final Friday of the regular season. While it’s always dicey to look into the crystal ball – remember, TCU was picked to finish seventh in the league for 2022 – the Big 12 may have succeeded for the Friday after Thanksgiving on Nov. 24. Texas Tech travels to Texas and TCU plays at Oklahoma. It would be no surprise if at least one of those teams is playing Dec. 2 at in the conference title game at AT&T Stadium.

Loser: Traditional rivalries

While it was pretty much a given with a 14-team schedule, it’s still a little jarring to see some of the matchups that will not be played. Baylor won’t see Oklahoma or Oklahoma State. TCU and Texas won’t see the Cowboys either. What had become a nice simmering rivalry – Oklahoma vs. Kansas State – also bit the dust. That’s a whole lot of fond memories. At least the Red River Showdown made the cut, with Texas and Oklahoma playing Oct. 7 at the Cotton Bowl.

Baylor schedule release: Bears start season stacked with home games

Find more college sports coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

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