June has arrived and the Oklahoma-portion of the NBA season is over, which means it’s time to talk college football. So today, let’s begin our annual ranking of non-conference schedules for 2014. We’ll start with the Big 12. With a new No. 1. OU or Texas traditionally come in with the toughest non-conference schedule, but the Sooners’ series with Tennessee comes at a time when the Volunteers are rebuilding. And West Virginia has taken on a mighty task.
1. West Virginia: Alabama in Atlanta, Towson, at Maryland. The Mountaineers will rank high nationally. Bama on a neutral field, smarting from its Sugar Bowl loss, and a road game at a Big Ten school? Not too many schools are taking on that kind of competition.
2. Texas: North Texas, Brigham Young, UCLA in Arlington. The schedule-maker did Charlie Strong no favors. BYU trounced the Longhorns last season, and the Bruins are much improved under Jim Mora Jr.
3. Oklahoma State: Florida State in Arlington, Missouri State, Texas-San Antonio. The Seminoles on a neutral field is not Mike Gundy’s idea of a good time, but the Cowboys will quickly know where they stand.
4. Kansas State: Stephen F. Austin, Auburn, Texas-El Paso. A virtual replica of OSU’s schedule – a national power, a Division I-AA foe and a Texas-hyphen. The only difference? Auburn comes to Manhattan.
5. TCU: Samford, Minnesota, at SMU. Decent schedule. The Frogs rarely have it easy in Dallas. And the Gophers are somewhat revived.
6. Iowa State: North Dakota State, at Iowa, Toledo. Forget the Iowa game. Who wants to play North Dakota State? The Bison conquered Kansas State in a 2013 season opener.
7. Oklahoma: Louisiana Tech, at Tulsa, Tennessee. Sounds rougher than it is. Tennessee is way down. So was Tulsa last season.
8. Texas Tech: Central Arkansas, at Texas-El Paso, Arkansas. Kudos to the Red Raiders for scheduling the Arkansas series. However, the Razorbacks, like the Volunteers, are down, too.
9. Kansas: Southeast Missouri State, at Duke, Central Michigan. If I believed David Cutliffe could keep the magic going for more than a year at Duke, the Jayhawks would rise above OU and Tech.
10. Baylor: SMU, Northwestern (La.) State, at Buffalo. The Bears haven’t upgraded their schedule as they’ve upgraded their program.