Would a Big 12-only schedule help Oklahoma or Texas more?

Oklahoma Sooners, Texas Longhorns. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Oklahoma Sooners, Texas Longhorns. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Does conference-only serve Oklahoma football or Texas football more?

If it’s conference-only this fall, would you rather be Oklahoma football or Texas football?

As it stands now, the Big 12 still plans to play all 12 regular-season games this season. While the Big Ten and the Pac-12 have opted to go the conference-only route, there is a growing expectation that decision could be made by more conferences by the end of the month.

If there is one advantage to going conference-only, the Big 12 doesn’t have to make any adjustments. Their 10-team league plays a round-robin, nine-game conference schedule. The top two teams in conference play meet for the Big 12 championship at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. One can expect the rival Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns to meet there in 2020.

So the question is, if the Big 12 is forced to go the conference-only route like the Big Ten and the Pac-12, who does it serve more: Oklahoma or Texas? Let’s take a look at what they’d be up against if that’s the route the Big 12 decides to go.

Texas benefits the most by going conference-only over Oklahoma in 2020.

Though few would question Oklahoma as the better team, as the Sooners have won the Big 12 the last five seasons, a rare nine-game conference-only schedule benefits Texas in multiple ways. First, the Longhorns wouldn’t have to enter Big 12 play with a near-certain non-conference loss at the hands of the SEC’s LSU Tigers. Texas couldn’t beat the Bayou Bengals at home last year.

While Texas would beat the South Florida Bulls and the UTEP Miners in their two other non-conference games, Oklahoma would miss out on a Power 5 non-conference win over the SEC’s Tennessee Volunteers in Norman. A road date with the Army Black Knights at West Point is tricky, but the Sooners should win that won, as well as cake walk over the Missouri State Bears.

So eliminating the non-conference slate gives the Longhorns an edge over the Sooners they wouldn’t otherwise have. Nobody outside of Austin thinks the ‘Horns were beating LSU in Death Valley anyway. But what about the nine-game slate in question in conference play? What about the home dates, the road dates and the neutral-site affair in Dallas? What about them?

Of course, the winner in the Cotton Bowl has the upper hand to win the Big 12, as it is usually the case in the Red River Rivalry. As for tough road dates, the hardest one on Oklahoma’s schedule is at the Iowa State Cyclones on Oct. 17. The toughest road game on Texas’ schedule is the last regular-season game at the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Nov. 28. Admittedly, both are winnable.

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Though Oklahoma State is seen as the third-best team in the Big 12, while Iowa State is seen as middle-of-the-pack around fourth to sixth, the Longhorns’ game with the Pokes in Stillwater comes late enough in the year to seize all momentum in conference play. Oklahoma having to play Iowa State in Ames mid-season feels a tad trickier for that reason.

If Oklahoma drops a home game, maybe it’s to the Kansas State Wildcats on Nov. 14. Of course, we’re not counting a home loss to Oklahoma State in Bedlam because we know how that hammer vs. nail rivalry goes. If Texas drops a home game, it might be Iowa State towards the end of the regular season on Nov. 21. Baylor on Halloween and TCU on Nov. 14 could be tricky as well.

Ultimately, the biggest key here is Oklahoma has a front-loaded Big 12 slate, while Texas does not. Oklahoma’s four hardest games are right from the jump at Baylor, Texas in the Cotton Bowl, at Iowa State and home vs. Oklahoma State in Bedlam. Even the back-to-back road dates at TCU on Halloween and at West Virginia on Nov. 7 could be problematic.

Overall, Texas is the big winner over Oklahoma if the Big 12 does go the conference-only route.

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