The Big 12 has four new teams debuting in the league this season, and thanks to some coincidental non-conference scheduling is already getting some prime previews of what's to come next year.
Three of the four Pac-12 teams that will join the Big 12 next year are playing future conference foes over the next two Saturdays. There haven't been many such matchups in the past for Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah, who got Big 12 invites over the past five weeks.
Deion Sanders makes his debut as Colorado's coach in the season opener Saturday at 17th-ranked TCU, which last year on the way to the national championship game won at Boulder in Sonny Dykes' first game coaching the Horned Frogs. That was also the Buffaloes' first regular-season game against a Big 12 team since leaving that league after the 2010 season.
In Week 2, No. 14 Utah goes to Baylor for its first regular-season game against the Big 12 since 2010, and Arizona State hosts Oklahoma State after last year playing in Stillwater for the first time since 1991. The Sun Devils also had a home-and-home series against Texas Tech in 2016 and 2017, with the home team winning each high-scoring game.
BYU and Houston, incoming teams this season with Cincinnati and UCF, were in similar spots when both sets of Cougars played Big 12 opponents after being accepted in September 2021. That was about six weeks after Oklahoma and Texas were invited to join the Southeastern Conference, which happens after this season.
“I was very careful with talking too much Big 12 prior to January. I think we pressed too much a little bit, just based on this is what it’s going to be like. But I tried not to make that big of a deal about it,” Houston coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Since January, yeah, I’ve talked about it because that’s the way it’s going to be. It’s going to be like that every week.”
Houston had back-to-back games early last season against the Big 12, losing at Texas Tech and at home to Kansas. The Cougars are 4-13 against the league since not being among the four Texas teams from the Southwest Conference that merged with the Big Eight to form the Big 12 in 1996. Their loss to the Red Raiders in 2021 came the weekend before getting their invitation to join.
BYU's double-overtime win at home over then-No. 9 Baylor last September was the part of a non-conference home-and-home series, the Cougars' first games against a Big 12 opponent since 2016. Now they are part of the league after playing 12 seasons as an independent.
“Being in the Big 12 is exciting. You have so much more to play for," BYU linebacker Ben Bywater said. “Obviously, being an independent was great but now you can play for a conference championship, you’re competing, you’re watching week-to-week who’s winning and who’s losing. ... There’s been a lot of anticipation and a lot of talk but I’m ready to just get out there and go do it."
UCF's last game against the Big 12 was a 52-42 win over Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl at the end of the 2013 season. Cincinnati, which two seasons ago was the first Group of Five team to make the four-team College Football Playoff, hasn't played a team from its new league since losing to Oklahoma in 2010, and it hasn't played one of the continuing members since Kansas in 1997.
Colorado was part of the original 12-team lineup before the first rounds of conference realignment that dropped the Big 12 to 10 teams. The Buffaloes will now be part of an expansion that will make the Big 12 bigger than ever.
Founding members Texas A&M and Missouri left for the SEC after the 2011 season, a year after the departures of Colorado and 1997 national champion Nebraska (to the Big Ten). TCU and West Virginia joined in 2012, and the Big 12 stayed at 10 teams through last season. It is at 14 this year with BYU in along with Cincinnati, Houston and UCF from the American Athletic Conference.
With no more moves, the Big 12 will grow to 16 teams next season when the quartet from the dismantled Pac-12 officially become members.
While Arizona doesn't play a team from its future league this year, the Wildcats are the only incoming Pac-12 team with multiple regular-season games against Big 12 teams before this season — Texas Tech in 2019, and Oklahoma State in 2011 and 2012.
All will have a chance to become more well-acquainted after this season.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll