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Scouting the Big 12 North: Schedules

Over the next month, leading up to the start of fall camp, will preview the Tigers at every position on the field and examine a number of the questions facing one of the most intriguing seasons in the 120-year history of the Missouri program. To get yourself ready for the 2009 campaign, try out our free seven-day trial.
With the start of fall camp just about a month away, revs up our month-long preview of one of the most anticipated seasons in Tiger history. The last couple of years, Missouri has won the Big 12 North and has been in the running for much more significant prizes. With a new cast on hand, and so many productive players having moved on, winning the division for a third straight season will be no easy task.
Over the last two weeks, we have broken down the rankings at each position. But there's another factor in all of this. Not every team plays the same schedule. Who you play, and when and where you play them, can be a huge factor in a season.
Today, we look at the division's schedules. We rate the schedule for each team with ten being the easiest and one being the most difficult. Teams are listed in the order of division finish from a year ago.
Missouri Tigers
The Schedule:
Oct 8 vs Nebraska
Oct 17 at Oklahoma State
Oct 24 vs Texas
Oct 31 at Colorado
Nov 7 vs Baylor
Nov 14 at Kansas State
Nov 21 vs Iowa State
Nov 28 at Kansas (in Kansas City)
Key Game: At home against Nebraska. To avoid playing catch-up all season long, the Tigers are going to have to beat the Huskers in Columbia. Mizzou has won the last three home games against Nebraska by an average of 23 points. But with so many question marks going into the season, this is a major test right off the bat. And if the Tigers don't pass it, they're staring at an 0-and-3 league start, knocking them out of the division race before it even begins.
The Analysis: 6.5 Missouri gets two of the pre-season top three in the South division in Oklahoma State and Texas. But they also host Baylor and their only two true road games in the North are against teams that finished fourth and fifth in the division last year. This is the year where Tiger fans are thrilled the Border War was moved off campus and Jayhawk fans are furious.
Nebraska Cornhuskers
The Schedule:
Oct 8 at Missouri
Oct 17 vs Texas Tech
Oct 24 vs Iowa State
Oct 31 at Baylor
Nov 7 vs Oklahoma
Nov 14 at Kansas
Nov 21 vs Kansas State
Nov 28 at Colorado
Key Game: At home against Texas Tech on October 17. It goes without saying that the games against Missouri and Kansas will loom large. The simple fact of the matter is that if the Huskers lose them both, they almost cannot win the North. But looking deeper into the schedule, the game against the Red Raiders could determine the season. The Huskers could overcome a loss to Missouri and still win the North. But to do so, they'll have to bounce back immediately and beat a Tech team that isn't quite as strong as the last few years. If Nebraska were to drop to 0-2 with Oklahoma, plus road games at Baylor, Kansas and Colorado left, any thoughts of winning the division would be gone.
Position Rating (1-10): 5.5: Nebraska plays the other two biggest North contenders on the road. The Huskers also face Colorado away from home. That is balanced out by their South schedule, which sees them play only one of the pre-season top three, and that game is in Lincoln. The Huskers schedule is better than Mizzou's in that they get two South games at home, but it's just behind the Tigers because they have to travel to Columbia and Lawrence.
Kansas Jayhawks
The Schedule:
Oct 10 vs Iowa State
Oct 17 at Colorado
Oct 24 vs Oklahoma
Oct 31 at Texas Tech
Nov 7 at Kansas State
Nov 14 vs Nebraska
Nov 21 at Texas
Nov 28 vs Missouri (in Kansas City)
Key Game: Oklahoma comes to Lawrence on October 24th. The Jayhawks could put a stranglehold on the division if they come away with an upset win. Kansas should start with two wins. To sit 3-and-0 having already played Oklahoma would be huge. Either Missouri or Nebraska will already have at least one loss at the end of that day and it's possible both could have two. Yes, the head to head games against the Huskers and Tigers will be ones they need to win, but Kansas could give itself some room for a slip up with a win over the Sooners.
The Analysis: 4: At first blush, this looks impossible. But the Jayhawks don't get the top three teams in the South this year. Most expect Tech to slip back to that fourth place spot. Replacing the Red Raiders with Okie State would probably make it more difficult. So KU's South rotation may not be a whole lot tougher than Missouri's or Nebraska's. However, two of the South games are on the road and the only one that isn't is Oklahoma. The fact is, the Jayhawks are going to be playing with fire if they don't sweep their games against the North.
Kansas State Wildcats
The Schedule:
October 3 at Iowa State
Oct 10 at Texas Tech
Oct 17 vs Texas A&M
Oct 24 vs Colorado
Oct 31 at Oklahoma
Nov 7 vs Kansas
Nov 14 vs Missouri
Nov 21 at Nebraska
Key Game: At Iowa State to start the Big 12 slate. The Cats have to get off to a good start. If they beat the Cyclones, it's a very real possibility they end the first half of the conference season at 3-and-1. And they're going to have to with a four-game finishing kick against Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. KSU will be an underdog in at least three of those games and perhaps all four. If K-State loses more than one of its first four, the Cats are going to have to claw tooth and nail just to reach .500 and a bowl game.
The Analysis: 8: This is about as good a slate as a North team could hope for. The Wildcats get Texas A&M and, again, a Tech team that just might be a little less formidable out of the South. They get Kansas and Missouri at home. They face Colorado and Iowa State earlier in the year, which might give the Cats a better chance at winning both. The schedule makers did KSU no favors after October 24th, but if the Wildcats can get some confidence rolling in the first half, Bill Snyder has overcome longer odds in Manhattan before.
Colorado Buffaloes
The Schedule:
Oct 10 at Texas
Oct 17 vs Kansas
Oct 24 at Kansas State
Oct 31 vs Missouri
Nov 7 vs Texas A&M
Nov 14 at Iowa State
Nov 21 at Oklahoma State
Nov 28 vs Nebraska
Key Game: The Halloween tilt against Missouri. Colorado has a murderous beginning and a difficult last two weeks, but the middle of the schedule sets up for a possible four-game winning streak. Many predict this is the year the Buffs leap back into the top half of the North. If they're going to do it, they have to beat the Tigers. If CU can come out of the Missouri game at 2-and-2, they should be alive and kicking with a chance at the division crown when they head to Stillwater and return home to face Nebraska.
The Analysis: 6: It might be more favorable, but CU starts with two tough games. The fortunate thing for the Buffs is that they get the lesser of the two teams at home, but Kansas will still roll into Boulder as a favorite and likely as an unbeaten and ranked team. But again, if they can get three or four wins in the middle of the slate (or even pull an upset in the first two weeks), Colorado has a shot to be playing very meaningful games around Thanksgiving.
Iowa State Cyclones
The Schedule:
Oct 3 vs Kansas State
Oct 10 at Kansas
Oct 17 vs Baylor
Oct 24 at Nebraska
Oct 31 at Texas A&M
Nov 7 vs Oklahoma State
Nov 14 vs Colorado
Nov 21 at Missouri
Key Game: It's the October 31st game at Texas A&M. There is a chance—maybe not a great one, but a chance—that the Cyclones could take two of the first four. If they do that, they travel to Kyle Field to face an A&M team that simply hasn't shown many signs of bouncing back lately. Win there and suddenly you're looking at games against Colorado and Missouri where one win could get you to a winning season.
The Analysis: 9: The bottom line is this: In a major conference, no one has an easy schedule. But the Cyclones probably have the best slate you could have. They play the bottom two teams from the South. Their other South game is at home and they're the only team in the league that faces neither Texas nor Oklahoma. The only disadvantage is having to face the division's three best teams on the road. But the Cyclones aren't realistically playing for a North title. They're playing to get back to respectability and a bowl game. This schedule gives them the chance to do that.
Order by Position Rating (Points in Parentheses)
Iowa State (6)
Kansas State (5)
Missouri (4)
Colorado (3)
Nebraska (2)
Kansas (1)
Over the next month, leading up to the start of fall camp, will preview the Tigers at every position on the field and examine a number of the questions facing one of the most intriguing seasons in the 120-year history of the Missouri program. To get yourself ready for the 2009 campaign, try out our free seven-day trial.