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Schedule analysis: Cowboys catch needed break

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Hoco Helmet

The Big 12 released its conference football schedules on Tuesday afternoon. The Cowboys will host two of the conference's newcomers, Cincinnati and BYU.

This season’s Big 12 football schedule release garnered more anticipation than any in the league’s history.

And for good reason. First of all, the schedule was teased, then delayed before finally being released two months after the time it dropped last year. But the biggest reason fans eagerly waited for the schedule is the Big 12's addition of Houston, BYU, Cincinnati and UCF. Conference membership balloons to 14 teams this season, meaning schools will not face every team in the conference. 

From the biggest, most anticipated schedule release in Big 12 history, OSU caught a serious break. The Cowboys, entering a season more focused on regrouping than championship hunting, have already had something go right.

OSU completely avoids facing the defending national runner-up TCU Horned Frogs. Easily the strongest team in the conference last season, TCU won’t get an opportunity to beat OSU a second consecutive season.  

Although some may not like it because OSU has had success in the series, the Cowboys don’t play the Texas Longhorns, always an opponent to be reckoned with. Baylor, not far removed from a conference title, and Texas Tech are the other Big 12 teams OSU will miss. 

Now look at the Big 12 opponents OSU does play.

Kansas State was the only team to finish above .500 last season. The other teams, Iowa State, Kansas, West Virginia and Oklahoma, went a combined 10-24 in Big 12 games last year. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row. 

Another way the schedule smiles on the Cowboys is the location of OSU’s toughest games. Coach Mike Gundy will welcome K-State, Cincinnati and OU to Boone Pickens Stadium. Travel in terms of distance will be a challenge (OSU’s doesn’t have a road game closer than 500 miles), but from an Xs and Os perspective, it works out nicely.

Even the timing of the games can be looked at favorably from an OSU perspective. The Cowboys have a bye week to prepare for the defending conference champion KSU Wildcats. OSU and West Virginia are the only two veteran Big 12 teams that will face all four incoming teams.

But unlike WVU, the Cowboys play the new teams in four out of the final five weeks of the season, by which time coaches will know how the newcomers react to a steady diet of power five opponents.

OSU limped home last season, finishing 7-6 overall. Quarterback Spencer Sanders departed, leaving OSU with questions at quarterback. Three of OSU’s top receivers, John Paul Richardson, Bryson Green and Stephon Johnson Jr. all joined Sanders in the portal.

Defensive coordinator Derek Mason announced he is taking a break from coaching, so Gundy brought in 37-year-old Bryan Nardo to help run the defense. Nardo won’t have the help of 2022 starters linebacker Mason Cobb, defensive end Trace Ford or corner Jabbar Muhammad, all found different schools.

To find success this season, OSU will need to catch some breaks. And the Cowboys just caught their first one.