With the return of the Big 12 championship game, each conference team has only one open date this season. There will be no bye-bye.
Instead of two bye weeks, or even three like in 2013 or 2014 when those seasons started in August, there is now only one built-in break for Big 12 teams. The regular season is a week shorter because of the championship game.
“The preference would always be to have a second open date during the course of the season,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. “Or if not a second open date, one that takes you about halfway through the season.”
Kansas State (2-1) is already coming off its bye week after playing its three non-conference games. The Wildcats for the first time will now play nine Big 12 games in consecutive weeks.
Iowa State, Texas and Texas Tech have also already had their byes and this week begin their conference slates without any more breaks.
“That’s a pretty diligent schedule,” Snyder said.
The championship game will be played the first Saturday in December, the same weekend that the other Power Five conferences have their title games. The past six years, since the league went to a 10-team, round-robin schedule, that had always marked the end of the regular season for the Big 12.
Texas Tech is playing the longest stretch of games this season, 11 weeks in a row after its bye game in Week 2.
Four more Big 12 teams are off this weekend — No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 9 TCU, No. 23 West Virginia and Kansas.
“You try to look at the science behind that, and try to figure out what’s good and what’s bad. I don’t know any more,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “There’s years that we were on a roll pretty good and we had a bye week and we came back, we didn’t play very good. Then there are some years after you have a bye week, you rally and play better. I just don’t know what the answer is.”
After 15th-ranked Oklahoma State and Baylor have their byes in Week 6, there will be seven consecutive weeks — from Oct. 14 through Thanksgiving weekend — with every Big 12 team playing conference games . That is a first for the league since going to 10 members.
“I do think it is a positive. I think it evens the playing field,” first-year Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley said. “It makes the Big 12 season challenging, and you’re going to play good teams each week. You’re going to have people get hurt or get banged up, and you’ll have to rely on your depth, and other guys are going to have to step up. And that’s part of the definition of having a great team.”
Oklahoma has won a record 10 Big 12 titles, including the last two seasons with Riley as offensive coordinator before Bob Stoops suddenly retired after 18 seasons.
Before three conference titles the past five seasons, the Sooners made a record eight appearances in the championship game from 1996-2010. They won seven of those games, including the last in 2010 with a 23-20 win over Nebraska before the Cornhuskers moved to the Big Ten Conference.
The Sooners last season became the first team to make it through the nine-game, round-robin Big 12 schedule without a loss.
“I’ve said it so many times, in our conference anybody can get anybody,” Snyder said. “Everybody’s capable, so consequently every week is going to be a challenge … Other conferences are the same way, but to play them nine consecutive weeks, it’s a difficult task.”
Snyder pointed at this past weekend, the first with games counting toward the Big 12 standings, as a perfect example of that.
Third-ranked Oklahoma went to winless Baylor as a more than four-touchdown favorite and held on for a 49-41 win after the Bears had recovered an onside kick in the final 2 minutes. TCU, which lost 31-6 to Oklahoma State at home last season, won its Big 12 opener 44-31 at the then-No. 6 Cowboys.
“We’re fortunate we’re 4-0,” Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson said. “Now we turn ourselves to basically going back to being 0-0 and see how many we can win out of these next eight once we get back into it.”