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10 Must-Watch Big 12 Football Nonconference Games In 2024

May 20, 2024, 4:59 PM

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SALT LAKE CITY – Big 12 football enters a 16-team era this fall.

Half the league’s 16 members joined the conference last year or this upcoming season. The Big 12 name has been around for a quarter century, but in many aspects, it’s a startup league with power conference status.

How this new-look Big 12 improves its image on the gridiron is by putting teams into the 12-team College Football Playoff. Nonconference matchups will play a significant role in getting more than one team into the Playoff.

Here are the ten must-see nonconference matchups for the Big 12 in the 2024 season.

10. Utah at Utah State | September 14

The “Battle of the Brothers” is back for the first time since 2015.

Utah is making its first trip to Logan since 2012.

This game returned to the schedule due to Utah’s change from the Pac-12 to the Big 12. The annual rivalry game with BYU left the nonconference portion of Utah’s schedule and became a conference game again. Utah then needed to add a third nonconference game, and they lined up a two-for-one series with the in-state Aggies.

9. Arizona State vs. Mississippi State | September 7

Arizona State and Mississippi State are squaring for the first time ever this fall. This is a big game opportunity for second-year head coach Kenny Dillingham at ASU.

The Sun Devils will need to get past Wyoming in week one, but a win over an SEC team could inject some life into an ASU program that was going through a self-imposed bowl ban last season.

Both teams in this matchup have transfer quarterbacks. For ASU, Michigan State transfer Sam Leavitt seems to be the leader coming out of spring. But they also added Nebraska transfer Jeff Sims.

Then Big 12 fans will remember Mississippi State’s signal-caller as it is former Baylor QB Blake Shapen.

8. BYU at SMU | Friday, September 6

BYU and SMU square off for the first time in the regular season as nonconference foes. Imagine telling someone five years ago this would be a Big 12/ACC matchup. Saying this, the last time these two teams met at the 2022 New Mexico Bowl, it would have seemed far-fetched to picture SMU in the ACC.

The two programs last met in the regular season when they were in the WAC together (1997).

BYU’s trip to Dallas is important for the Cougars, who look to return to the postseason after a 5-7 season last year.

The week two tilt between BYU and SMU could be a barometer for BYU’s unsettled quarterback unit. BYU has Jake Retzlaff and Gerry Bohanon competing to be the starter. They will face an SMU squad with their strength in the front seven.

7. Iowa State at Iowa | September 7

After winning three of four in the series from 2011-2014, Iowa State has now lost seven of its last eight to Iowa. That stretch includes a 20-13 setback in Ames.

According to ESPN’s returning production metrics, the Cyclones are the most experienced team in college football. They will face an Iowa team with a new offensive coordinator, former Western Michigan head coach Tim Lester.

6. Oklahoma State vs. Arkansas | September 7

Oklahoma State is considered one of the top teams in the Big 12 entering the 2024 season. Meanwhile, the Razorbacks projections are near the bottom of the SEC. It’s a game where Oklahoma State has to protect its home field.

It’s also an old rivalry for Oklahoma State. The two programs haven’t squared off against one another since 1980. They used to play annually from 1962-1980. The 2024 meeting will be the 47th matchup all-time between the Pokes and Hogs.

5. Colorado vs. North Dakota State | Thursday, August 29

All eyes in college football will once again be on Coach Prime’s Colorado Buffaloes. The Buffs get the national spotlight on the week one Thursday night ESPN spot against North Dakota State.

Colorado is only a touchdown favorite over the Bison. North Dakota State is 9-4 all-time against FBS teams.

4. Colorado at Nebraska | September 7

This one will hit hard with Big 12 nostalgia. One week after Colorado hosts the Bison, they go on the road to Lincoln to take on Nebraska in primetime on NBC (KSL 5 TV in Salt Lake City).

Colorado defeated Nebraska last year 36-14 in Boulder.

These two former Big 12 rivals are for the fourth time since they were last in the same conference together in 2010. Colorado has won the previous three meetings. There are no future dates between these programs for the next decade.

3. Arizona at Kansas State | Friday, September 13

You’re probably thinking, isn’t Arizona-Kansas State a Big 12 Conference game? It is two teams in the Big 12 this year. But it will count as a nonconference game because it was previously scheduled when Arizona was in the Pac-12.

It’s an excellent matchup that features rising stars at quarterback with Avery Johnson at Kansas State and Noah Fifita for Arizona.

The last time these two programs met was in 1978.

2. West Virginia vs. Penn State | August 31

These old rivals met last season to open the 2023 campaign in Happy Valley. Penn State won comfortably. Fast-forward to this season, and West Virginia is riding high after a nine-win campaign in 2023.

Garrett Greene is back at quarterback for the Mountaineers, with standouts CJ Donaldson and Jahiem White at running back.

A win over Penn State, who could be a preseason Top 10 team this year, would be an early-season splash that could put the Mountaineers in the Playoff conversation.

1. UCF at Florida | October 5

Could this matchup be the beginning of a rivalry between the in-state foes? UCF’s 2021 Gasparilla Bowl win over Florida likely ignited some juice for this upcoming matchup in the Swamp.

UCF agreed to a three-game series with Florida before the Knights were invited to the Big 12 Conference in 2021.

The Knights have a top-25 transfer portal class led by former Arkansas QB K.J. Jefferson.

There will be no shortage of storylines for this game.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and hosts the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X: @Mitch_Harper.

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10 Must-Watch Big 12 Football Nonconference Games In 2024