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Big 12 football: 10 things to know about Sooners, Cowboys and rest of league's 2021 schedule

The Big 12 released its 2021 football schedule Thursday and there was plenty of intrigue — both for OU and Oklahoma State as well as the rest of the conference.

With Nebraska back on the Sooners’ schedule — the Cornhuskers visit OU this season where the participants of the 1971 “Game of the Century” in Norman will be honored 50 years later — it would’ve been nice for that game to be on Thanksgiving weekend.

But that game will instead be played Sept. 18, with Bedlam slated for Nov. 27, the regular-season finale for both teams, in Stillwater ahead of the Big 12 Championship Game on Dec. 4 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Even before Nebraska left the Big 12, the game between OU and Nebraska on Thanksgiving weekend gave way to Bedlam that weekend as the Sooners-Cornhuskers rivalry moved away from being an annual event with the league’s North-South scheduling.

But the 2021 matchup will be just the fourth time in the last decade that OU and OSU have squared off on Thanksgiving weekend, as it has been regularly moved earlier in November.

Bedlam was originally scheduled for Oct. 24 last season before the COVID-19 pandemic caused a reshuffling that moved the game to Nov. 21 — the week before Thanksgiving.

There has yet to be a Bedlam title game in Jerry World, but certainly this year’s games could have implications for at least one side.

The Sooners have won all four title games since the game was revived before the 2017 season and will be the favorites once again.

Oklahoma State is still looking for its first Big 12 Championship Game appearance.

Here are nine more takeaways:

Late bye for the Sooners

The only bye on the Sooners schedule comes Nov. 6, the week after hosting Texas Tech.

This can go one of two directions but after playing nine consecutive games to start the season, OU figures to need a bit of a breather to get ready for a tough closing stretch that includes a game at Baylor, home against Iowa State and a regular-season Bedlam finale in Stillwater.

The bye is the latest first bye for the Sooners since 1995, when they played 10 consecutive Saturdays to start the season before having a bye before playing Nebraska in the then-traditional slot Thanksgiving week.

This year’s schedule is only the second time since that 1995 season where the Sooners’ initial bye comes later than the week after their early October meeting with Texas.

In 2007, the Sooners played eight consecutive games to start the season before a bye week Oct. 28.

Gradual ramp-up to Big 12 play for Cowboys

Oklahoma State has a favorable setup on its non-conference schedule, providing a slow build toward the start of Big 12 play.

The Cowboys open with Missouri State on Sept. 4, followed by a visit from Tulsa. Though the Golden Hurricane lost a couple of key players off last year’s squad — which nearly upset the Cowboys last September — several starters return to the team that will come to Stillwater on Sept. 11.

And OSU will get its first taste of road play on the blue turf of Boise State on Sept. 18, providing another level of difficulty to the non-conference schedule.

That will set up the Cowboys for their Big 12 opener at home against Kansas State to round out the month of September.

OU has tough early slate

Once again, the Sooners don't have a slow ramp-up to their Big 12 schedule.

In 2020, with just one non-conference game, that hurt OU as it lost to Kansas State and Iowa State before getting things back on track and making (and winning) a fourth consecutive Big 12 Championship Game — fifth consecutive overall — and winning the conference for the sixth consecutive season.

The Sooners start Big 12 play with West Virginia at home Sept. 25. OU didn't play the Mountaineers last year as the game in Morgantown was first postponed and then canceled due to COVID-19 issues with one of the teams.

West Virginia hasn't beaten the Sooners since joining the Big 12, but the teams have played a number of close games.

After taking on the Mountaineers, the Sooners play at Kansas State Oct. 2. The Wildcats have beaten OU in each of the last two seasons, including a 48-41 victory on Oct. 26, 2019 in Manhattan.

That comes a week before the Sooners take on Texas on Oct. 9 in their annual showdown in the Cotton Bowl.

With a non-conference schedule at Tulane then at home against FCS Western Carolina before Nebraska, the schedule does offer a chance for the Sooners to iron out any kinks, though with plenty of returners, including Spencer Rattler at quarterback, OU should be able to be closer to settled in in 2021 than they were in 2020.

OSU’s critical mid-October

If OSU is going to compete for a Big 12 title, the most crucial stretch of the schedule comes in mid-October with back-to-back road dates at Texas and Iowa State.

OSU visits the Longhorns on Oct. 16, then goes to Iowa State on Oct. 23. The good news is the games are sandwiched between an open week on Oct. 9 and a home game against Kansas on Oct. 30.

In general, OSU’s road trips are well-balanced, with one in September (Boise State), two in October (Texas and Iowa State) and two in November (West Virginia and Texas Tech).

Pokes welcome Kansas for homecoming

After having to cancel homecoming in 2020, the Cowboys hope to bring it back on Oct. 30 with a game against Kansas.

The homecoming events, combined with Halloween weekend should make for an even bigger party than usual across campus.

After homecoming, the schedule is a mixed bag, with a road game at West Virginia the following weekend, then a home game against TCU and a trip to Texas Tech — always a tough place to play — before Bedlam.

Longhorns get going under Sarkisian

Texas has an interesting non-conference schedule in Steve Sarkisian’s first season, taking over after Tom Herman was fired after four seasons.

The Longhorns start the season at home against Louisiana, which is coming off a 10-1 season that included a win at Iowa State.

A week later, they’ll take on Arkansas in the renewal of an old Southwest Conference rivalry that has been played just five times since 1992.

Sarkisian’s Big 12 debut comes Sept. 25 at home against Texas Tech as the Longhorns begin conference play with five consecutive games in the state of Texas, not leaving the state for a Big 12 game until the Nov. 6 showdown at Iowa State, a game that has been decided by a kick in each of the last two seasons.

Early open date for TCU

TCU has the earliest open week of any Big 12 team.

The Horned Frogs are off Sept. 18, in the middle of their non-conference schedule.

TCU will open with games against Duquesne and Cal, then take a week off and play 10 consecutive weeks to finish the regular season.

Other early open weeks

Big 12 runner-up Iowa State is one of four teams with an Oct. 9 open week on the schedule, along with Oklahoma State, Kansas and Kansas State.

If the Cyclones are going to repeat their run to the Big 12 title game, they’ll ultimately play eight consecutive Saturdays against conference opponents.

The latest open weeks in the season belong to Oklahoma and Texas Tech, which are off Nov. 6.

When it comes to opponents and open weeks, Iowa State and Texas drew the short straws. Each plays two games against teams that will have had the previous week off.

Tough stretch for Baylor

Baylor has a tough slate beginning Sept. 25 home game against Iowa State, which finished first in the Big 12 in the regular season last year before falling to OU in the title game.

The Bears’ October schedule features a trip to Oklahoma State, and a home meeting with West Virginia before Baylor steps out of conference to host BYU on Oct. 16. The Cougars finished last season 10-1 and ranked No. 16. After that game, the Bears have a bye week before hosting Texas on Oct. 20, playing at TCU on Nov. 6 and taking on OU on Nov. 13.

The Bears are coming off a 2-7 season under Dave Aranda, who replaced Matt Rhule after Rhule left for the NFL.

OU 2021 schedule

Sept. 4: at Tulane

Sept. 11: Western Carolina

Sept. 18: Nebraska

Sept. 25: West Virginia

Oct. 2: at Kansas State

Oct. 9: Texas at Dallas

Oct. 16: TCU

Oct. 23: at Kansas

Oct. 30: Texas Tech

Nov 13: at Baylor

Nov. 20: Iowa State

Nov. 27: at Oklahoma State

OSU 2021 schedule

Sept. 4: Missouri State

Sept. 11: Tulsa

Sept. 18: at Boise State

Sept. 25: Kansas State

Oct. 2: Baylor

Oct. 16: at Texas

Oct. 23: at Iowa State

Oct. 30: Kansas (homecoming)

Nov. 6: at West Virginia

Nov. 13: TCU

Nov. 20: at Texas Tech

Nov. 27: Oklahoma

Related Photos
<strong>Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, right, greets Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy after the Sooners' 41-13 win on Nov. 21 in Norman. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, right, greets Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy after the Sooners' 41-13 win on Nov. 21 in Norman. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, right, greets Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy after the Sooners' 41-13 win on Nov. 21 in Norman. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, right, greets Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy after the Sooners' 41-13 win on Nov. 21 in Norman. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, right, greets Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy after the Sooners' 41-13 win on Nov. 21 in Norman. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Ryan Aber

Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The... Read more ›

Scott Wright

A lifelong resident of the Oklahoma City metro area, Scott Wright has been on The Oklahoman staff since 2005, covering a little bit of everything on the state's sports scene. He has been a beat writer for football and basketball at Oklahoma and... Read more ›