Kansas State didn’t flinch when the Big 12 announced its new football scheduling policy, which will require teams to schedule at least one nonconference game per year against another Power Five conference opponent.
That may sound strange for K-State fans who grew up watching Bill Snyder’s teams pile up wins against softer nonconference competition, but the program has been shifting toward a more challenging slate in recent years.
It’s a trend that will continue. The Wildcats are already in compliance of the Big 12’s new scheduling policy through 2021, with home-and-home series lined up against Mississippi State, Stanford and Vanderbilt, and K-State athletic director John Currie says they are close to adding four more games against prominent teams.
“We were already in the process of scheduling high-visibility conference opponents,” Currie said in an interview with The Star. “K-State will play four games against the SEC and two against the Pac-12 in the next six years. We are working on a number of other series. We have at least a couple we should be able to announce in the next month.”
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Currie soon hopes to have a power-conference opponent on K-State’s nonleague schedule as far out as 2030. Fans can expect several games in future years against teams from the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences. Games against Notre Dame will also count toward the scheduling policy. Games with Army and BYU may also count, but that hasn’t been decided.
“For us, it is really irrelevant,” Currie said. “We are trying to have a major, inter-sectional opponent on all of our schedules. We are working to fill the 2020s. It is a process, so you have to figure out who matches up with you and when. Sometimes you have five conference road games and they have five, too, and neither of you can go on the road. It is a process, but we will work to do that over the next couple years.
“We are trying to be a little bit more strategic. Now that things are fairly stable from a realignment perspective, I think scheduling out through the late 2020s is probably a prudent thing to do right now.”
The influx of intriguing nonconference matchups won’t be a change for all Big 12 teams. Oklahoma and Texas, for example, have long played challenging schedules. It will be a transition for teams such as Baylor, which has avoided power-conference opponents under Art Briles.
K-State played 13 nonconference games against power-league opponents in Snyder’s 24 seasons, a number that would have been lower without Ron Prince scheduling games with Auburn, Miami and UCLA that took place once Snyder returned in 2009.
K-State played South Dakota, Texas-San Antonio and Louisiana Tech this season, winning all three games.
The move away from softer nonconference schedules was made, in part, to improve the Big 12’s chances of placing a team in the College Football Playoff. Strength of schedule is a major component used by the selection committee, and Big 12 teams — with a round-robin league schedule and at least one prominent nonconference game — will have some of the toughest schedules in future years.
That includes K-State.
“I don’t think it is that big of an adjustment for our schools and our teams,” Currie said. “The Big 12 has never been stronger, and it is clear the selection committee is putting an emphasis in strength of schedule. It is a very positive step to continue to assert the power and strength of our league.”
Kellis Robinett: @KellisRobinett