Opportunities: CU’s Big 12 Schedule Revealed

When the Pac-12 schedule for the 2023 season was announced a year ago, it was hard for Buff fans not to be cynical about how the Colorado schedule was laid out. It wasn’t enough that Coach Prime was going to have to open the season against a TCU team fresh off of an appearance in the national championship game before returning home to face rivals Nebraska and Colorado State.


The Pac-12 figured it would be fun for the Buffs to open conference play on the road against Oregon, then return home to face USC.

Quite the gauntlet for a program coming off of a 1-11 season, but, then again, it wasn’t as if the Pac-12 was expecting much out of the Buffs. It was like the famous line from the James Bond 007 movie Goldfinger.

Bond (with a laser about to cut him in half): “Do expect me to talk?”

Goldfinger: “No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die”.

Coach Prime and his Buffs, of course, confounded the experts, racing out to a 3-0 record and a national ranking before crashing to earth with a 42-6 loss on the road against Oregon.

So, while waiting for the Big 12 to announce its 2024 schedule, Buff fans could have been forgiven for being a bit concerned about what the conference would do to “newcomer” Colorado.

Would the conference have the Buffs start conference play on the road, giving CU three straight road games in September? An early road game in the heat of Tucson? One in the heat (and humidity) of Orlando? Back-to-back long distance road games? Three or four games against teams coming off of a bye before playing the Buffs?

No, No, No, and No.

In fact, considering that the nine conference opponents were already known, the announcement of the order of play was surprisingly fair … even helpful.

Let’s take a look …

  • Aug. 31st – North Dakota State
  • Sept. 7th – at Nebraska
  • Sept. 14th – at Colorado State
  • Sept. 21st – Baylor
  • Sept. 28th – at Central Florida
  • Oct. 5th – Bye
  • Oct. 12th – Kansas State (Homecoming)
  • Oct. 19th – at Arizona
  • Oct. 26th – Cincinnati (Family Weekend)
  • Nov. 2nd – Bye
  • Nov. 9th – at Texas Tech
  • Nov. 16th – Utah
  • Nov. 23rd – at Kansas (at Kansas City)
  • Nov. 29th (Fri.) – Oklahoma State

A few bullet points …

  • No back-to-back conference road games;
  • No games against (likely) ranked teams until October. In fact, CU won’t have a game against an FBS team which finished the 2023 season with a winning record until mid-October (feel free to re-read that last sentence … and then think about CU’s schedule of September, 2023);
  • The only team which gets to play CU coming off of a bye is Central Florida (with the Knights having to play Florida the following week). Colorado and Kansas State share a bye week before playing one another on October 12th, and CU has a bye week before playing Texas Tech, while the Red Raiders will be coming off of back-to-back road games against TCU and Iowa State before playing Colorado;
  • Utah will not be CU’s final game for the first time in a dozen years. CU finishes with old Big 8/12 rival Oklahoma State; while Utah finishes on the road against Central Florida;
  • Looking at CU’s game against Kansas as a neutral site game at Arrowhead Stadium, CU only has three true Big 12 conference road games (at Central Florida; at Arizona; and at Texas Tech)

Some notes about each game this fall …

— Aug. 31st – Boulder … North Dakota State (11-4, 5-3 … lost in semi-finals of the FCS playoffs)

Beware the Bison. “Don’t underestimate North Dakota State,” said Coach Prime said this past week. “Those guys come to play and they can play”. North Dakota State won 11 games last season, making it to the FCS semi-finals … and it was a disappointing year. The Bison won nine national championships between 2011 and 2021, and had a run of six straight wins over FBS schools during that stretch. The last time the Bison played an FBS school was in 2022, when Arizona escaped with a 31-28 victory in Tucson.

Notable … Two other Big 12 teams are sticking their necks out by playing FCS powers. Iowa State will be playing North Dakota (which beat North Dakota State last season), while Oklahoma State will be taking on two-time defending national champions South Dakota State.

— Sept. 7th – Lincoln … Nebraska (5-7, 3-6)

This just in … the Cornhuskers have circled this game on their 2024 calendar. Nebraska opens the season with three straight non-conference home games (what a concept!), with the CU game sandwiched between layups against UTEP and Northern Iowa (Nebraska actually has only one road game before October 19th). That said, there is a hangover in Lincoln from last season. Nebraska was 5-3 entering the month of November, needing only one win in the final four games to become bowl-eligible in Matt Rhule’s first season. Instead, the Cornhuskers finished the season on a four-game losing streak … with four one-score losses.

Notable … Nebraska signed a five-star quarterback this off-season, Dylan Railoa, the highest-ranked recruit to sign with Nebraska in the ESPN 300 era. Raiola could immediately be the starter, but even if he is, CU’s defense will be the first Power-Four conference defense Railoa will face.

— September 14th – Ft. Collins – Colorado State (5-7, 3-5)

Which will be the bigger story the week before the “Rocky Mountain Showdown” moves to Ft. Collins for the first time since 1996 – Travis Hunter returning to face the team which took him out with a cheap shot? Or the verbal sparring between Coach Prime and CSU head coach Jay Norvell? Fair to say that the battles in the stands will be almost as fierce as the battles on the field.  Colorado will bring a six-game winning streak in the series into the game, with CSU’s last win against the Buffs coming in 2014.

Notable … My biggest gripe about playing the Rams was never about moving the series back to home stadiums, but giving CSU the entire month of August to prepare for its game against CU. That’s not happening this year, with CSU having to face Texas in Austin to open the season before returning home to face UTEP and the Buffs.

— September 21st – Boulder – Baylor (3-9, 2-7)

Quite the shift in scheduling, no? From having to take on Oregon on the road to open conference play … to a home game against a Baylor team which is struggling. Baylor finished last season on a five-game losing streak, with head coach Dave Aranda opening the 2024 campaign on ESPN’s “hot seat”.

Notable … Baylor has an opportunity to get healthy to start the season, facing the Tarleton Texans in the 2024 opener. After that, however, it gets real quickly. The Bears will take to the road to face Utah (in a previously scheduled non-conference game) before returning home to face Air Force … and Buff fans know how hard it is to prepare for the Falcons … before hitting the road again to take on the Buffs.

— September 28th – Orlando – Central Florida (6-7, 3-6)

The Buffs can be a bit jealous of Utah, which gets to finish its season on Thanksgiving weekend in Orlando. It will likely be warm (and humid) in central Florida in late September, but, as Coach Prime likes to point out, a significant number of Buffs are from Florida (and those who aren’t are from Texas and Georgia). If Coach Prime has his Buffs ready to play, CU’s first road game as a member of the Big 12 could be a recruiting plus.

Notable … The only team which has the benefit of playing CU while coming off of a bye while the Buffs are in action is Central Florida. The Knights will likely have a winning record coming into the game, getting New Hampshire and Sam Houston to open the season. The week after playing the Buffs, though, Central Florida will be on the road against Florida … which could be a look ahead situation for some of the Knights who may have not have been recruited by the big brother Gators.

— October 5th – Bye

— October 12 – Boulder – Kansas State (9-4, 6-3) (Homecoming)

CU leads the series against Kansas State, 45-20-1, including a 28-5 record in games played in Boulder, but these aren’t the woeful Mildcats old Buff fans remember. Kansas State won nine games in 2023, including an impressive 28-19 win over No. 18 North Carolina State in its bowl game to finish the season ranked 19th. The Wildcats will likely be the first ranked team Colorado will face in the 2024 season.

Notable … After a warmup game against UT-Martin, things get real for the Wildcats, facing ten-win Tulane on the road before taking on Arizona in a non-conference game. Then, after a game on the road against BYU, Kansas State will – like the Buffs – have a bye week before the teams face off in Boulder.

— October 19th – Tucson – Arizona (10-3, 7-2)

The national media, at least before head coach Jedd Fisch left to become the new head coach at Washington, was falling in love with the Wildcats. Arizona won ten games last season, and had almost all of its starters coming back. In more than one “Way Too Early Preseason Top 25”, Arizona was not only the top rated Big 12 team, but was often in or around the Top Ten nationally. Now, with Fisch leaving, a dozen Wildcats have defected (though only about half of them starters), including five players who have signed on with Fisch at Washington, reducing some of the luster around the program heading into the fall.

Notable … New Arizona head coach Brent Brenan will be able to ease into his new position with games against New Mexico and Northern Arizona, but then the schedule gets real. Arizona will have three road games – at Kansas State (non-conference), at Utah, and at BYU before facing the Buffs. The game will be in Tucson, but Buff players will remember that they led the entire 2023 game in Boulder, with Arizona not leading until the clock read 0:00 with a game-winning field goal.

— October 26th – Boulder – Cincinnati (3-9, 1-8)

It was only three seasons ago that Cincinnati went undefeated in the regular season, falling in the playoffs to No. 1 Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. Since then, the Bearcats have lost their coach and their mojo, with a 9-4 season in 2022 followed by a 3-9 and last place finish in 2023. The game against the Buffs will be only the second-ever played between the two teams, with CU posting a 56-14 win in Boulder in 1972.

Notable … The Bearcats won only three games in 2023, but will likely have that many wins or more coming to Boulder. The schedule makers were kind to Cincinnati, with home games against Towson, Pittsburgh (3-9 in ’23), Houston (4-8), and Arizona State (3-9).

— November 2nd – Bye

— November 9th – Lubbock – Texas Tech (7-6, 5-4)

The series between Colorado and Texas Tech is tied, 5-5, with the Buffs carrying an all-time 1-4 record in Lubbock into the November tilt in north Texas. While the Buffs are enjoying a week off before taking to the road, Texas Tech will be in the middle of a stretch of three road games in four weeks. Before taking on Colorado, Texas Tech will be on the road against TCU and Iowa State, and then will be back on the road against Oklahoma State the following week.

Notable … Texas Tech could almost be considered an honorary member of the now almost defunct Pac-12. Last season, the Red Raiders woulda/coulda/shoulda beat Oregon before beating Cal in the Independence Bowl. In 2024, Texas Tech has games against Washington State in non-conference play before taking on Arizona State and Arizona before facing the Buffs.

— November 16th – Boulder – Utah (8-5, 5-4)

The Buffs are facing Utah in November … but not Thanksgiving weekend. The 2024 season will mark the first time since 1995 that Colorado will finish a regular season against a team not named Nebraska or Utah. While an 8-5, 5-4 record for CU would be a godsend for Buff fans, it was considered a down year for the Utes. Cam Rising has announced he will be back for the 2024 season (Rising was a member of the Recruiting Class of … ahem … 2018), immediately giving prognosticators reason to believe that the Utes will be a favorite to win the Big 12.

Notable … Utah has a number of rivalry games on its schedule against teams not named Colorado. The Utes probably aren’t too concerned about Southern Utah in the opener, but there is a trip to Logan to play at Utah State. Perhaps most significant to CU fans … Utah will host BYU in the Holy War the weekend before taking on the Buffs in Boulder.

— November 23rd – Kansas City – Kansas (9-4, 5-4)

The most significant aspect of the Kansas game, at least in February, is that the CU/Kansas game will be played in Kansas City. The Kansas stadium in Lawrence is being redone, making the Jayhawks homeless in 2024. The Jayhawks will play their two non-conference games at Children’s Mercy Park (a soccer stadium holding 20,000) before hosting four Big 12 opponents at Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs. The game against the Buffs will be Senior Day for the Jayhawks.

Notable … Colorado holds a 42-25-3 lead in the series, but be prepared to hear about the last time the two teams met as members of the Big 12. In 2010, the Buffs were in Lawrence, and had a 45-17 lead after Rodney Stewart scored on the first play of the fourth quarter. The remainder of the fourth quarter was a 35-0 run by Kansas to pull out a 52-45 victory. Dan Hawkins was fired on the trip home, with Brian Cabral coaching the Buffs the final three games of the 2010 season.

— November 30th – Boulder – Oklahoma State (10-4, 7-2)

In 2023, Oklahoma State played on a roller coaster, which is not atypical for a Mike Gundy team. The Cowboys stumbled early, being embarrassed at home by South Alabama, 33-7. After a road loss to Iowa State the following week, Oklahoma State ran off five straight wins, including wins over No. 23 Kansas and No. 9 Oklahoma in an emotional Bedlam finale (for now). The following week, Oklahoma State went on the road to face a mediocre Central Florida team … and lost 45-3. A 49-21 loss to Texas in the Big 12 championship game was followed by a win over Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl.

Notable … The Black Friday game will be the only non-Saturday game on Colorado’s 2024 schedule. While the Buffs haven’t played the Cowboys in Big 12 play since 2010, but the two met in the 2016 Alamo Bowl, with Oklahoma State dominating CU, 38-8.

It’s hard to figure how the 2024 season will unfold for Coach Prime in Year Two in Boulder. Objectively, the CU roster is better … on paper. CU’s schedule is easier … on paper. Will CU be able to take advantage?

The pundits haven’t been able to reach a consensus.

The AthleticIf Colorado is going to make the strides Sanders has promised in his second season, the Buffs will earn it the hard way. The program returns to the Big 12 as the only one of the four new newcomers with five of their nine league games at home, though that was likely influenced by the fact that Colorado already had two nonconference road games slated in Nebraska and Colorado State. Combined with a season opener against FCS titan North Dakota State at home, the challenges begin long before league play.

But …

Jon Wilner at the San Jose Mercury News (usually not a fan of anything CU) …. A few subtle location changes could have made CU’s return to its longtime home vastly more difficult. It hardly qualifies as easy, but we don’t see a lineup daunting enough to prevent the Buffs from bowling as long as they remain reasonably healthy and perform better on the line of scrimmage.

Only seven more months to see how it all turns out …


5 Replies to “Opportunities: CU’s Big 12 Schedule Revealed”

  1. Would NDS be ranked if they were playing in the FBS? I googled them and they have a six game winning streak against the FBS….all of the games on the road.
    Beware is right.

  2. Sanders does have kids that can play. Shedeur can hit targets on a regular basis 20 yards and beyond. Having said that he was also guilty of ignoring the run game.

    1. ep,

      You are correct on last years passing game. Stats and hype. It was all about those things. Get the win great. No question the pressure was on the OC.. What running game?

      Go Buffs.

      Note: Deon appears to be here for the long term. Gotta get the coordinators. Definitely not getting his first choices. Not a good sign is it?

      Note: 2: Go Deon’s kids, have a stat record breaking, year get drafted high get a bowl game. Happy for you.. But looking forward to a different deal after the kids are gone!!!

      1. With Shedeur being gone after this year, along with the heavy passing game, I am hoping Coach will snag a 4 star QB this next time around….. and give him a legitimate shot as a freshman…..unless of course Raiola flips from the cobbs…..heh heh
        Waiting to see how the O and D line turnover performs. The D line better be outstanding to help the diminished LB position.
        Coordinators? sigh

  3. Great article, but one note: It wasn’t Mike McIntyre who was fired after the 2010 Kansas game, it was Dan Hawkins. With a lead that big in the fourth quarter, it’s obvious that you run the ball as much as you can to chew up the clock. However, Cody Hawkins was close to setting the CU passing record, so the Buffs passed and passed and passed their way into an embarrassing loss. And they accuse Deion Sanders of playing Daddy Ball!

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