The 3 Biggest Non-Conference Games for Big 12 Football in 2024

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With Week 1 of the 2024 college football season just a couple months away, anticipation amongst programs and fan alike are building quickly. With a number of exciting matchups ahead for the Big 12 in a year where the conference features a new look and what could be a wide-open race for the league title, let's take a look at a few of the biggest non-conference games for Big 12 teams this fall.

3. Colorado at Nebraska, September 7th

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This is a series that formerly was a Big 12 rivalry before Nebraska left for the Big 10 and Colorado left for the Pac-12 during the realignment round in the early 2010s. Now, Colorado is back in the Big 12, but Nebraska isn't. But their former rivalry still has a prominent place on the Week 2 schedule.

A number of other Week 2 games could have made this list -- the annual rivalry battle for the CyHawk Trophy between Iowa and Iowa State, a Big 10-Big 12 battle between Kansas and Illinois, or another former Big 12 conference matchup between Houston and recent departure Oklahoma also dot the schedule.

But if Colorado continues to build on what was a three-win improvement in Deion Sanders' first season at the helm and scoots past a stiffer-than-usual FCS challenge against powerhouse North Dakota State in Week 1, all eyes will be on this matchup. And with a light opening half of the schedule in front Nebraska and an expected impact quarterback in freshman Dylan Raiola, the Cornhuskers could be a more dangerous test in 2024 and will be hoping to use Colorado to build momentum and impress the eyes of a nation beginning to forget when Nebraska was a larger-than-life program.

2. UCF at Florida, October 5th

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Despite being in-state opponents, UCF and Florida have met just three times, likely due to UCF's young history as a program and status as a member of conferences without automatic bids to the College Football Playoff and previously the BCS for most of the team's history at the FBS level.

UCF won the last game, but it was a neutral site bowl game in Tampa with fewer long-term stakes on the line. This fourth meeting, however, could easily be the most important in the history of the series -- UCF is now a member of a power conference in the Big 12, enters the season with the third-best freshman class in their conference, and wants to prove itself a competitor with the "Big 3" programs in Florida. Some UCF media are calling it the most crucial game on the schedule.

On the other sideline, Billy Napier enters the year on the hot seat according to analysts, and faces what is mostly regarded as the toughest schedule in all of FBS football -- they'll need every win they can get, especially if Napier wants to keep his job. They're status as a power in the SEC hs been on the decline as well, and a loss to a program which has often been considered "beneath" the Gators in the in-state hierarchy could extend that spiral.

1. Penn State at West Virginia, August 31st

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Perhaps the largest of the non-conference games on the Big 12 football slate this fall takes place in Week 1, as the Penn State Nittany Lions travel to Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va. to face West Virginia.

While Penn State made relatively easy work of WVU in a 38-15 win in State College last fall, anticipation for both programs and this game are high headed into 2024, Penn State finished 10-3 with a New Years Six Bowl Appearance last season in a campaign that would have likely earned them a playoff spot had the new 12-team format debuted a year sooner. They are widely regarded as a Top 10-15 level program headed into the upcoming season, and finished No. 13 in the last AP Poll of the 2023-2024 season.

WVU rebounded after a rocky start under the Neal Brown tenure and went 9-4 wlast season, with a Duke's Mayo Bowl win to cap the year. The Mountaineers return most of the pieces from a squad that found it's footing following their matchup with the Nittany Lions to open their 2023 slate, and earned a Top 25 ranking in the final Coaches Poll of the season. Amongst those in the program, expectations are high.

The game will be the site of the FOX Big Noon Pregame Show for Week 1 and was listed by one analyst as a must-watch non-conference game this upcoming season. Morgantown will likely be a madhouse for the biggest game at Milan Puskar in years, and many eyes at the national level will be on this contest.