It’s been nearly 3 years since we got the stunning news that Oklahoma and Texas were leaving the Big 12 for the SEC.

In some ways, it feels like a lifetime ago. In the summer of 2021, Georgia still hadn’t won a national title since the Jimmy Carter administration, Jayden Daniels was just a promising but unproven underclassman quarterback at Arizona State, Steve Sarkisian had yet to coach a game at a very un-back Texas and we didn’t know that by the end of 2021 season, Brian Kelly would leave Notre Dame for LSU and Lincoln Riley would leave Oklahoma for USC. The latter felt like a raw deal for Oklahoma as it was set to embark on this new SEC journey.

But there’s now a much more pressing raw deal that the Sooners will face in their new conference digs. That schedule? It’s a gauntlet. Even worse? It’s night and day compared to Texas’ Year 1 SEC schedule.

Before you read too far into that, no, I’m not suggesting that the SEC set out to conspire against Oklahoma while simultaneously lifting Texas to new heights. That might be a comforting thought for Sooners fans who are looking at this 2024 slate and wondering why the SEC scheduling powers were so cruel, but that theory lacks merit when you realize that Texas and Oklahoma don’t have any common SEC opponents in their respective tours around the new conference.

Just in case you don’t have a wallet-sized edition of Oklahoma’s SEC schedule, here it is:

  • vs. Tennessee
  • at Auburn
  • vs. Texas (in Dallas)
  • vs. South Carolina
  • at Ole Miss
  • at Mizzou
  • vs. Alabama
  • at LSU

Brutal. Absolutely brutal.

On the bright side, at least Georgia isn’t part of that schedule? I don’t know. I’m grasping at straws here.

Just to recap, Oklahoma’s 2024 schedule features 6 SEC foes that won at least 9 games last season. One of those 2 games that isn’t? Oklahoma’s first SEC road game, which will be at Jordan-Hare, AKA the place that turned Georgia and Alabama into mortals with a pair of down-to-the-wire games last season. Yeah, that’s not ideal.

If not for Florida’s historically challenging schedule, we’d all be talking about the Sooners’ slate. The Gators have 5 games to end the season against teams who finished in the top 12 of the AP Poll.  But even Florida’s schedule only features 5 SEC teams that won at least 9 games last year (13-1 Florida State also  is on there, but we’re just talking about SEC schedules).

Oklahoma got unlucky. It’s as simple as that. It got unlucky in 2 key areas — Ole Miss and Mizzou.

If you could’ve gone back to the summer of 2021 and told Oklahoma fans that they’d have road trips to Oxford and Columbia, they would’ve mentally counted those as wins. Even an OU pessimist would’ve only called those “tricky.” Now, though, they’re road trips to a pair of 11-win teams — Ole Miss just had its first 11-win season ever, and Mizzou had its best AP Poll finish of the 4-team Playoff era — that won New Year’s 6 bowl games against Big Ten powers. Both will be led by prolific returning starting quarterbacks and offenses that should be among the nation’s best.

If Oklahoma makes it out of those games with Playoff hopes intact? No biggie. Alabama and a trip to LSU await.

Timing isn’t on the Sooners’ side in 2024. At least it doesn’t appear that way, which is why that over/under is 7.5 regular season wins (via DraftKings).

Compare that to Texas’ timing. It’s ideal. It’s the type of schedule that if you had told a Longhorns fan back in the summer of 2021, they would’ve said, “wait … isn’t this supposed to be the SEC?”

While it’s not part of the first SEC slate, Texas facing a Michigan team in Ann Arbor couldn’t have lined up better for the Longhorns. Jim Harbaugh is gone. Thirteen Wolverines were selected in the NFL Draft, including their quarterback. Michigan ranks No. 128 out of 134 FBS teams in percentage of returning production.

Let’s just focus on that conference schedule for Texas. Specifically, let’s focus on the timing of Texas’ first SEC slate:

  • vs. Mississippi State
  • vs. Oklahoma (in Dallas)
  • vs. Georgia
  • at Vanderbilt
  • vs. Florida
  • at Arkansas
  • vs. Kentucky
  • at Texas A&M

Texas’ lone true SEC road game until mid-November is … at Vandy. Two of Texas’ 3 true SEC road games (at Vandy and at Arkansas) are against teams that went a combined 1-15 vs. SEC competition in 2023. Half of Texas’ SEC foes missed bowl games. Remember how I said that Oklahoma only has 2 SEC games against teams that failed to have 9-win seasons? Texas has just 2 SEC games against teams that won 8 games in 2023 … and Oklahoma is 1 of them.

Look at the side-by-side and you’ll see just how lopsided the Year 1 SEC slates are for the conference’s newest members:

2024 SEC foes
9+ wins in 2023
New Year’s 6 in 2023
Road vs. 2023 bowl teams
Combined 2023 SEC record
36-20 (.643)
20-36 (.357)

There’s no doubt that the Longhorns have the biggest headliner game with that highly anticipated showdown against Georgia. But Texas’ non-Georgia SEC foes went a combined 12-36 in conference play in 2023. Meanwhile, all of Oklahoma’s SEC foes won at least 3 conference games in 2023.

It’s wild.

The variance is stunning, at least as we sit here in May. As we know, that can change once the games actually start.

Strength of schedule, whether we want to admit it or not, is often viewed through the lens of the strength of the team facing it. In other words, we wouldn’t be talking about Florida’s gauntlet quite in the same way if the Gators were coming off an 11-win season.

Maybe part of the reason the variance feels so significant is that Texas surprisingly ranks No. 25 in FBS and No. 2 in the SEC in percentage of returning production. The Longhorns went from being the team that couldn’t get out of September without puking on its shoes against Maryland to winning the Big 12 with a +17 average scoring margin against conference foes.

The Sooners won the Cotton Bowl last year, but their 2024 task would feel more daunting than Texas’ even if the schedules were perceived as comparable. It’s a new-look offense, though not one without promise. If Jackson Arnold looks the part with that loaded group of receivers and Brent Venables’ Year 3 defense looks like one of his Clemson units, we might have a different conversation about Oklahoma’s schedule by season’s end.

For now, though, the Sooners can wonder if they’re joining the same conference as Texas. Their SEC schedules, fair or not, are certainly worlds apart.