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College football: Ranking the nonconference schedules

For the most part, college football scheduling has lost its teeth. Berry Tramel takes a look at the nonconference schedules of each of the major conference schools.
by Berry Tramel Published: June 18, 2012

In 1983, just 29 short years ago, Alabama's nonconference football schedule included Penn State, Georgia Tech, Boston College and Southern Miss.

That same year, OU's nonconference schedule included Ohio State, Texas and Stanford. UCLA's included Georgia, Nebraska and Brigham Young.

In 1983, Southern Cal played Florida, Notre Dame and South Carolina. Washington played Michigan and LSU. Nebraska played Penn State and UCLA.

Fast forward to now, and you need a microscope to find a similar nonconference schedule.

Michigan has one. The Wolverines play Alabama, Notre Dame and Air Force. Miami plays Kansas State and Notre Dame, which wouldn't raise an eyebrow in the '80s but is the stuff of testosterone today. Michigan State plays Boise State and Notre Dame.

But for the most part, college football scheduling has lost its teeth. Few programs play more than one legitimate nonconference games. Some major-college teams don't play any.

Today, The Oklahoman ranks the nonconference schedules of the 68 schools in the six major conferences and compares the collective schedules of each conference.

The Big 12 does not fare well.

Ranking the nonconference schedules of the teams in college football's six major conferences:

1. Michigan: Alabama at Arlington, Texas; Air Force, Massachusetts, at Notre Dame. Now that's a schedule. Hail to the victors. One dud game out of four. Hey, Wolverines, you make 1973 proud.

2. Syracuse: Northwestern, Southern Cal, Stony Brook, at Minnesota, at Missouri. I have to admit, I didn't know that schedules like this existed anymore. The Orange is playing four nonconference games against major-conference foes. Four!

3. Miami: at Kansas State, Bethune-Cookman, Notre Dame at Chicago, South Florida. Super, super schedule. USF is only the third-best nonconference game.

4. Michigan State: Boise State, at Central Michigan, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan. Wow, home games against Boise State and Notre Dame. The Spartans also host Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern. That's a season ticket.

5. Clemson: Auburn at Atlanta, Ball State, Furman, South Carolina. Auburn and South Carolina. Good job, Clemson.

6. South Florida: Chattanooga, at Nevada, at Ball State, Florida State, at Miami. Excellent schedule by the Bulls. One automatic win. Two road games at mid-majors. Two games against traditional powers.

7. Oregon State: Nicholls State, Wisconsin, at Brigham Young: The Badgers and BYU. Excellent work, Beavers.

8. Georgia Tech: Presbyterian, Middle Tennessee, BYU, at Georgia. Interesting pair of marquee games, from the traditional in-state rivalry to Brigham Young.

9. Pittsburgh: Youngstown State, Virginia Tech, Gardner-Webb, at Buffalo, at Notre Dame. The Panthers have to feel a little deprived. They keep losing traditional rivals. Penn State won't play anymore. The Backyard Brawl with West Virginia is on hold until conference realignment settles down.

10. Virginia: Richmond, Penn State, at TCU, Louisiana Tech. Who knows what the Nittany Lions will be like in the post-Joe Paterno era, but either way, solid schedule. Kudos to the Cavaliers.

11. Southern Cal: Hawaii; Syracuse at East Rutherford, N.J.; Notre Dame. You can always count on the Trojans for quality entertainment.

12. UCLA: at Rice, Nebraska, Houston. Not many teams from Texas play both LA teams. Not many teams from LA play both Houston teams.

13. Louisville: Kentucky, Missouri State, North Carolina, at Florida International, at Southern Mississippi. Not a bad schedule. No one considers a trip to Hattiesburg, Miss., easy. And FIU is getting better.

14. Missouri: Southeastern Louisiana, Arizona State, at Central Florida, Syracuse. Hey, Missouri. Three decent games? They'll kick you out of the SEC.

15. Washington: San Diego State, at LSU, Portland State. Too bad UW isn't any better. That game in the Bayou would be good.

16. Maryland: William & Mary, at Temple, Connecticut, at West Virginia. Temple waxed Maryland 38-7 last year at College Park; now the Terrapins go to Temple, plus play UConn and West Virginia.

17. Arizona State: Northern Arizona, Illinois, at Missouri. I suppose I should rank higher anyone that's playing a Big Ten school and an SEC school, but I just have little regard for Illinois.

18. California: Nevada, Southern Utah, at Ohio State. I have to confess. I didn't know Southern Utah had a football team.

19. Florida State: Murray State, Savannah State, at South Florida, Florida. What a schedule the Seminoles would have if West Virginia hadn't bolted and been replaced, out of necessity, by Savannah State.

20. Boston College: Maine, at Northwestern, at Army, Notre Dame. This schedule would rank No. 1 in the Big 12.

21. South Carolina: East Carolina, Alabama-Birmingham, Wofford, at Clemson. Playing East Carolina will be dicey for the Gamecocks. No other SEC school has scheduled the Pirates since 1998.

22. Stanford: San Jose State, Duke, at Notre Dame. The quality is starting to thin.

23. Temple: Villanova, Maryland, at Penn State, at Army. Still short a game, but even if the Owls added a cupcake, they wouldn't fall on this list. Maryland and Penn State are decent games.

24. Wake Forest: Liberty, Army, at Notre Dame, Vanderbilt. If anyone had reason to dumb down a schedule, it's Wake. But this is smart and solid.

25. Virginia Tech: Austin Peay, at Pitt, Bowling Green, Cincinnati. Pittsburgh joins the ACC next season, but until then, the Panthers are a solid nonleague foe.

26. North Carolina State: Tennessee at Atlanta, at Connecticut, South Alabama, The Citadel. Decent schedule. Even South Alabama has joined Division I-A.

27. Oklahoma: at UTEP, Florida A&M, Notre Dame. Play a real game, like the Fighting Irish, and you zoom to the top of the Big 12 list.

28. Northwestern: at Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Boston College, South Dakota. Not really a marquee game in the bunch. But three solid games out of four. Hard to argue much with that.

29. Iowa State: Tulsa, at Iowa, Western Illinois. Strange, how there's no correlation between program prominence and scheduling prowess. This isn't a bad schedule. Road game against a Big Ten rival, home game against a decent program in Tulsa. The automatic-win game. Kudos to the Cyclones.

30. Nebraska: Southern Mississippi, at UCLA, Arkansas State, Idaho State. Southern Miss lifts the Huskers above all the other let's-play-just-one-real-team Big Ten schedules.

31. Kansas State: Missouri State, Miami, North Texas. What kind of bizarro world are we living in? K-State is among the upper half in scheduling might?

32. Florida: Bowling Green, Louisiana-Lafayette, Jacksonville State, at Florida State. Classic SEC schedule. Three automatic wins, one good game.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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