College football: Pac-10 plays nation’s best schedule
There are a lot of ways to judge teams’ non-conference schedules. Losable games. “Wow” games, against a national powerhouse. Road games. Games against the different level of schools.
I divide teams into four segments. Automatic qualifying-conferences (BCS conferences), the Mountain West Conference, other Division I-A leagues and any team below I-A (hopefully I-AA, although games against Division II schools can’t be too far into our future).
There are risks to that kind of generalization. For instance, the Mountain West should be an automatic-qualifying conference, so anyone who wants to include that league in with the other BCS conferences, it’s OK by me. In fact, I’ll look at it both ways. And straight status from your classification doesn’t mean clarity on strength of a team. For instance, OSU is playing Washington State and Baylor is playing TCU. One is Pac-10, the other Mountain West. But TCU is clearly the better team. Texas Tech is playing both New Mexico and Houston. New Mexico is Mountain West, Houston is Conference USA, but Houston is clearly the superior opponent.
But it’s still a good guide, because overall Conference USA does not provide the competition that the Mountain West provides. So let’s get to some criteria.
The percentage of games against teams from I-AA: Mountain West 10.8, Big 12 16.7, Big East 22.5, Pac-10 22.6, Big Ten 22.7, SEC 22.9, ACC 27.1.
The Big 12 has made great strides. The Big 12 has been known to play as many I-AA teams as fellow BCS-league members. That’s not the case this year, and the Big 12 is to be congratulated.
For the record, the Big 12′s I-AA opponents this year are Weber State (Tech), Sam Houston State (Baylor), South Dakota State (Nebraska), McNeese State (Missouri), Missouri State (Kansas State), North Dakota State (Kansas) and Northern Iowa (Iowa State).
Among the superpowers who should be embarrassed at playing I-AA opponents: Penn State (Youngstown State), Michigan (UMass), Alabama (Georgia State), LSU (McNeese State), Florida (Appalachian State), Georgia (Idaho State), Tennessee (Tennessee-Martin), Florida State (Samford), Virginia Tech (James Madison), Miami (Florida A&M), Oregon (Portland State) and West Virginia (Coastal Carolina).
For years, the percentage of games matching teams from major conferences has been dwindling. In the entire decade of the 1970s, Oklahoma played 40 non-conference games. Only four of those games were against teams from outside what we would now call BCS leagues. Now, any team that two a year is considered reckless in their scheduling.
The percentage of games against fellow BCS league teams: Pac-10 48.3, ACC 41.7, Mountain West 40.5, Big East 37.5, SEC 33.3, Big Ten 27.2, Big 12 25.0.
But like I said, I believe the Mountain West deserves status as a BCS conference, so counting games against the Mountain West, the percentage looks like this: Pac-10 58.1, ACC 43.8, Big East 42.5, Mountain West 40.5, Big 12 39.6, SEC 33.3, Big Ten 29.5.
If you want to split the difference on the Mountain West question, the average percentage is this: Pac-10 53.2, ACC 42.7, Mountain West 40.5, Big East 40.0, SEC 33.3, Big 12 32.3, Big Ten 28.3.
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