Time for our annual rankings of non-conference college football schedules. We’ll start with the Big 12, then do each of the major conferences over the next few days.
1. OU: Louisiana-Monroe, Tulsa, at Notre Dame. The Sooners usually hold the league’s No. 1 spot, and 2013 is no different. Louisiana-Monroe isn’t even in the pushover category anymore, since it beat Arkansas last season and dang near beat Baylor.
2. TCU: LSU in Arlington, Southeastern Louisiana, SMU. What a game. TCU-LSU in JerryWorld. Frogs, we’re proud to have you in our league. Maybe your attitude can rub off on some of your conference members.
3. Texas: New Mexico State, at Brigham Young, Ole Miss. Not a bad little schedule, Mack Brown. Not a bad schedule at all. I mean, Mississippi’s capable, and playing in Provo never is easy.
4. Iowa State: Northern Iowa, Iowa, at Tulsa. Solid schedule by the Cyclones. Two losable games, plus an in-state foe. Lots of schools won’t do either of those categories.
5. OSU: Mississippi State in Houston, at Texas-San Antonio, Lamar. Doesn’t this feel better, Cowboy fans, knowing your team, which certainly has played its way into the upper echelon of Big 12 teams, has a schedule befitting such status? Not that this is a killer schedule.
6. West Virginia: William & Mary, Georgia State, Maryland. in Baltimore: How does a schedule shamed by two I-AA opponents rank sixth in the 10-team Big 12? Because the four schedules below it are void of any major-conference foes.
7. Kansas: South Dakota, at Rice, Louisiana Tech. When I was a kid, I thought the North Central Conference, which was led by the four Dakota schools, was really cool. Alas, it died in 2008.
8. Texas Tech: at SMU, Stephen F. Austin, Texas State. At least the Red Raiders are playing SMU in Dallas. Otherwise, this would be total embarrassment.
9. Kansas State: North Dakota State, Louisiana-Lafayette, UMass. The Wildcats avoid last place only because their I-AA foe, North Dakota State, is traditionally better than Baylor’s I-AA foe.
10. Baylor: Wofford, Buffalo, Louisiana-Monroe. The Bears’ non-conference schedules are set through 2019 – and not one decent opponent on them. Duke and SMU are the best of the bunch. Oh well, I guess you can’t blame Baylor too much.