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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
/articleid/3685456/1/pictures/1752011">Photo - Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson (16) scores a touchdown, followed by University of Connecticut cornerback Dwayne Gratz (24), in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Tony Ding) ORG XMIT: MITD106
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson (16) scores a touchdown, followed by University of Connecticut cornerback Dwayne Gratz (24), in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Tony Ding) ORG XMIT: MITD106

33. Alabama: Michigan at Arlington, Texas; Western Kentucky; Florida Atlantic; Western Carolina. Classic Alabama schedule. Three rumdums and a traditional intersectional matchup.

34. Connecticut: Massachusetts; North Carolina State; at Maryland; at Western Michigan; Buffalo. Props to the Huskies for no Division I-AA games. And the UConn-Maryland will be a bad-blood bowl, with former Connecticut coach Randy Edsall having left UConn after the Fiesta Bowl 17 months ago.

35. Mississippi: Central Arkansas, Texas-El Paso, Texas, Tulane. Longhorns in Oxford will be a culture clash.

36. Arizona: Toledo, Oklahoma State, South Carolina State. The Cowboys save the UofA schedule.

37. Auburn: Clemson at Atlanta, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State, Alabama A&M. Auburn is following the Alabama model.

38. TCU: Grambling State, Virginia, at SMU. If you want to argue that the Frogs deserve to be ahead of Kansas State, you'd have solid ground. TCU is playing two decent games out of three. That's way ahead of the curve. But I like the marquee value of KSU-Miami.

39. Vanderbilt: at Northwestern, Presbyterian, Massachusetts, at Wake Forest. Two road games at fellow major-conference schools. Vandy is doing its part to make the SEC look good.

40. Washington State: at Brigham Young, Eastern Washington, at Nevada-Las Vegas. Sudden thought. Why hasn't UNLV ever gotten better in football?

41. Rutgers: at Tulane, Howard, at Arkansas, Kent State, Army. Five-game nonconference schedules are interesting if you play more than one decent game. But when you don't, you get this.

42. Penn State: Ohio, at Virginia, Navy, Temple. Not a blockbuster, just a typical Penn State quartet. An in-state foe (Temple), an old Eastern independent brother (Navy), a fellow academic snob (Virginia) and a neighboring state pushover (Ohio).

43. Purdue: Eastern Kentucky, at Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Marshall. Notre Dame saves the day.

44. Utah: Northern Colorado, at Utah State, Brigham Young. Hey, Utes. Why not play Southern Utah or Weber State instead of Northern Colorado? Keep it all in-state.

45. Cincinnati: Delaware State; Virginia Tech at East Rutherford, N.J.; Miami-Ohio; Fordham; Toledo. Cincy-VPI is a remake of the Orange Bowl of a few years ago.

46. Ohio State: Miami-Ohio, Central Florida, California, Alabama-Birmingham. A two-hyphen schedule. That's not good. The Buckeyes in conference host Nebraska, Purdue, Illinois and Michigan. So this is the opposite of Michigan State. A season ticket of eight games, with only three worth watching.

47. Georgia: Buffalo, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech. Georgia has been playing some decent games besides Georgia Tech. But not this year.

48. North Carolina: Elon, at Louisville, East Carolina, Idaho. Good schedule by Big 12 standards. Bad schedule by ACC standards.

49. Illinois: Western Michigan, at Arizona State, Charleston Southern, Louisiana Tech. The Sun Devils are a quality foe. Truth is, it's hard to distinguish between these bottom-half schedules.

50. Duke: Florida International, at Stanford, North Carolina Central, Memphis. The ACC's worst, but still not awful, considering there's a game at Stanford.

51. Texas: Wyoming, New Mexico, at Ole Miss. Not a losable game on the list, which is sort of what we're talking about, isn't it? If you know who's going to win when you go to the ballpark or flip on the Samsung, it hurts the experience. But give the Longhorns credit. No I-AA foes and no directional schools, plus an SEC foe, even if it's a bad one.

52. Oklahoma State: Savannah State, at Arizona, Louisiana-Lafayette. The ‘Zona game is interesting, since it's in the desert. Lafayette isn't as bad as it sounds, but Savannah State is worse.

53. Tennessee: North Carolina State at Atlanta, Georgia State, Akron, Troy. Just because you're playing in Atlanta doesn't make N.C. State a big-time foe.

54. Wisconsin: Northern Iowa, at Oregon State, Utah State, Texas-El Paso. The trip to Corvallis, Ore., is solid, but the other games aren't much. Three non-losable games, two of which are from the Mountain time Zone, which might not be a Big Ten record but ought to be.

55. LSU: North Texas, Washington, Idaho, Towson. Hey, no Louisiana schools. What gives?

56. West Virginia: Marshall; James Madison at Landover, Md.; Maryland. Stay mad at the Mountaineers for bailing on the Florida State series. That would have been a great gift to the Big 12 for the invitation to join the conference. Give the Big 12 a WVU-FSU series in 2012-13.

57. Kentucky: at Louisville, Kent State, Western Kentucky, Samford. Why Samford? Why not Eastern Kentucky?

58. Arkansas: Jacksonville State, Louisiana-Monroe, Rutgers, Tulsa. By Arkansas standards, this is not a bad schedule.

59. Minnesota: at Nevada-Las Vegas, New Hampshire, Western Michigan, Syracuse. The Gophers are the Big Ten's least visible program. Start naming the Big Ten schools, and either Minnesota or Purdue will be the last two you think of. And schedules like this won't help that status.

60. Iowa: Northern Illinois, Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Central Michigan. Four home games, only one against a fellow major conference foe, and that's Iowa State, which the Hawkeyes can't easily get away from. Three directional schools, one of which is a I-AA foe. A textbook bad schedule for a program that ought to be big-time.

61. Colorado: Colorado State at Denver, Sacramento State, at Fresno State. Remember when the Buffs played a big-time schedule? Remember when the Buffs were good?

62. Oregon: Arkansas State, Fresno State, Tennessee Tech. The Ducks have gone splat. Embarrassing schedule.

63. Baylor: SMU, Sam Houston State, at Louisiana-Monroe. Baylor-SMU is a decent game. If it's your second-best game, your schedule's not awful. If it's your best game, your schedule stinks.

64. Texas A&M: at Louisiana Tech, at SMU, South Carolina State, Sam Houston State. What a strange schedule. Two home games against I-AA foes. Two road games against mid-majors. The Aggies will be pining for the Thanksgiving game against the ‘Horns.

65. Mississippi State: Jackson State, at Troy, South Alabama, Middle Tennessee. Talk about your tour of Southern mid-majors. Throw in Louisiana-Lafayette, and you've got a smorgasbord.

66. Kansas: South Dakota State, Rice, at Northern Illinois. Northern Illinois actually doesn't stink. NIU won the Mid-American Conference title in 2011, and at least the Jayhawks are going to DeKalb, Ill. Not everyone would do that.

67. Indiana: Indiana State, at Massachusetts, Ball State, at Navy. Good tourist schedule. Go visit Boston during the UMass trip. Tour Annapolis for the Navy game. But the football is awful.

68. Texas Tech: Northwestern State (La.), at Texas State, New Mexico. Sept. 27, 2003, should be a hallowed date in Lubbock. That's the last time the Red Raiders played a nonconference, regular-season game against a foe from a fellow major conference. Since then it's been a long line of pushovers. New Mexico and Florida International and Indiana State and Southeastern Louisiana and Rice and Eastern Washington and UMass, and well, you get the idea. Remember when Texas Tech football had some pride?

Comparing the conferences

Comparing the non-conference football schedules of the six major conference in several criteria: games against lower-division foes, games against traditional national powers, games against teams from fellow major-conference schools and games away from home:

Conference; Lower-division; National powers; Major conference; Away from home

Big 12; 30.0% (9 of 30); 6.7% (two of 30); 23.3% (7 of 30); 26.7% (8 of 30)

Pac-12; 30% (9 of 30); 20% (6 of 30); 36.7% (11 of 30); 40% (12 of 30)

ACC; 27.1% (13 of 48); 16.7% (8 of 48); 45.8% (22 of 48); 31.2% (15 of 48)

Big Ten; 18.8% (9 of 48); 10.4% (5 of 48); 31.2% (15 of 48); 25% (12 of 48)

SEC; 26.8% (15 of 56); 8.9% (5 of 56); 25% (14 of 56); 21.4% (12 of 56)

Big East; 23.1% (9 of 39); 20.5% (8 of 39); 41.0% (16 of 39); 41.0% (16 of 39)

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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