Photo credit Lisa Horne
by Lisa Horne
Every year football programs attempt to broaden their footprint and recruiting reach by scheduling opponents out of their conference. Those teams can work out the kinks and bugs against teams one notch above their scout teams before they get into conference play. Ideally, a non-conference schedule should start out soft and gradually increase in difficulty. At least, that was the original school of thought.
Non-conference games have now become cupcake wars. Who can pad their schedule the best without becoming the butt of jokes?
The College Football Playoff committee uses strength of schedule (and the intent) as factors in determining a team's ranking. Non-conference scheduling is more important than ever. But some schools have not received the message.
Who gets an A for outstanding scheduling? Who fails?
UTSA, at Nevada, Northern Arizona
The Wildcats don't play Oregon and failed to schedule a Power 5 team. Arizona may run the tables in the Pac-12 South but the intent of this schedule is all about padding the win column. Are any of those teams going to prepare Arizona for conference play?
Texas A&M (at Houston), Cal Poly, New Mexico
The Sun Devils get props for scheduling Texas A&M but Cal Poly and New Mexico are the elephants in the room.
Grambling State, San Diego State, at Texas
An FCS team, a mid-tiered Group of Five team and a Power 5 team equate to an almost-perfect schedule. I'm not a fan of scheduling FCS teams but Cal has done an excellent job with its progression of difficulty on this schedule.
At Hawai'i, UMass, Colorado State (at Denver)
I know Colorado is trying to rebuild but ... yikes. This looks like a non-conference schedule for an FCS team.
Eastern Washington, at Michigan State, Georgia State
Eastern Washington is an FCS team but in 2012, so was Georgia State. What we have here is very close to two FCS opponents on the Ducks' schedule. The intent here is pretty obvious, no?
Weber State, at Michigan, San Jose State
An FCS team, a Power 5 team (that should be improved under new head coach Jim Harbaugh) and a lower-tier Group of Five team are just right for the Beavers and their new head coach Gary Andersen (Wisconsin).
At Northwestern, UCF, Notre Dame
No FCS teams and two strong Power 5 teams? This is probably a little too challenging for a non-conference slate but you have to admire the fierceness of this schedule.
Virginia, at UNLV, BYU
This is perfection. No FCS teams, two good Power 5 teams (BYU is technically not a Power 5 team but that will change shortly) and a Group of 5 team equal a championship schedule.
Arkansas State, Idaho, at Notre Dame
After joining the SEC, the Texas A&M Aggies canceled their home-and-home series with the Trojans for 2015-16. That explains USC scrambling to find an available replacement this year. USC still gets props for being one of three FBS teams to never have scheduled an FCS team.
Michigan, Utah State, at Fresno State
This is a good schedule because there are no FCS teams and the intent is excellent: to provide fans with entertaining games with a competitive atmosphere.
At Boise State, Sacramento State, Utah State
While Boise State is always a scary prospect, there are still no Power 5 teams scheduled. Come on now, Huskies, you're better than this.
Portland State, at Rutgers, Wyoming
This is one of those schedules that makes no sense. It's all over the map. In any case, a Big Ten team saves this ugly-looking schedule.
Final Non-conference Schedule Power Rankings
5- Oregon State
7- Washington State
9- Arizona State