So yeah, this is kind of late! My apologies, but unlike last year, I’ve actually been employed during the timeframe that I usually do this.
To make up for it, I’m just going to do this all in one go. So strap in and hold on, because we’re about to talk about some schedules and make some wild guesses about 60 football teams.
First, the usual explanation. Every summer, my brother and I rate the attractiveness of each team in the Power 5 conferences plus a few other teams. Our ratings, broadly speaking, are:
- 0: unless you’re a fan of a team that is a zero, you probably count this team as an automatic win. These are your Purdues and Kansases of the world.
- 0.25: hardcore college football types might get up for this, or they’re a respectable team on a downswing. Examples of this type are Duke and Northwestern.
- 0.5: these are usually respectable teams we don’t find very exciting to watch, or teams that aren’t really very good but have some redeeming quality. Examples of this type are Louisville, Kansas State, and California.
- 0.75: these are the Rodney Dangerfield of teams, that is, teams that are actually good but don’t really get a lot of respect, that is, until they beat your team. Examples of teams in this category are Wisconsin and Mississippi.
- 1: these are teams that have either fought their way to respectability or will pretty much always get your hackles up because they’re the Notre Dames and Alabamas of the world.
The only non-Power 5 teams to receive a rating other than 0 were Notre Dame (1), Boise State (0.75), Brigham Young (0.5), and Houston (0.25).
Additionally, when average up the numbers of the whole schedule, several teams will usually have the same value. I use the following as tiebreakers, though all are subject to exceptions:
- First and foremost, if two teams have the same schedule rating but one plays no FCS teams and other plays one, then the team with no FCS teams will get ranked higher.
- I tend to discount yearly rivalries, but give boosts to rivalries that have been on hold or are otherwise played infrequently, like Penn State-Pitt or Florida-Miami.
- Power 5 teams rated a zero still count for more than a Group of 5 team rated a zero.
- Sometimes I’ll give the nod to a team that plays two 0.25 rated teams over a team that plays one 0.5 team.
- Generally awful teams that play a bunch of really good teams may get discounted because, well, they didn’t scheduled because it’d be a fun matchup, they got scheduled because they needed a homecoming game. This could be called the “Kansas rule”, probably.
Now some dorky numbers about the distribution.
- First, we rated 72 teams, since we do rate some non-Power 5 teams.
- The average rating was 0.4965.
- We gave 21 teams a 1, 6 teams a 0.75, 15 teams a 0.5, 11 teams a 0.25, and 19 teams a 0.
Note that since the ratings themselves are the completely subjective opinions of two Georgia Tech fans that grew up in the South, there are some biases. To wit, here are the average ratings for each Power 5 conference:
- Southeastern: 0.625
- Pacific-12: 0.563
- Big 12: 0.56
- Atlantic Coast: 0.464
- Big Ten: 0.446
This year, the Pac-12 moved past the Big 12, but just barely! We’re a little down on the SEC and Big 12 this year compared to years past as well.
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get down to business. Teams in italics are FCS schools.
I wrestled with who to put at the top of the ACC’s ratings. I’ll explain my logic below.
- Florida State (1.75 legit, 1 FCS): N-Mississippi, Charleston Southern, @South Florida, Florida. I went with FSU as #1 mostly on the strength of Ole Miss versus Tennessee. Both teams have a team they’re required to play (Florida in this case), so ultimately I went with this. It’s also the more interesting matchup and has possible national title implications.
- Virginia Tech (1.75, 1): Liberty, N-Tennessee, East Carolina, @Notre Dame. As you can imagine, it was close. Tennessee is supposed to be good this year, and the neutral field in this case is the infield of Bristol Motor Speedway. Nonetheless, Ole Miss seems more likely to be good, the implications are less, and VPI is playing Notre Dame because the ACC said they had to this year.
- Clemson (1.25, 1): @Auburn, Troy, South Carolina State, South Carolina. Clemson’s schedule isn’t too shabby either, mostly suffering from the drop-off of their chief rival more than anything else.
- Duke (1.25, 1): North Carolina Central, @Northwestern, @Notre Dame, Army. I’m debating whether Notre Dame really counts as “OOC” for the purposes of this review, given their agreement with the ACC, but for now they can stick around here and count toward the ratings.
- Pittsburgh (1, 1): Villanova, Pennsylvania State, @Oklahoma State, Marshall. Pitt will get their grudge match with the Nittany Lions out of the way early, but the trip to Stillwater could wind up telling us more about whether the Panthers are back in any appreciable way.
- Virginia (1, 1): Richmond, @Oregon, @Connecticut, Central Michigan. They finally fired Mike London, right? Well, there goes that dependable joke. At any rate, the Hoos will likely make Oregon look like Oregon again.
- Miami (1, 1): Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic, @Appalachian State, @Notre Dame. Da U taking a road trip to Boone, NC is… one of the odder road trips I can ever remember appearing in this space. This must be for a 3-for-1 or something.
- North Carolina State (1, 1): William & Mary, @East Carolina, Old Dominion, Notre Dame. Just milkin’ Notre Dame at this point.
- Syracuse (1, 1): Colgate, South Florida, @Connecticut, Notre Dame. Is Syracuse trying to prove that it can “still just be friends” with its former Big East conference-mates? Or did they schedule USF thinking it’d be an easy win (when, well, good luck with that, maybe).
- Georgia Tech (1, 1): Mercer, Vanderbilt, Georgia Southern, @Georgia. It’s funny that the team with two SEC schools appears this low, but, well, one of them is Vanderbilt and the other is a yearly rivalry game, so, yeah.
- North Carolina (1, 2): N-Georgia, @Illinois, James Madison, Citadel. Neutral site games against one of the better teams in the SEC is good. On the road to Illinois, well, nothing to write home about, but they probably didn’t know that 6 years ago. Two FCS teams? Oof.
- Louisville (0.25, 0): Charlotte, @Marshall, @Houston, Kentucky. Yes, that’s right, the 0.25 comes from Houston. That could be a really good game, actually, but let’s hold off on that until we get there.
- Wake Forest (0, 1): Tulane, Delaware, @Indiana, Army. An appropriately milquetoast schedule.
- Boston College (0, 1): Massachusetts, Wagner, Buffalo, Connecticut. That sure is a collection of Northeastern cupcake schools, all right.
Apparently most of the Big Ten took the move to three conference games as an excuse to just not schedule anyone interesting at all. At least most of them didn’t or don’t schedule FCS teams.
- Michigan State (1.25, 1): Furman, @Notre Dame, Brigham Young. Sparty gets us off to a solid start, and while Michigan State-Notre Dame is usually fun, it doesn’t quite have the panache that our runner-up does.
- Wisconsin (1, 0): N-Louisiana State, Akron, Georgia State. Yep, that’s right, if there were a completely subjective endeavor then this would probably be the #1 on the strength of this LSU game, which is actually being played in Green Bay for some reason.
- Ohio State (1, 0): Bowling Green State, Tulsa, @Oklahoma. Honestly, I kinda want to get to previewing the Sooners? Anyway, I like the move of playing two Oklahoma schools here. Seriously, how does that happen? Ohio State being in, well, Ohio has the entire MAC smorgasbord to choose from when selecting teams to play, yet winds up with one of the two other schools in Oklahoma that isn’t Oklahoma. Coincidence? Well, yeah, probably.
- Nebraska (1, 0): Fresno State, Wyoming, Oregon. Are the Huskers back? I honestly have no idea, but the numbers would say that it’s unlikely they’ll lose as painfully and as often last year. Note: I didn’t say they will win more than last year, necessarily.
- Pennsylvania State (0.5, 0): Kent State, @Pittsburgh, Temple. We know all about the Penn State-Pitt thing, but imagine if Penn State loses to Temple again.
- Rutgers (0.5, 1): @Washington, Howard, New Mexico. Well, Rutgers will probably luck into winnings two of these games.
- Illinois (0.5, 1): Murray State, North Carolina, Western Michigan. Remember that time last year when Illinois fired their coach mere weeks before the season started? Well, if the Broncos can row that boat right into Urbana-Champaign we may get a much more traditional in-season firing.
- Michigan (0, 0): Hawaii, Central Florida, Colorado. I’ll comment on the Hawaii thing in the preview for this weekend, but in the meantime, boy howdy this is basically a preseason for the Wolverines.
- Indiana (0, 0): @Florida International, Ball State, Wake Forest. At FIU! That’s, uh, uncharted territory for a Big Ten program, I’m pretty sure.
- Northwestern (0, 1): Western Michigan, Illinois State, Duke. Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d type back when I started this site, or really, up until about 30 seconds ago: You know, that Northwestern-Duke game could be kind of interesting.
- Minnesota (0, 1): Oregon State, Indiana State, Colorado State. With the Vikings moving into their new home, the Gophers finally have their home field to themselves again. However, since Big Ten teams play all their OOC games in September, expect a lot of comments about humidity and mosquitoes.
- Purdue (0, 1): Eastern Kentucky, Cincinnati, Nevada. The most exciting thing about this schedule is that Purdue might lose all of these games.
- Iowa (0, 1): Miami, Iowa State, North Dakota State. I may have done this before, but sure as heck not very often: yes, Iowa is rated higher than Maryland because they play Iowa State and North Dakota State over FIU and UCF. It doesn’t help that NDSU is a powerhouse and UCF was completely and utterly awful in every regard last season.
- Maryland (0, 1): Howard, @Florida International, @Central Florida. Terps tryin’ to work that Florida pipeline, I guess? Hey, whatever works.
- Texas (1.5, 0): Notre Dame, Texas-El Paso, @California. Because of how we do the ratings (see above), Texas comes out ahead here on the strength of Cal over Houston. Nonetheless, despite actually being less interesting this is still pretty solid in its own right, because if nothing else it’s not like the Big 12 and Pac-12 play each other very often. Well, other than two teams below.
- Oklahoma (1.25, 0): N-Houston, Louisiana-Monroe, Ohio State. I know I’ve been beaten to this punch literally hundreds of times over the past six months, but it bears repeating: if the Sooners go 3-0 against this schedule, then they will be in the playoff barring some other disaster, like losing to Texas again.
- Kansas State (1, 1): @Stanford, Florida Atlantic, Missouri State. The “Bill Synder is old/a wizard” jokes don’t seem as funny anymore, because it especially seems that he, and by extension, the program is running a bit low on steam. I have to think this will be his last year.
- West Virginia (0.5, 1): Missouri, Youngstown State, N-Brigham Young. This is a pretty solid schedule to set up whatever inexplicable thing West [redacted] Virginia is going to do this year. If you’re a ‘Neer, just strap in, pop a Red Bull Holgo-style, and enjoy.
- Texas Tech (0.5, 1): Stephen F. Austin, @Arizona State, Louisiana Tech. Wait, make that three Big 12-Pac-12 games. Uh… anyway, so speaking of jokes getting old, I note that no one is talking about Cliff Kingsbury’s dashing good looks anymore. Vacillating between 4 and 8 wins has that effect.
- Oklahoma State (0.5, 1): Southeastern Louisiana, Central Michigan, Pittsburgh. Mike Gundy has to be one of the longest tenured coaches in FBS, right? Seriously, that “I’m a MAN! I’m FORTY!” press conference flip-out was nine years ago. Of course, he’s an alum, and if he was going to leave, he’d have done it by now. But are they happy with him in Stillwater? Is T. Boone’s money happy with him? Of course, with the shine off oil prices right now, maybe that stick isn’t as big as it used to be. Anyway! We’ll find out sometime after they play those three teams.
- Iowa State (0.5, 1): Northern Iowa, @Iowa, San Jose State. The championship of Iowa could well be decided when Northern Iowa plays North Dakota State on October 29th. Wouldn’t that be something?
- Texas Christian (0.25, 1): South Dakota State, Arkansas, @Southern Methodist. One of these years I’m going to crunch the numbers and start awarding Southwestern Conference championships because, seriously Big 12 just invite SMU, Houston, and Rice and get it over with.
- Kansas (0, 1): Rhode Island, Ohio, @Memphis. The Jayhawks will probably be doing well to get two wins out of this.
- Baylor (0, 1): Northwestern State, Southern Methodist, @Rice.
- Southern California (2, 0): N-Alabama, Utah State, Notre Dame. We’re off to a pretty good start here for the Pac-12. Of course, the Trojans usually appear near the top of my rankings thanks to their annual game with Notre Dame, so all they need to do is add another worthwhile team. Thankfully, they usually do.
- Stanford (1.5, 0): Kansas State, @Notre Dame, Rice. Of course, the Cardinal also play Notre Dame all the time, but Kansas State and Rice are… not quite Alabama.
- California-Los Angeles (1.25, 0): @Texas A&M, Nevada-Las Vegas, @Brigham Young. There’s a chance for UCLA to make a statement early, but considering how mixed the predictions are for TAMU this year, that statement may get somewhat less impactful as the season goes on.
- California (1, 0): N-Hawaii, @San Diego State, Texas. Let’s pretend one of these games didn’t get played already, and wonder how Cal will deal with SDSU’s possibly really good defense. Against Texas, one wonders if even Cal’s defense can make Texas’s offense look something other than “dysfunctional”.
- Colorado (1, 1): N-Coloardo State, Idaho State, @Michigan. It seemed like the Buffs made some baby steps toward mediocrity last year, but we’ll find out real quick how close they are in their annual neutral site tilt with the Rams. At any rate, it’ll tell us more than the trip to Ann Arbor—the Buffs are still a ways from being able to mount a challenge there.
- Oregon (1, 1): California-Davis, Virginia, @Nebraska. I wonder how many more years we’ll be wondering if the Ducks are “back” yet. They’re definitely not favorites this year, heck, I’m not sure if a lot of people even have them second in the Pac-12 North.
- Oregon State (0.75, 1): @Minnesota, Idaho State, Boise State. While Mile Reilly really doesn’t seem like the guy for Nebraska so far, I have to think that there might be a few wistful stares down at the corn fields of Nebraska on the way to Minneapolis.
- Washington State (0.5, 1): Eastern Washington, @Boise State, Idaho. Fun facts about this particular collection of teams! For starters, it’s a relatively compact group, especially considering the area in which all these teams are located. Stadium-to-stadium it’s 56, 221, and 9 miles, respectively, which makes Boise about 30 miles closer to Pullman than Seattle. And of course, you know about Boise’s famous blue turf, but don’t forget about Eastern Washington’s (in)famous red turf. Idaho, meanwhile, plays in the KIBBIE DOME, which five years ago I apparently called the “crucible of potato pain” and have otherwise generally admired over the years. Let’s wryly note that it’d be kind of funny if Wazzou loses to a FCS team again this year while otherwise having an okay season and take a moment to reflect on Idaho, a team that just couldn’t make it work in DI-A/FBS. Effectively homeless after the dissolution of the WAC for football, they wound up in the Sun Belt, which has decided to boot its affiliate members beyond the 2017 season. Without any other options, the Vandals will drop back to FCS and play football in the Big Sky conference. While I imagine they’ll still show up in the previews, alas, the hope of getting a big name team in the KIBBIE DOME is effectively over.
- Arizona State (0.25, 1): Northern Arizona, Texas Tech, @Texas-San Antonio. Um, gee, yeah, back to Pac-12 teams. Uh, Arizona State is going to UTSA for some reason? But hey, they play in the Alamodome, so it’ll at least seem big time, from the outside.
- Arizona (0.25, 1): N-Brigham Young, Grambling State, Hawaii. Let us appreciate Hawaii for a second: they played Cal in Australia already, and will travel to Michigan and Arizona. I guess in this day and age of 12 games schedules and conference championship games the extra home game you get by playing in Honolulu isn’t as appealing anymore?
- Utah (0.25, 1): Southern Utah, Brigham Young, @San Jose State. The way to San Jose: catch a direct flight from Salt Lake City to San Jose, head south on 85, take the Alma Ave exit and follow the signs for Spartan Stadium. That wasn’t so hard, was it?
- Washington (0, 1): Rutgers, Idaho, Portland State. Well, UDub is a trendy pick as a spoiler in the Pac-12 North, and this OOC schedule certainly won’t do anything to hinder them.
- Georgia (1.25, 1): North Carolina, Nichols State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Georgia Tech. This is about as exciting as it’s going to get here in SEC territory, especially after we clear the top three. So strap in, folks.
- Auburn (1, 1): Clemson, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Monroe, Alabama A&M. While Alabama’s slate is probably more exciting in several ways, I’m still deferring to the fact that, well, between Clemson and Alabama Auburn may well have the hardest schedule in the country this year, period.
- Alabama (1, 1): N-Southern California, Western Kentucky, Kent State, Tennessee-Chattanooga. I don’t think I really need to expound on the USC game, so I’ll just say that, man, I would give anything for that Western Kentucky game to be exciting for, like, a quarter or two. Just make those pulses in Tuscaloosa quicken a little, ya know? Obviously the Hilltoppers stand no actual chance, but hey, stranger things have happened, strictly speaking.
- Mississippi (1,1): N-Florida State, Wofford, Memphis, Georgia Southern. Okay, so the odds of Memphis beating Ole Miss two years in a row low, but still, it makes you think. And of course Georgia Southern will bring that option goodness in Oxford. And way back up at the top of the ACC section I noted that there first game could have some possible national title implications, and it still definitely could! Obviously, neither FSU nor Ole Miss are favorites in their conferences, but they’ve got a non-zero chance of playing each other again.
- Arkansas (1, 1): Louisiana Tech, @Texas Christian, Texas State, Alcorn State. I guess I’m rating TCU over UCLA, because that’s pretty much the only reason this in the order this is in.
- Texas A&M (1, 1): California-Los Angeles, Prairie View A&M, New Mexico State, Texas-San Antonio. The Aggies figure to get through this non-conference slate 3-1 or 4-0, which means things will really get interesting once they get into the meat of the SEC play, specifically with regard to whether they’ll have the same coach at the end of the season as the beginning.
- South Carolina (1, 1): East Carolina, Massachusetts, Western Carolina, @Clemson. So… obviously the thing to do after Steve Spurrier resigns during the middle of the season en route to the worst record fo the Gamecocks in a long while is to hire… a man who also used to be a Florida head coach, except that unlike Spurrier he wasn’t successful at a school at pretty much everyone agrees is more primed for success in the first place. So, yeah, how long is Muschamp’s shelf life in Columbia? I give him two seasons, tops.
- Florida (1, 1): Massachusetts, North Texas, Presbyterian, @Florida State. Speaking of the Gators, they’re all the way down here because, well, if they didn’t play FSU every year then this wouldn’t even be a 1.
- Louisiana State (0.75, 1): N-Wisconsin, Jacksonville State, Southern Mississippi, South Alabama. I always wrestle with things like “playing Wisconsin in Green Bay” being a neutral site game or not. I generally feel the textbook definition is based on ticket sales: if the split is 50/50, then it’s neutral. However, that data’s not always easy to come by, so it’s easier just to go based off the site instead.
- Tennessee (0.75, 1): Appalachian State, N-Virginia Tech, Ohio, Tennessee Tech. Between Tennessee, Appalachian State, and VPI we need some sort of Appalachian Championship.
- Vanderbilt (0.75, 1): Middle Tennessee State, @Georgia Tech, @Western Kentucky, Tennessee State. Full disclosure: Georgia Tech is rated as a 0.75 in our system because, well, we’re biased.
- Missouri (0.5, 1): @West Virginia, Eastern Michigan, Delaware State, Middle Tennessee State. So I got a very nice e-mail yesterday wondering where the annual OOC previews were. Suffice it to say, I was shocked that anyone outside of my immediate family or Facebook feed actually reads any of this stuff, much less looks forward to any of it, so I said that this would probably be the longest previews yet. Since the e-mail was from missouri.edu, I’m assuming that the person in question is a Mizzou fan, so hello there! Thanks for reading!
- Kentucky (0.5, 1): Southern Mississippi, New Mexico State, Austin Peay, @Louisville. I think there’s a pretty good chance Kentucky goes 2-2 against this schedule.
- Mississippi State (0.25, 1): South Alabama, Massachusetts, @Brigham Young, Samford. I feel like we underrated BYU a bit? But hey, this doesn’t feel as bad of a schedule as a looks, and I’ll always applaud a SEC school for actually traveling outside of the region.
Okay, so let’s sum this up with the usual rituals.
First, there’s the List of Shame, that is, teams that play more than one FCS school. I’m happy to report this year there’s just one: the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which saw fit to play both James Madison and The Citadel.
Next, a completely subjective ranking of the teams I feel that have the most exciting and/or interesting non-conference schedules. Since I talked about them at length above, I’ll just list them here:
- Southern California (2, 0): N-Alabama, Utah State, Notre Dame. Yes, they play Notre Dame every year, but still, it’s the only 2 and instead of a FCS team they play Utah State, who are not exactly mincemeat.
- Florida State (1.75, 1): N-Mississippi, Charleston Southern, @South Florida, Florida.The yearly rivalry here is offset by South Florida, which may be decent again this year! And it’s on the road! (Well, we can pretend now that there probably won’t be mostly FSU fans there.)
- Oklahoma (1.25, 0): N-Houston, Louisiana-Monroe, Ohio State. I am seriously geeking out about the Oklahoma-Houston game that I probably won’t even get to watch.
- Texas (1.5, 0): Notre Dame, Texas-El Paso, @California. Again, I said completely subjective. Mostly here because we’ll learn about these Longhorns from this schedule.
- California-Los Angeles (1.25, 0): @Texas A&M, Nevada-Las Vegas, @Brigham Young. SAme applies here, especially with two long trips.
And finally, the conference averages (which, I should note, is an average of an average, to account for 4 versus 3 non-conference games):
- Pac-12 (0.27)
- ACC (0.22)
- SEC (0.21)
- Big 12 (0.2)
- Big Ten (0.12)
Seriously, B1G, get with the program.
And that’s a wrap! (Apologies for all the grammar mistakes.)
Let’s throw it over to the TV listings!