Rating the 2022 Non-Conference Slate

As promised, the ACC will be first, followed by the other Power 5 conferences. Each team is (usually) ranked by the average appeal of their schedule. There’s often ties, so there some subjectivity involved in the actual ranking in the end. (I tend to more highly rate interesting, if not necessarily rated, Power 5 or Group of Five opponents, and not playing any FCS teams tends to be worth some bonus points.)

Here’s the key to reading this. Each team will be listed with their in-conference rank in the following format:

  1. Team Name (“Legit” points, number of FCS teams): List of teams, with FCS teams in italics. Then, my desperate attempt to regurgitate what I’ve heard about the team from my college football podcasts and/or a vibe check.

Make sense? No? Well, tough. Let’s go, it’s almost Week 0!

ACC

  1. Georgia Tech (2.25, 1): Western Carolina, Mississippi, @Central Florida, @Georgia. Okay, so we’ve rightly been ridden pretty hard in the offseason for how hard this schedule is. Part of it is simply that we didn’t plan to be as terrible and incompetent as we currently are. If we were coming fresh off, say, the 2014 season (which is like when the Ole Miss and UCF games were scheduled, I think) then this looks like a pretty good schedule for the 2nd or 3rd best team in the ACC, right? Maybe it seems obvious it’d turn out this way, but I assure you it wasn’t at the time. And I’m tired of hearing about it. And, perhaps, this actually will get Geoff fired, which I think everyone agrees at this point would be a good thing, so.
  2. Florida State (2, 1): Duquesne, N-Louisiana State, Louisiana, Florida. A lot of folks seem to be waiting to see if the ‘Noles are going to be good again, to which I’d say, well, I’m not sure about this year, and it’s not a certainty. They sort of have to get good again, though? And, woof, that LSU game looks to be setting up for some fans on either side to get way too confident about the way things are going under their new coaches.
  3. Syracuse (1.25, 1): @Connecitcut, Purdue, Wagner, Notre Dame. This is where I have to start making calls about how much to count Notre Dame in terms of the Notre Dame-ACC scheduling agreement. Here, though, the Orange have a B1G team on the schedule, so they still grade out ahead of Miami.
  4. Miami (1, 1): Bethune-Cookman, Southern Mississippi, @Texas A&M, Middle Tennessee State. Canes-Aggies might be a sneaky good time… at least for the Canes?
  5. Pittsburgh (0.5, 1): West Virginia, Tennessee, @Western Michigan, Rhode Island. Despite the score, and even though I sort of already “cheated”, I wanted to rank this schedule higher, because THE BACKYARD BRAWL IS BACK, Y’ALL! And Pitt-Tennessee should be good too! And Pitt might still be good! We’ll see! Exclamation points!
  6. Clemson (1, 1): Furman, Louisiana Tech, @Notre Dame, South Carolina. So, yeah, here’s that Notre Dame-ACC thing again, and also a reminder in what otherwise a fantastic year for the Gamecocks and a down year for Clemson, the Tigers still beat them 30-0.
  7. North Carolina (1, 1): Florida A&M, @Appalachian State, @Georgia State, Notre Dame. I know it’s fun to rhetorically ask “why is [Power 5 team] traveling to [Group of Five team]?” but my main thing is that the rhetorical answer is obvious: because this is a 2-for-1 or 3-for-1 deal, which is more or less what it takes to get any FBS team to schedule you these days. That said, I am a tad baffled at how the Heels managed to have to travel to both Boone and Atlanta.
  8. Boston College (1, 1): Rutgers, Maine, @Connecticut, @Notre Dame. BC is keeping it very North East plus a traditional slash ACC game against Notre Dame, I can dig it.
  9. Louisville (0.75, 0.5): @Central Florida, South Florida, James Madison, @Kentucky. Maybe I should’ve put UCF in the ACC in this thing? Sheesh.
  10. Virginia Tech (0.25, 1): @Old Dominion, Wofford, West Virginia, @Liberty. So I don’t think VPI-West Virginia is a super big rivalry or anything, but I think there is a general consensus out there that they should play more often, and I agree.
  11. Virginia (0, 1): Richmond, @Illinois, Old Dominion, Coastal Carolina. My main reaction to this schedule doesn’t really have anything to do with technically having a Big Ten team on there so much as “oh my, they could lose that Coastal game”.
  12. Duke (0, 1): Temple, @Northwestern, North Carolina A&T, @Kansas. If you want any sort of preview of the 2022 Duke Blue Devils football season, it’s this: they could well go 1-3 or 0-4 in these games. I’m serious.
  13. Wake Forest (0, 1): Virginia Military, @Vanderbilt, Liberty, Army. Meanwhile, Wake should go 4-0 here. Well, at least, please, just… don’t lose to Liberty. Just trust me on this.
  14. North Carolina State (0, 1): @East Carolina, Charleston Southern, Texas Tech, Connecticut. Seeing as how NCSU should go 4-0 on this schedule, it’s going to be really spicy to see how they go 4-4 or 5-3 in conference this season.

Big Ten

  1. Nebraska (1, 1): North Dakota, Georgia Southern, Oklahoma. So why does Nebraska rank ahead of Ohio State when I said above I give precedence to teams that don’t play any FCS teams? Well, for starters UND could probably beat a lot of Group of Five teams. Second, I just mostly want to recognize that Nebraska is playing Oklahoma again and I think that’s the sort of thing I want to encourage here. (And, even better, it was scheduled as a home-and-home, instead of being played in, say, Jerryworld and Kansas City.) Third, well, it’s Scott Frost Day.
  2. Ohio State (1, 0): Notre Dame, Arkansas State, Toledo. I really did wrestle whether to put Ohio State-ND or Penn State-Auburn higher, though. In the end, I feel like Ohio State-Notre Dame is likely to be a playoff eliminator, and plus the Buckeyes aren’t really one of Notre Dame’s traditional midwestern rivals, so this is fun to see.
  3. Pennsylvania State (1, 0): Ohio, @Auburn, Central Michigan. Just so y’all know, there’s a lot of hype out there in my corner of the college football internet that when the Nittany Lions’ trip to the Plains is gonna get Harsin fired.
  4. Michigan State (1, 0): Western Michigan, Akron, @Washington. Last year was a magical season for Sparty and especially Mel Tucker, but there were some eyebrow raising losses (Purdue and the 56-7 Ohio State incident) that to me indicate that pumping the brakes may be wise for this season.
  5. Indiana (0.75, 1): Idaho, Western Kentucky, @Cincinnati. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be easy in any way for the Hoosiers this season, and that’s really before you factor in the trip to Nippert.
  6. Wisconsin (0, 1): Illinois State, Washington State, New Mexico State. Not that it would affect them anyway, but yeah, this non-con slate isn’t going to do anything to hurt Wisconsin’s confidence in what looks like a path back to Indianapolis.
  7. Illinois (0.5, 1): Wyoming, Virginia, Tennessee-Chattanooga. It’s Burt time over in Urbana-Champaign, where there’s probably some real questions if they’re going to get more than 1 win out of this slate.
  8. Iowa (0.25, 1): South Dakota State, Iowa State, Nevada. It would be so funny if Iowa lost to South Dakota State, y’all. They won’t, but it’s totally plausible! It could well be something to watch next weekend!
  9. Minnesota (0.25, 1): New Mexico State, Western Illinois, Colorado. Has the shine worn off for PJ Fleck in Minnesota yet? Well, I’m not sure, but this schedule won’t do anything to hurt him, I’d say.
  10. Purdue (0, 1): Indiana State, @Syracuse, Florida Atlantic. I haven’t heard a lot about Purdue this offseason. Is that on purpose to ensure they remain a bit of a mystery so when they appear once again in October as everyone’s favorite Chaos Team™ we can all act surprised?
  11. Rutgers (0, 1): @Boston College, Wagner, @Temple. I’m not sure if I’m ready for Competent Rutgers, and certainly two road non-conference games doesn’t usually inspire confidence. But that seems to sort of be the consensus? Stay tuned for updates on this throughout the season.
  12. Maryland (0, 0): Buffalo, @Charlotte, Southern Methodist. See what I wrote about North Carolina above, but still, why are you going to Charlotte? Either way, I guess we’ll find out soon if the Terps running it back with Mike Locksley is going to have any sizzle or not.
  13. Michigan (0, 0): Colorado State, Hawaii, Connecticut. Speaking of three guaranteed wins, sheesh, this sure is a schedule that technically doesn’t have any FCS teams on it.
  14. Northwestern (0, 1): Duke, Southern Illinois, Miami (OH). This looks like a great chance for Northwestern to get 3 wins, ’cause Lord knows they’ll need ’em.

Big 12

  1. Texas (1, 0): Louisiana-Monroe, Alabama, Texas-San Antonio. Texas-Bama. The soon-to-be conference-mates will play a neutral in a relatively novel location of these two heavyweights: Tuscaloosa, AL. That said, the ‘Horns would be wise to not lose to the Roadrunners. (Meep meep)
  2. Texas Tech (1, 1): Murray State, Houston, @North Carolina State. I know I started with that rant about people making fun of GT’s schedule at the very top, so this may seem a tad hypocritical but… seriously, playing a spicy in-state rival and travelling to Raleigh? Oof.
  3. West Virginia (0.75, 1): @Pittsburgh, Towson, Virginia Tech. WVU plays two ACC teams, whom, as I mentioned above, should arguably play every year. It’s like the three of them should be in the same conference or something.
  4. Oklahoma (0.75, 0): Texas-El Paso, Kent State, @Nebraska. Brent Venables is the head man at Oklahoma now, in case you’ve been under a rock all offseason. Or are a normal human who does other things than spending every fall Saturday watching college football for 12 hours. You know… like me.
  5. Iowa State (0.75, 1): Southeast Missouri State, @Iowa, Ohio. Hey Cyclones, y’all gonna wake up this year? Given their history, it’s hard to imagine that there’s really “letdown” years for Iowa State, but… 2021 kind of was one? Especially for a team that’s got the coach and opportunity to reset the pecking order in the post-Red River Big 12 in a couple of years, 2022 will need to be a bounce back.
  6. Kansas (0.5, 1): Tennessee Tech, @Houston, Duke. Kansas is probably going to lose to Houston, but unlike in past years, I feel pretty good about saying they’re going to win the other two games on this schedule.
  7. Texas Christian (0.25, 1): @Colorado, Tarleton State, @Southern Methodist. TCU will have ae new head coach for the first time in a very long time, and this may not be the schedule that you’d particular want to start off with. That said, going 3-0 here will go a long way toward moving on from the old guy pretty quickly.
  8. Oklahoma State (0, 1): Central Michigan, Arizona State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff. I was going to make a joke along the lines of Gundy losing to Arizona State and demanding a recount, but I decided not to. Because it’s not a joke.
  9. Baylor (0, 1): Albany, @Brigham Young, Texas State. When my brother and I do the “legit” rankings mentioned in the intro post, we usually have a couple teams that we debate changing the rating. The stickiest wicket this year was the Baylor Bears. I pointed out that they could well be the best team in the Big 12 this year and deserved to be bumped up, to which he had the completely legitimate defense “yeah, but they’re Baylor“. In the end, though, it didn’t really matter because, well, they don’t play any other Power 5 teams anyway.
  10. Kansas State (0, 1): South Dakota, Missouri, Tulane. The wrong Kansas team is playing Mizzou, and, uh, this could actually be kind of a tricky schedule?

Pac-12

  1. Oregon (1, 1): N-Georgia, Eastern Washington, Brigham Young. One of the most exciting matchups of the whole season is going to be Oregon-Georgia in Week 1. I’ll talk about the potential national implications below. Here, I wanted to focus on the Ducks, as it feels like the expectations for their season range wildly from “beat Georgia” to “lose to EWU”. It’ll be plenty interesting to see how they navigate this.
  2. Utah (1, 1): @Florida, Southern Utah, San Diego State. Five years ago, we’d have called Utah-Georgia the Urban Meyer Classic, but, uh, probably not so much anymore. Anyway! The Utes have a pretty brutal non-con here, but they could well be favored in all of these games.
  3. Washington State (1, 1): Idaho, @Wisconsin, Colorado State. Wazzu will take an early fall road trip to Madison. I suspect there will a new found appreciation of cheese curds in eastern Washington. These are the kind of non-cons you love to see.
  4. Arizona State (1, 1): Northern Arizona, @Oklahoma State, Eastern Michigan. Let’s see, I already made the the Mike Gundy joke up above, but fortunately there’s plenty (not) to love about Herm’s tenure in Tempe. Which is to say, he could well have turned himself from “guy who knows the NFL, consider Arizona State!” to a coaching pariah. The reason? ASU is embroiled in an ongoing NCAA investigation (remember those?) where Herm has basically saved his own neck by throwing his (ex-)staffers under the bus. Yeah, that’s a good way to completely ruin your reputation. And why Herm is an early candidate to not be a head coach by season’s end.
  5. Southern California (1, 0): Rice, Fresno State, Notre Dame. So is USC going to keep playing other California schools in the non-con when the move to the Big Ten, or are they just going to go full Midwest and start scheduling exclusively MAC teams?
  6. California (1, 1): California-Davis, Nevada-Las Vegas, @Notre Dame. I’m not sure any school has more violently swung from one strength on a particular side of the ball to the other so much as the Bears. Years ago, they were a whole-hog offensive juggernaut with a defense made of tissue paper, now it’s the oppose. Which may be a problem when the Aggies roll down from Davis across as the Carquinez Strait and then on into Berkeley.
  7. Stanford (1, 1): Colgate, @Notre Dame, Brigham Young. “NIL? Conference dissolving around us? What? We can’t hear you over the sound of our continued efforts to cut Olympic sports to save money even though we have more money than God.”
  8. Colorado (0.5, 0): Texas Christian, @Air Force, @Minnesota. I think this is going to be a pretty tough schedule for the Buffs.
  9. Oregon State (0.5, 1): Boise State, @Fresno State, Montana State. Okay, once again, I’ll reference the top of my post above, except… Beavs what are you doing?!? It’s been a few minutes since y’all were good (unlike us, at least) and you’re playing two of the most successful Group of Five teams (ever!) and, oh yeah, FCS runners-up in 2018, 2019, and 2021 Montana State! I swear, y’all could lose all of these games!
  10. Washington (0.75, 1): Kent State, Portland State, Michigan State. Long time readers of this site (which, let’s be honest, might be just my parents, best case) know that I tend to be in Seattle every Labor Day weekend and part of the fun is sometimes whoever UDub (and, sometimes, Wazzu) play that weekend. Alas, it won’t be Sparty coming to town this time.
  11. Arizona (0, 1): @San Diego State, Mississippi State, North Dakota State. Okay, see above everything I wrote above Oregon State, except sub one of the G5 teams with an SEC team and the “FCS runners-up” part with “FCS Champions”. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?
  12. California-Los Angeles (0, 1): Bowling Green State, Alabama State, South Alabama. See Oregon State and Arizona? This is how you do it. This is three wins for ol’ Chip, and unless things really go south down in Westwood, he isn’t going anywhere. Well, other than future road trips to lovely towns like Piscataway and East Lansing in November.

SEC

  1. Georgia (1.25, 1): N-Oregon, Samford, Kent State, Georgia Tech. One of the most exciting matchups of the whole season is going to be Oregon-Georgia in Week 1. The question is, will this one be as consequential as Georgia’s 10-3 win over Clemson? You know, the one where if Clemson had anything resembling their functional, end-of-season offense, could’ve easily gone the other way? Let’s also add in that, yes, while they are reloading and not rebuilding, they are more-or-less replacing their entire starting defense. I mean, look, my biases are plain: I want the Ducks to win, and while I suspect the odds are long and the score’s gonna be like 30-7 or something, I think there’s a chance.
  2. Florida (1.75, 1): Utah, South Florida, Eastern Washington, @Florida State. UGA got ranked ahead of the Gators mostly just because, well, Florida has to play FSU every year, so I deducted credit for that. Nonetheless, the Utes will find their way to Gainesville, and presumably show why Billy Napier has been trying to tamp down expectations for the Gators since the moment he was hired.
  3. Auburn (1, 1): Mercer, San Jose State, Pennsylvania State, Western Kentucky. If you hang out where I do on the Internet, Brian Harsin is basically already fired and the Week 3 game against the Nittany Lions is just a formality. Which, look, let’s be clear, it could be at any other point before the Iron Bowl… a bad loss at home to LSU, getting pants by Kiffin in Oxford a couple weeks later… there’s plenty of chances outside the non-con!
  4. Alabama (1, 1): Utah State, @Texas, Louisiana-Monroe, Austin Peay. If we were just going solely by the helmets, Bama-Texas would be number 1, but this is mostly a reflect of how things have gone for Texas as of late than anything else. Plus, I guess it’s sort of expected that Bama play a team like Texas? I at least find Georgia-Oregon or Florida-Utah more exciting.
  5. Louisiana State (1, 1): N-Florida State, Southern, New Mexico, Alabama-Birmingham. LSU-FSU is definitely a Week 1 neutral site game we’re going to make WAY too many inferences about for a pair of relatively new regimes.
  6. Texas A&M (1, 1): Sam Houston State, Appalachian State, Miami, Massachusetts. Okay, look, A&M’s gonna win all of these games and then mysteriously lose like 3 in the SEC, but oh the mind wonders at how spectacular it’d be if they get pipped by the Canes, or… dare I say… App State?
  7. South Carolina (1, 1): Georgia State, Charlotte, South Carolina State, @Clemson. Yeah, this is setting up pretty good for the Gamecocks to get a full of themselves and then get pasted by Clemson… again.
  8. Arkansas (0.75, 1): Cincinnati, Missouri State, @Brigham Young, Liberty. The Wompin’ was pretty fun last year, but year 2 is here and it gets real, fast, with a visit from Cincy (who are admittedly missing their best players from last year’s run) and then a mid-season visit to Provo.
  9. Mississippi (0.25, 1): Troy, Central Arkansas, @Georgia Tech, Tulsa. Matt Coral pretty much seemed to be the perfect quarterback for Lane’s system, and sure they’ll have more reps, but his replacements for the bowl game last year did not look good for Kiffin’s chances of getting a job somewhere other than Oxford.
  10. Missouri (0.5, 1): Louisiana Tech, @Kansas State, Abilene Christian, New Mexico State. Again, Mizzou, that’s the wrong Kansas team! Ah, pretty good odds I say the same thing next year on the return trip, but fortunately they’ll be making it right in 2025.
  11. Kentucky (0, 1): Miami (OH), Youngstown State, Northern Illinois, Louisville. This is a pretty pedestrian schedule that figures to keep football a pleasant distraction these days in Frankfort.
  12. Tennessee (0.25, 1): Ball State, @Pittsburgh, Akron, Tennessee-Martin. Tennessee playing Pitt just feels right, for whatever reason. They’re not traditional rivals, but they do have that same hillbilly quality that West Virginia does, so they’re sort of rivals by extension?
  13. Mississippi State (0, 1): Memphis, @Arizona, Bowling Green, East Tennessee State. Miss State is going to drop that game to Memphis. I just feel it in my bones. Which will make it that more surprising (to some) when the then go to out to Tucson and throw for 800 yards in the desert.
  14. Vanderbilt (0, 1): @Hawaii, Elon, Wake Forest, @Northern Illinois. Vandy is basically getting their bowl game in at the start of the season, which some may consider wise. This also makes me wonder if the thing where you can play an extra home game if you go to Hawaii is still on the books. Not that Vandy would really want to take advantage of that, mind you.

Okay! Next up, we’ll put a bow on this thing, and then the season is upon us!

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