Rating the 2021 Non-Conference Slate

All right, let’s do this. The format is as such:

  1. Team Name (“Legit” points, Number of FCS teams played): List of teams, with FCS teams in italics. Commentary.

Ready? Let’s go.


  1. Georgia Tech (2, 1): Northern Illinois, Kennesaw State, @Notre Dame, Georgia. Admittedly a bit of bias here, but both options here had Notre Dame and a traditional rival, so I gave credit to the team that has to go to South Bend.
  2. Florida State (2,1): Notre Dame, Jacksonville State, Massachusetts, @Florida. It’s still hard to figure out how to give ACC teams credit for Notre Dame. Perhaps from next year on I’ll treat it as a conference game and just leave it at that.
  3. Virginia Tech (1.5, 1): Middle Tennessee State, @West Virginia, Richmond, Notre Dame. I’m not sure if the Hokies consider their mountain brethren a rival or not, but the trip to Morgantown definitely is the highlight here. The last time the Hokies went over there was a 34-17 win back in 2005, but the ‘Neers lead the all-time series 28-23-1.
  4. Miami (1.5, 1): N-Alabama, Appalachian State, Michigan State, Central Connecticut. Alabama will be de-emphasizing the neutral site openers in the near future, but in the meantime this will be the latest ritual sacrifice.
  5. Louisville (1.25, 1): N-Mississippi, Eastern Kentucky, Central Florida, Kentucky. Louisville-Ole Miss would be fun except for the fact that the Cardinals are probably going to be very, very, bad this year. They might only beat EKU on this slate, and even then…
  6. Clemson (1, 1): N-Georgia, South Carolina State, Connecticut, @South Carolina. Clemson-Georgia is obviously the highlight of this whole deal, but we have save some content for Week 1.
  7. Virginia (1, 1): William & Mary, Illinois, @Brigham Young, Notre Dame. UVA will take a trip out to Provo, whom the Woos hired Bronco Mendenhall from. There’s also a game against Illinois in here, which gives you the ability to say that you scheduled a Big Ten team without having to be concerned about the outcome.
  8. North Carolina (1, 1): Georgia State, @Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Wofford. Yes, that is in fact a non-conference game against Wake Forest. Why? Because under the ACC’s current structure, the two long-time rivals hardly ever play each other in conference play.
  9. Wake Forest (0.75, 1): Old Dominion, Norfolk State, @Army, @North Carolina. I talked about the North Carolina thing above. The Demon Deacons will also head up the Hudson, the first time a Power 5 team has played in Michie Stadium since 2017. Duke won that game, 21-16.
  10. Pittsburgh (0.5, 1): Massachusetts, @Tennessee, Western Michigan, New Hampshire. Pitt going to Knoxville may not be the actual Backyard Brawl, but feels similar in spirit.
  11. North Carolina State (0.25, 1): South Florida, @Mississippi State, Furman, Louisiana Tech. Well, if the is going to be the year the Wolfpack ever break out, this is a schedule that’d let them do it.
  12. Boston College (0, 1): Colgate, @Massachusetts, @Temple, Missouri. I don’t know about having two OOC road games in a season, but I guess the jaunt to either Hadley, MA or Philadelphia isn’t really that far in the Northeast. Also in researching this I discovered UMass’s home stadium is named after a real-life Coach McGuirk, which amused me. Well, amused might be a bit strong since the first names aren’t remotely similar, but, anyway.
  13. Duke (0, 1): @Charlotte, North Carolina A&T, Northwestern, Kansas. Ordinarily, when a FBS team deigns to play a lesser in-state opponent on the road as part of a 3-for-1 type of deal, it’s a fair bet that it’s a convenient draw that will attract plenty of the big school’s fans. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s not going to be the case for Duke. That said, they managed to balance that with visits from two other teams that are nominally in the Power 5, and they even stand a fair shot of beating one of them!
  14. Syracuse (0, 1): @Ohio, Rutgers, Albany, Liberty. Yeah, these are definitely teams you can choose to play. Hopefully they don’t lose to Liberty.

Big Ten

  1. Ohio State (1, 0): Oregon, Tulsa, Akron. The Buckeyes definitely have one of the premier matchups of the non-conference season, and there’s still a requisite two guaranteed FBS wins here too. Not bad.
  2. Michigan (1, 0): Western Michigan, Washington, Northern Illinois. Well, if it were still the early/mid-90’s that Michigan-Washington matchup would be all rage, but alas for these fanbases, it’s not,
  3. Wisconsin (1, 0): Eastern Michigan, N-Notre Dame, Army. Notre Dame is always fun, but I always give Big Ten teams much less credit (though not as much less as ACC teams) because it feels like they have a traditional rivalry with every team in the conference.
  4. Purdue (1, 0): Oregon State, @Connecticut, @Notre Dame. Pac-12 team at home? Okay, cool, that’s pretty nice Purdue. But going to Storrs, CT on purpose? Not sure about that one.
  5. Nebraska (1, 1): Buffalo, @Oklahoma, Southeastern Louisiana. While everyone at OU was apparently so mad about the scheduling of their revived rivalry with Nebraska that they left the conference, Nebraska is perhaps reconsidering the more-than-likely loss.
  6. Pennsylvania State (1, 1): Ball State, Auburn, Villanova. I think everyone in the college football universe is agreeing that 2020 was an outlier for the Nittany Lions and that the Penn State-Auburn game in Happy Valley will be fun. Right? … right?
  7. Michigan State (1, 1): Youngstown State, @Miami, Western Kentucky. Sparty goes on the road to Miami to see which team will be more disappointing this year!
  8. Indiana (0.75, 1): Idaho, Cincinnati, @Western Kentucky. This Indiana-Cincy game is going to be lit. It’s a no-win situation for the Hoosiers, though. Either they win and preserve the dream of #9Windiana or they give the Bearcats the prestige win they need.
  9. Illinois (0.5, 0): Texas-San Antonio, @Virginia, Charlotte. Well, they’ll probably win two of these games. Maybe.
  10. Iowa (0.5, 0): @Iowa State, Kent State, Colorado State. Kirk Ferentz is apparently so unkillable that even going 0-3 against this slate wouldn’t do it. That’s not likely, of course, but that dude’s been there a long time.
  11. Maryland (0.5, 1): West Virginia, Howard, Kent State. Maryland-WVU, again, not the backyard brawl, but it could be fun.
  12. Minnesota (0.25, 0): Miami (OH), @Colorado, Bowling Green. Can’t say I’m really feeling it thinking about Minnesota-Colorado. I hope I’m wrong.
  13. Rutgers (0, 1): Temple, @Syracuse, Delaware. Not sure I’m prepared for “bowl eligible Rutgers”, but it could happen this year folks.
  14. Northwestern (0, 1): Indiana State, @Duke, Ohio. Northwestern is taking no chances with this schedule.

Big 12

  1. Oklahoma (0.5, 1): @Tulane, Western Carolina, Nebraska. So the Big 12 as a whole isn’t super exciting, but at least we’ll see the renewal of a classic rivalry.
  2. Oklahoma State (0.5, 1): Missouri State, Tulsa, @Boise State. Going on the road to Boise is spicy, hence how OSU ended up up here.
  3. West Virginia (0.5, 1): @Maryland, Long Island, Virginia Tech. WVU playing Maryland and Virginia Tech mostly just makes it stand out all the more how much we all miss the Backyard Brawl. I’m looking forward to putting Pitt in here next year.
  4. Kansas State (0.5, 1): N-Stanford, Southern Illinois, Nevada. Maybe the right question isn’t “why are K-State and Stanford, of all teams, playing a neutral site opener?” but instead, and bear with me here…. why not?
  5. Texas Tech (0.5, 1): N-Houston, Stephen F. Austin, Florida International. No, seriously, why though. Texas Tech-Houston makes sense, and they might even be conference mates in the near future!
  6. Iowa State (0.5, 1): Northern Iowa, Iowa, @Nevada-Las Vegas. Not much to write about here, but Iowa game does slot them ahead of the bottom four teams, and even though they’ll win easily they do get to play in a big time stadium in Vegas.
  7. Texas (0, 0): Louisiana, @Arkansas, Rice. Texas is getting an early start on an SEC road game I guess. Plus, with regards to Texas and Rice, I can dust this post off again. (Also, the sharpest edge on this schedule could well be the Ragin’ Cajuns. I think it feels pretty Texas for all of the offseason power move stuff that’s happened and then to lose to Louisiana.)
  8. Texas Christian (0, 1): Duquesne, California, Southern Methodist. Okay, I like that TCU is playing Cal and their cross-town rival. It’s not flashy, but I can get behind this schedule.
  9. Baylor (0, 1): @Texas State, Brigham Young, Texas Southern. 
  10. Kansas (0, 1): South Dakota, @Coastal Carolina, @Duke. The KU-Duke game could well be most competitive game either team plays all year.


  1. Colorado (1.25, 1): Northern Colorado, Texas A&M, Minnesota. This might be a kinda brutal schedule for the Buffs, but hey, kudos for getting both of your P5 opponents to come to you in the same season.
  2. Oregon (1, 1): Fresno State, @Ohio State, Stony Brook. I might be looking way too forward to the Oregon-Ohio State game. I mean, the expectation is that the Ducks get flattened, especially in Columbus, but hey, you never know.
  3. California-Los Angeles (1, 0): Hawaii, Louisiana State, Fresno State. LSU fans in LA, it’s happening folks.
  4. Washington (1, 1): Montana, @Michigan, Arkansas State. Well, I already talked about UDub and Michigan trying to turn the clock back to the early 90’s. Would wearing flannel in Ann Arbor even be that retro? I honestly don’t know.
  5. Stanford (1, 0): N-Kansas State, @Vanderbilt, Notre Dame. 3 P5 and P5-adjacent teams, and only a 1 for that traditional rivalry game against Notre Dame. Well, you tried Stanford.
  6. Southern California (1, 0): San Jose State, @Notre Dame, Brigham Young. Note to self: check if San Jose State is going to be any good this year before writing the Week 1 preview.
  7. California (0.5, 1): Nevada, @Texas Christian, Sacramento State. Note to self: maybe the same for Cal.
  8. Oregon State (0.25, 1): @Purdue, Hawaii, Idaho. Oregon State-Purdue could be more fun than it might otherwise appear (emphasis on the could).
  9. Arizona (0, 1): N-Brigham Young, San Diego State, Northern Arizona. So BYU is playing 5 Pac-12 teams this year, which I think pretty much makes then a Pac-12 member? I mean, that’s how many games Notre Dame has to play against the ACC this year.
  10. Utah (0, 1): Weber State, @Brigham Young, @San Diego State. Utah even plays two of the same three teams Arizona does! Also, fun fact, SDSU is building a new stadium in San Diego, so this year they’re going to play… in LA. Well, Carson technically, but yeah. Have fun with that Aztec fans!
  11. Arizona State (0, 1): Southern Utah, Nevada-Las Vegas, @Brigham Young. Not much to see here, move along.
  12. Washington State (0, 1): Utah State, Portland State, Brigham Young. Maybe the less said about Wazzu the better. You used to fun and weird, Wazzu. Now you’re just kinda dumb.


  1. Georgia (1.5, 1): N-Clemson, Alabama-Birmingham, Charleston Southern, @Georgia Tech. Georga-Clemson, the Week 1 game to end all week 1 games. Otherwise, well, not many other chances UGA is going to suffer an out-of-conference derailment. But we can, and do, always hope.
  2. Auburn (1, 1): Akron, Alabama State, @Pennsylvania State, Georgia State. I would submit that “LSU in Pasadena” is still the funnier juxtaposition of “SEC fanbase and faraway road game”, but Auburn going up to Happy Valley isn’t too far off.
  3. Arkansas (1, 1): Rice, Texas, Georgia Southern, Arkansas-Pine Bluff. It’s a race to the bottom in the SEC this year between Arkansas and South Carolina, and there could well be two losses on this for the Hogs.
  4. Louisiana State (1, 1): @California-Los Angeles, McNeese State, Central Michigan, Louisiana-Monroe. Oh hey, LSU is playing one of the other in-state FBS Louisiana schools. Huh. I mean, they’re not playing the good one, but still.
  5. Alabama (1, 1): N-Miami, Mercer, Southern Mississippi, New Mexico State. I remember the halcyon days of the pre-Saban era when Alabama did things like “lose to Southern Miss”. But here’s the thing, non-Bama football fans, it can, and will, happen again. Saban won’t live forever, and name a situation where following up a coach of his stature worked out for the guy following him. Heck, even at Bama it took them 35 years in the wilderness to go from the Bear to Saban, doing things like “losing to Southern Miss” and “hiring 3 guys named Mike”. History is not destiny.
  6. South Carolina (1, 1): Eastern Illinois, @East Carolina, Troy, Clemson. Oh man. Oooh man. The Gamecocks could – not implausibly – go 0-4 against this slate, though 2-2 is a lot more likely.
  7. Florida (1, 1): Florida Atlantic, @South Florida, Samford, Florida State. There wasn’t a FBS school in Florida you could schedule, Gators? But as usual, the non-conference slate won’t take them out of the state, and USF isn’t good enough (well, or just “good” in generally really) to make that trip to Tampa worrisome.
  8. Mississippi State (0.5, 1): Louisiana Tech, North Carolina State, @Memphis, Tennessee State. Will still continue to posit that Memphis is the largest city in Mississippi, despite what “geography” and “the Census Bureau” say. Change my mind.
  9. Vanderbilt (0.5, 1): East Tennessee State, @Colorado State, Stanford, Connecticut. Vandy’s bad, but not “close to Colorado State and UConn” bad. Plus, it should be more comfortable in Colorado Springs than Nashville.
  10. Texas A&M (0.25, 1): Kent State, @Colorado, New Mexico, Prairie View A&M. This is definitely a slate of games the Aggies can play, though they do get their own refreshing trip to the Rockies I suppose.
  11. Mississippi (0.25, 1): N-Louisville, Austin Peay, Tulane, Liberty. Lane, all I ask is that you put up like 10 touchdowns on Hugh Freeze. That’s all I need.
  12. Kentucky (0.25, 1): Louisiana-Monroe, Tennessee-Chattanooga, New Mexico State, @Louisville. Three nothing teams and an in-state rival, yep, it’s an out-of-conference SEC schedule all right.
  13. Tennessee (0, 1): Bowling Green, Pittsburgh, Tennessee Tech, South Alabama. I’m talking myself into the idea that Tenn-Pitt could be fun, and I’m not sure why I’m doing that. But it could be!
  14. Missouri (0, 1): Central Michigan, Southeast Missouri State, @Boston College, North Texas. In my draft, I had apparently accidentally typed “Kentucky” here, providing yet another moment of “oh, right, Mizzou is in the SEC”. Seriously though y’all, just call up the Jayhawks and get on with it. And yes, I know it’s on the schedule for 2025, but that’s not 2021.