An ideal schedule usually has a soft start and builds to stronger competition. Several types of scheduling can cause havoc for teams trying to rebuild or challenge for a conference crown. Opening up the season with a difficult opponent on the road or several games on the road in early September can put a team in a hole early on. Scheduling four teams with two soft teams between two tough teams, called bookending, can also disrupt a team's flow. Scheduling an FCS team before a rivalry game in late November can result in a trap game as well as have a negative impact on the team's rankings in the polls.
Keeping all of those things in mind, here are some noteworthy schedules that may play a huge part in the teams' successes or failures.
The Hurricanes open their season on the road with a conference game—never a good thing. But it gets worse. They pack their bags and take a trip to Kansas State before coming home and playing Bethune-Cookman. Miami then goes back on the road to play Georgia Tech. Opening up your season with three out of four games on the road is a nightmare.
New head coach Charlie Weis is a well-traveled coach but he may faint when he sees the Jayhawks' November slate. Starting November 3, Kansas travels to Baylor and to Texas Tech before getting a bye. They host Iowa State then go back on the road to festive West Virginia. One home game in five weeks? Ouch.
If ever there was a school that bookended a September, Michigan is it. The Wolverines open up at Arlington, Texas with Alabama. They come home to host Air Force and UMass, then go back on the road to face Notre Dame. Michigan and Notre Dame, for the most part, play each other yearly, so why did Michigan agree to open their season with the Crimson Tide on the road when they knew they were traveling to Notre Dame? Their two toughest games are both non-conference games and on the road.
Byes can be very important. A well-placed bye gives a team from a break as well as gives injured players time to rehab. It also can be an advantage when prepping for your big rivalry game. Michigan State plays eight straight games before a bye: Boise State, at Central Michigan, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Ohio State, at Indiana, Iowa, at Michigan, at Wisconsin and Nebraska. Their bye comes on November 10. Before Northwestern and Minnesota?
Granted, Ohio State won't be playing in any bowls due to NCAA sanctions so a weird schedule won't be a season-ender but still, a bye in mid-November? What's the point?
The Miners are trying to become a better football program but there does come a point when, in challenging your team, you bite off more than you can chew. Starting off the season with Oklahoma, at Ole Miss, New Mexico State and at Wisconsin probably won’t give this team much confidence going into conference play.
Army has a bye in the first week of play. The first week bye is a downer for football fans simply because while everybody else is having fun, your team isn't playing. For what it's worth, last year Nevada had a bye in the first week of the 2011 season before playing Oregon—the Wolfpack lost 69-20 to the Ducks.
BYU has scheduled their bye on November 3—right before the Cougars play Idaho, at San Jose State, and at New Mexico State, three teams who had a combined record of 11-26 last year. A bye in October would have been more logical since the Cougars play Utah State, Oregon State, at Notre Dame and at Georgia Tech?
The Lobos went 1-11 last year so naturally, the Lobos are on every BCS team's radar for a non-conference game. This year the Lobos host Southern in their season opener—so far, so good. Their schedule for the next four weeks looks like this: at Texas, at Texas Tech, at New Mexico State and hosting Boise State. If you think the contest against New Mexico State is a respite, think again—the Lobos lost to them last year, 42-28.
Since the Rebels scheduled Hawaii, they had the option of playing a 13th game, per NCAA scheduling rules. The Rebels went ahead and scheduled 13 consecutive games but as a result, got no bye week. Starting the 2012 season in late August and playing 13 straight weeks of football through November 24 is probably asking a tad too much for this team.
November is the most important month of football—most teams are playing the meat of their schedules and the BCS rankings reflect that. So why did Auburn schedule two cupcakes in that month? The Tigers' schedule—New Mexico State, Georgia, Alabama A&M, at Alabama—does them no favors. Beating up New Mexico State and Alabama A&M while other BCS teams are playing rivalry games won’t get them any love from the pollsters. And how well will those two teams prepare Auburn for Georgia and Alabama?
Like Auburn, LSU's schedule is a high-level, low-level weekly mix. Their schedule starting on September 1 looks like this: North Texas, Washington, Idaho, at Auburn, Towson, at Florida. A better schedule would have had the softer teams scheduled first leading up to the tougher competition. Another consideration is the old "trap game" potential—playing Idaho before Auburn or Towson before Florida can cause those "guaranteed win" games to be over-looked. Is it likely to happen? No, but don't ever discount a team looking ahead.
The Aggies are now in the SEC and playing in the West where wins are hard to come by. Granted, their schedule probably had to be tweaked when they joined the SEC but already they are in a hole. Scheduling two FCS teams (South Carolina State and Sam Houston State) means the Aggies can't get bowl-eligible until they have seven wins, not the standard six. Good luck.