One of the first things I look at when I go through every team's schedule is which teams have the toughest or easiest out-of-conference schedules. In the past I have usually found that the tougher the conference, the easier the out of conference schedule usually is. And this makes sense for the most part. I mean if your team plays in the SEC, there is really no reason to schedule multiple tough games against opponents like Boise State, Utah, and a team like Navy. Three easy games and one tough game is the norm. A few SEC teams this year kept with that formula. Take a look at the out-of-conference schedules of a few of its members:
Arkansas: Tennessee Tech, Louisiana-Monroe, Texas El-Paso and Texas A&M.
Meanwhile Vanderbilt, a team that will be lucky to win an SEC game this season also has its work cut out to pick up an out-of-conference win with games against Northwestern, Connecticut, Wake Forest, and Eastern Michigan on its schedule. The later of the four games will probably be their best shot for a "w" this season.
In the Big 12, Nebraska and Oklahoma's out-of-conference schedules couldn't be more different. The Cornhuskers' first four games are: Western Kentucky, Idaho, South Dakota State, and at Washington. The Sooners, on the other hand, have a much tougher first four opponents (after the easy opener): Utah State, Florida State, Air Force, at Cincinnati.
If you thought Nebraska's first two games (Western Kentucky and Idaho) are pretty easy, try Clemson's on for size. After seeing if they can score 60 points against North Texas, they will get to try and top it in week two against (gulp) Presbyterian. Either it is getting really difficult for some teams to schedule out-of-conference games or the Tigers just want to get their offense rolling early in the season. To be fair though, Clemson's other two non-ACC games are pretty tough (at Auburn and South Carolina).
On the other side of the spectrum in the ACC, after an easy opener against Florida A&M, Miami (Fla.) takes to the road in back-to-back out-of-conference games at Ohio State and at Pittsburgh. If the Hurricanes find a way to start 3-0, they will be in the Top 5 when they start their ACC games.
One team looking to have its first winning season in forever is Syracuse. Perhaps that is why you will see that before they begin play in the Big East, they will go back-to-back at home against Maine and Colgate.
The prize for the toughest sandwich game (think easy, hard, easy games) goes to South Florida. In between its week one game against Stony Brook and its week three game against Western Kentucky, they visit Florida in the Swamp. The runner-up in the bad sandwich category goes to Virginia. Their first three games are Richmond, at USC, and VMI. I would be interested to know if any NCAA team ever went against USC and VMI in consecutive weeks. I am guessing it will be a first in 2010.
If you are looking for a high scoring opening contest, you might not want to miss the out-of-conference shootout in the state of Texas on Sept. 5 when SMU takes on Texas Tech.
Wyoming will be hard-pressed to post back-to-back winning seasons with out-of-conference games scheduled against Texas and Boise State.
Here are some other interesting tidbits from the 2010 college football schedule.
- Rice doesn't play a game outside of its home state of Texas until its eighth game when they play at Central Florida.
- In his first year coaching at Louisiana-Monroe, I'm sure Todd Berry is pretty excited to be playing at Arkansas, at Auburn, and at LSU in 2010. Well, at least it will help his team's strength of schedule.
- Florida International of the Sun Belt wins the contest for most out-of-conference games against BCS opponents to open the season with games against Rutgers, at Texas A&M, at Maryland, and at Pittsburgh.
- The pressure will sure be on Michigan's Rich Rodriguez if he doesn't go at least 3-1 to open the season. If the Wolverines are 2-2, that means that they lost to two of the following teams: Notre Dame, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Bowling Green.
- Wake Forest gets its fill of triple option football to open October with back-to-back home games against Georgia Tech and Navy. In 2009, the Demon Deacons lost to both teams on the road by a combined six points.
- It will be interesting to see if Hawaii travels back home after making the trek to West Point for a Sept. 11 game against Army. Their next game is the following Saturday in Boulder, Colo. against the Buffalos. If they choose not to return home, they will save themselves about 8,000 miles of traveling. If they do go home, they would be looking at nearly 20,000 frequent flier miles in two weeks.