Anybody, Anywhere, Anytime

IrishEyes reviews the most challenging and, umm, "manageable" nonconference schedules for 2010.

Fresno State head coach Pat Hill (pictured) popularized this column's title phrase in the early years of the decade. In fact, the coach of the talented, but mid-major-stricken Bulldogs had no choice: if he wanted to make noise in a BCS-dominated landscape, Hill and his charges would have to take on all comers…and generally in the heavy's house of choice.

The Bulldogs will face another solid nonconference slate in 2010, hosting both Cincinnati and Illinois, and traveling to Utah and Mississippi over the course of the season (we'll forgive a matchup with formerly strong FCS power Cal Poly).

Which coaches and programs will face the most daunting nonconference schedule in 2010? A review of each BCS program as well as sound programs such as Boise State, BYU, Utah, and TCU showed no clear-cut winner, but a few teams have attempted to challenge themselves outside of conference play and boast enjoyable schedules to entertain their followers.

Then there's Texas Tech…

Do they Charge Full Price?

Hmm…maybe not the best choice of words around the Red Raiders program these days.

  • Texas Tech: SMU, New Mexico, Weber State, Houston. When Houston is your signature game, the Emerald Bowl should represent your post-season ceiling.
  • Kentucky: at Louisville, Western Kentucky, Akron, Charleston Southern. Midnight Madness is just around the corner though...
  • Mississippi State: Memphis, Alcorn State, at Houston, UAB. Sheesh...
  • Wisconsin: at UNLV, San Jose State, Arizona State, Austin Peay…Austin Peay? Really? At least the Badgers hit the road and also entertain intermittently solid ASU.

One for the Money

The recipe of scheduling one prime matchup followed by a bunch of tomato cans is a common practice for programs in 2010 – especially in the SEC West.

  • Alabama: San Jose State, Penn State, at Duke, Georgia State. Props for rekindling an old school rivalry…
  • Arkansas: Tennessee Tech, Louisiana Monroe, Texas A&M (Arlington), UTEP. If the game vs. the Aggies were in Kyle Field I could have given the Razorbacks the benefit of the doubt….
  • Auburn: Arkansas State, Clemson, Louisiana Monroe, Chattanooga. This is particularly heinous…
  • Boston College: Weber State, Kent State, Notre Dame, at Syracuse. I suppose the Orange could have a pulse and there's mild regional appeal…
  • Michigan State: Western Michigan, Florida Atlantic, Notre Dame, Northern Colorado. Maybe they meant to schedule the Colorado Buffaloes and there was a clerical error?
  • Nebraska: Western Kentucky, Idaho, at Washington, South Dakota State. One true road test plus three teams that few of us have ever seen play an organized football game...
  • Oregon: New Mexico, at Tennessee, Portland State. A trip to Knoxville helps forgive the FCS matchup vs. P-State…
  • Virginia: Richmond, Virginia Military Institute, at USC, Eastern Michigan. On a side note, it seems EMU might have a pretty tough schedule this season…

Same Theme…with one potential upstart included

  • Minnesota: at Middle Tennessee State, South Dakota, USC, Northern Illinois. Think the Trojans might seem a little quicker than the Coyotes in late September? Actually the matchup vs. Northern Illinois could be tricky…
  • Mississippi: Jacksonville State, at Tulane, Fresno State, Louisiana (not LSU). Notice the Rebels aren't traveling to Fresno...
  • Ohio State: Marshall, Miami (Fla), Ohio (intra-state classic!), Eastern Michigan. The matchup vs. The U saves an otherwise terrible nonconference slate. In fairness to the Buckeyes, Marshall could well have been solid when scheduled.
  • Oklahoma State: Washington State, Troy, Tulsa, Texas A&M, Louisiana-Lafayette (though its plausible Washington State wasn't hideous when the game was scheduled…unlikely, but plausible).
  • Tennessee: Tennessee-Martin, Oregon, UAB, at Memphis. Maybe they thought it was Tee Martin? Going to Memphis isn't always a picnic.
  • Texas: at Rice, Wyoming, UCLA, Florida Atlantic. UCLA brings national appeal and the Longhorns have a true road game...in Texas, vs. struggling Rice.

Two for Show

Plenty of marshmallows, but these teams will test themselves at least twice out of conference.

  • Clemson: North Texas, Presbyterian, at Auburn, South Carolina. I've seen worse…
  • Georgia: Louisiana Lafayette, at Colorado, at Georgia Tech, Idaho State. The Bulldogs have faced Boise State, Arizona State, and Oklahoma State in recent seasons as well; this after rarely venturing outside the South for decades…
  • Georgia Tech: South Carolina State, at Kansas, Middle Tennessee State, at Georgia. Two road tilts, one a non-traditional rival from a power conference…
  • LSU: North Carolina (neutral), West Virginia, McNeese State, Louisiana Monroe. UNC, WVA, plus the SEC schedule is a solid effort…
  • Penn State: Youngstown State, at Alabama, Kent State, Temple. The matchup with Temple falls into the "Whoops…when did they become good again?" category, as the Nittany Lions have used the Owls as their personal whipping boys for the past few seasons...
  • Rutgers: Norfolk State, Florida International, North Carolina, Tulane, Connecticut, Army…I suppose two solid opponents, but how many 3-win teams can you schedule?
  • Stanford: Sacramento State, Wake Forest, at Notre Dame. Only three games outside of conference play; had the Cardinal dropped an FCS opponent for any BCS bottom-tier foe they'd have rated much higher…
  • TCU: Oregon State, Tennessee Tech, Baylor, at SMU. Borderline, but both Baylor and SMU should be decent…
  • Texas A&M: Stephen F. Austin, Louisiana Tech, Florida International, Arkansas (neutral) and Missouri (neutral). The Razorbacks and Tigers will have to be special this season to offset the opening trio of contests.

    Edit: Thanks to a former Missouri student for pointing out that Mizzou is indeed in A&M's conference...for now. A&M moves up to the One For the Money level.

  • West Virginia: Coastal Carolina, Marshall, Maryland, at LSU, UNLV. It's not their fault Maryland's awful at present…

Schedule 3 and get your 4th free

I have no qualms with the exception of one FCS opponent littering the slates of each:

  • Virginia Tech: Boise State, James Madison, East Carolina, Central Michigan. Bonus points for a "neutral site" battle vs. the Broncos in Maryland. East Carolina and Central Michigan are no pushovers, either.
  • Cincinnati: at Fresno State, Indiana State, at North Carolina State, Oklahoma, Miami (OH). Aside from Larry Bird's former program, this is a solid effort with a road trip to a solid mid-major program, another road game vs. a mid-level ACC squad, and an all-time heavyweight coming to town in September. Miami (OH) happens to be down, but they weren't a cakewalk in seasons past…
  • Connecticut: At Michigan, Texas Southern, @ Temple, Buffalo, Vanderbilt. A trip to one of the nation's most storied programs and a couple of contests that could go either way. Not a bad effort by the hard-charging Huskies…
  • Michigan: Connecticut, at Notre Dame, Massachusetts, Bowling Green. The Falcons were gutted by graduation – otherwise Michigan could have easily finished 1-3 prior to Big 10 action…
  • North Carolina: LSU, at Rutgers, East Carolina, William & Mary. UNC ranks among the most ambitious schedulers in this section as East Carolina and Rutgers could go either way, and a matchup vs. LSU is a doozie.
  • Vanderbilt: Northwestern, Eastern Michigan, at Connecticut, Wake Forest. Certainly program-appropriate...

The Value of the Season Ticket

Give these teams credit for attempting to follow Pat Hill's not-yet antiquated mantra, and taking on (at least) an interesting selection of opponents:

  • Boise State: Virginia Tech (neutral), at Wyoming, Oregon State, Toledo. Both the Coyotes and the Rockets generally have a pulse, too…
  • Brigham Young: Washington, at Florida State, Nevada, at Utah State. BYU rarely passes up the opportunity for a marquee matchup…
  • Colorado: Colorado State (neutral), at California, Hawaii, Georgia. Not a sure win in the bunch considering their rivalry with the Rams…
  • Florida State: Samford, at Oklahoma, BYU, Florida. If not for Samford the Seminoles would have the toughest schedule in the nation as they also happen to miss Duke in conference play…
  • Miami: Florida A&M, at Ohio State, at Pittsburgh, South Florida (end season). Three strong to solid foes is a fan base's dream…
  • Oklahoma: Utah State, Florida State, Air Force, at Cincinnati. Never one to shy away from a prime matchup, the Sooners stepped out in grand fashion this season…
  • Oregon State: vs. TCU (neutral), Louisville, at Boise State. Double Bonus points for taking on two of the top three programs outside the BCS...
  • Pittsburgh: at Utah, New Hampshire, Miami (Fla), Florida International, at Notre Dame. Three absolute gems outside of the Big East are sullied a bit by FIU. FCS-opponent New Hampshire is a strong foe at a lower level of play…
  • UCLA: at Kansas State, Houston, at Texas. UCLA plays a home game vs. Stanford in September as well – if the Bruins emerge 4-0 with an unlikely upset at Texas they'll deserve a Top 5 poll spot entering October. There's a better chance they'll stand at 1-3…
  • USC: at Hawaii, Virginia, at Minnesota, Notre Dame. Less impressive than recent seasons when the Trojans shredded programs such as Auburn, Arkansas, Ohio State, and Virginia Tech…
  • Utah: Pittsburgh, at Iowa State, San Jose State, and at Notre Dame. 4-0 would put the Utes back in prime BCS position with conference matchups vs. TCU and BYU, to boot…
  • Washington: at Brigham Young, Syracuse, Nebraska. The Huskies are traditionally among the best at searching for interesting intersectional matchups...

Who has most challenging nonconference schedule next fall? There's no clear-cut winner this season, but if Florida State, Miami, Oklahoma, Oregon State, Pittsburgh, UCLA, or Utah sweep through nonconference slates, then suffer just one conference loss this season, they'll likely earn appropriate placement in the Bowl Championship Series.

Where would the 2010 Irish fit? Two separate arguments are necessary as we'd celebrate any program that took on teams such as USC, Michigan, Pittsburgh, Utah, and Boston College/Stanford/Michigan State in the same season.

But if you consider USC, BC, Purdue, Navy, Michigan State, Michigan, Pittsburgh, and Stanford as Notre Dame's regular ("conference") matchups, that leaves Western Michigan, Tulsa, Utah, and Army.

The Utes better be up-to-snuff this fall…

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