What Not to Miss on Labor Day Weekend

Not a math major but it seems like something is not right here.

Not a math major but it seems like something is not right here.

With all the football going on this weekend here are some events to keep in mind during one of the busiest times on the college sports calendar.

FootballObscurity Report new

Talk is swirling that Hawaii is considering a move to drop its football team. If that is the case then be sure to watch its late night home opener against Washington. Will be interesting to see how the Rainbow Warriors fight a superior team with all the negativity going on. Coming off a 1-11 season doesn’t help either. The marketing department appears desperate as season tickets are less than the price of two single games. Even their promotional video shows plenty of empty seats at the 20 second mark.

A Hawaii upset would be the story of the week in my opinion. Stay up just in case it’s close.

Men’s Soccer

Down in Bloomington, Indiana, the defending champions and No. 1 Notre Dame will be taking on two top 12 teams this weekend in the IU Classic. Today at 5 p.m. will be No. 12 Marquette with No. 9 Georgetown Sunday at 11:30. Both the Golden Eagles and Hoyas lost in the third round of the tournament last season and will test the Fighting Irish.

Women’s Soccer

No. 1 UCLA is also defending its championship and will host the 2012 champion, No. 9 North Carolina Friday night. The Bruins are on 23-game winning streak but the last team who beat them were the Tar Heels . UCLA is 1-9 all-time against UNC but won where it most mattered last season in the NCAA quarterfinals 1-0. In its first two games, UCLA hasn’t even allowed a single shot on goal or corner kick. So good luck against that defense North Carolina. Maybe UCLA can take a break from practice with a win.

Women’s Volleyball

No. 3 Stanford travels to No. 7 Nebraska Sunday as the women’s volleyball season gets underway. This is a big test for Stanford as it will host defending champ and No. 1 overall Penn State next week. Both the Cardinal and the Cornhuskers lost in the quarterfinals last season with Stanford losing to Penn State in five sets. Stanford was the only team to take Penn State to five in the tournament so look for the Cardinal to be confident going into the season. One thing’s for sure, the team knows how to manipulate the camera.

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FCS Defenders: Where the Upsets Will Happen

Because Photoshopping logos onto a tank is harder.

Because Photoshopping logos onto a tank is harder.

The first few weeks of the year is the only time college football has a March Madness flavor to it as FCS schools get a crack at the big boys. Fourty-six FCS teams will square off against FBS counterparts this week and roughly half have a chance of pulling off the upset. The big schools can’t recruit everyone and the FCS programs benefit greatly from transfers. FBS schools have a recruiting edge in grabbing the scarcity of quality linemen but skill positions (quarterbacks and receivers) are roughly the same quality in FCS.

Losing to a FCS school carries various degrees of shame. When a MAC school loses to a FCS squad, it is embarrassing, like losing to a 6-year-old at a video game. When a Big Ten school loses to a FCS program, it is crippling, like being interviewed by Chris Hansen on Dateline. See Michigan versus Appalachian State as exhibit A. Here are a few FCS vs. FBS games to look at in the opening week.

Abilene Christian at Georgia State

The season officially starts for FBS schools with a potential upset. The Panthers went 0-12 in 2013 and lost to three FCS programs in the process. Georgia State hopes to snap its 16-game losing streak against Abilene Christian, who lost most of its offense from a year ago.

ACU did finished 18 spots higher than GSU in the Sagarin rankings last season and appears to have a beefier offensive line. This is a 50/50 game but I have to give it to Georgia State. They have been marketing it like it’s their Super Bowl and they’ll need that mindset to end the losing streak.

UT-Martin at Kentucky

I know it’s a popular to pick an underdog over Kentucky but the Wildcats are 10-0 all-time vs. FCS programs. The only chance the Skyhawks have is hoping for complete incompetence from the Cats at quarterback. Kentucky is going with redshirt sophomore PatrickTowles who has little game experience. This opens the door for UT-Martin but don’t bet on it. Kentucky should win this one by at least a couple of touchdowns as Kentucky returns most of its defense.

Youngstown State at Illinois

Illinois went 4-8 last season and will be breaking in a new quarterback. The Fighting Illini also lost most of its receivers. In terms of size on the line of scrimmage Illinois is bigger but not by much. No. 21 FCS Youngstown State also lost its starting quarterback from last season so the QB position is a wash.

Looking at common opponents, Youngstown State lost to Michigan State last season by 38. Illinois lost to Michigan State in 2013 by 39. Uh Oh! These teams are close to even and that is not a good sign for Illinois. I’m picking the Penguins because I always wanted to stay that.

Delaware at Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh went 7-6 last season and lost some big pieces on defense and its quarterback. Is that enough for the Delaware Blue Hens to capitalize on? Senior quarterback Trent Hurley returns after throwing 22 touchdowns in 2013 to only seven interceptions. That’s a big problem for the Panthers.

However, Delaware will be severely undersized at the line of scrimmage and this team was blown out by Navy a year ago. A team Pittsburgh defeated. I expect Delaware to stick around but I can’t pick the upset.

Montana at Wyoming

Wyoming is rolling the dice playing the No. 5 FCS team in Montana. The Cowboys return most of its team but will have a new starter a quarterback along with a new coach (Craig Bohl). For the Griz, quarterback Jordan Johnson returns after throwing 32 touchdowns to only five interceptions. Montana will have to overcome a moderate size difference up front but this will be a close one. I’ll pick Montana because of the coaching transition at Wyoming.

Plus how can you go against a school that has a hype video with a Batman style soundtrack.

Montana State at Arkansas State

Arkansas State won a bowl game last season and welcomes No. 17 FCS Montana State on Saturday. The Red Wolves lost a big chunk of its offense including quarterback. Montana State nearly took down FBS SMU last season and have a decent chance here too. It does not help that the Bobcats will be giving Dakota Prukop his first start at QB. The Bobcats are larger at offensive line and the Red Wolves went through a coaching change. Arkansas State’s defense will have to hold on to prevent the upset and I think they will against a new quarterback. I predict the Bobcats will come up short again.

Northern Arizona at San Diego State

Our third FCS school from the Big Sky on this list is No. 25 Northern Arizona. San Diego State was crushed by FCS Eastern Illinois last season 40-19 and lost most of its defense. However, the Lumberjacks don’t have an amazing quarterback like Eastern’s Jimmy Garoppolo. I’m calling the Aztecs to survive this one.

New Hampshire at Toledo

Toledo is a favorite to win the MAC but CAA New Hampshire is No. 4 in FCS. The Rockets have a new starter at quarterback but return most of its defense. The Wildcats have two quarterbacks that are experienced. I look for Toledo to hold on as New Hampshire barley lost to MAC foe Central Michigan last season. A team Toledo crushed. Plus, if these fans show up then the Rockets should feel safe.

Chattanooga at Central Michigan

Speaking of Central Michigan, it plays No. 16 Chattanooga in what should be a tight game. Central returns most of its team and is predicted to have a breakout year in the MAC. That doesn’t mean losing to a talented FCS program is out of question. Junior quarterback Jacob Huesman had 25 total touchdowns last season compared with five interceptions for the Mocs. They also want to get the bad taste of the Alabama beating they took at the end of last season 49-0. Huesman was unable to play much in that game due to injury. Central does not appear to have much of a size advantage on the line. I think it will come down to skill positions and that’s why I’m picking Chattanooga. http://www.gomocs.com/ViewArticle.dbml?ATCLID=205178820

Bethune-Cookman at FIU

No. 23 Bethune-Cookman beat Florida International last year 34-13. While FIU returns most of its players from its disastrous 1-11 campaign in 2013, the Panthers are going to be challenged to make up three touchdowns. Bethune-Cookman is 3-0 all time against FIU and that will probably be 4-0 after Saturday. FIU is giving away food and tuition to bring out fans. Good luck with that.

Cal-Poly at New Mexico State

New Mexico State went 2-10 last season and lost its top passer, rusher, receiver and six of its top seven tacklers. I don’t know if Cal-Poly, 6-6 in 2013, can take advantage though. The Mustangs will be undersized and that might prevent them from having much rushing success in its triple option. Not sure if their two quarterback system will work well in this one. Have to give the edge to the Aggies.

North Dakota State at Iowa State

Save the best for last and that’s the Bison, who have won three-straight FCS titles. They shocked Kansas State in 2013 and play a weaker Big 12 team this season in Iowa State. Did I mention Iowa State lost to FCS Northern Iowa last season 28-20?

But the Cyclones have experience on offense now as the defense is the question. No one has a clear size advantage on the line of scrimmage making quarterback play pivotal. That could be a problem for NDSU as new starting quarterback Carson Wentz is unproven. However, the two quarterback system for Iowa State cost them 14 interceptions last season and you can bet at least one more will come Saturday. That should be all NDSU needs as I’m picking them to extend its 24-game winning streak.

That means I’m picking five FCS programs over FBS teams this week with a few more tight contests. Here are other FCS vs. FBS games with some upset potential this week. Villanova at Syracuse; Liberty at North Carolina; Portland State at Oregon State; Nicholls State at Air Force; Morgan State at Eastern Michigan

Big Picture College Football Predictions

It’s prediction time as the college football season is here. Here are a few big picture forecasts for season, or ammo for you guys to make fun of me for in December. Take your pick.

Four teams will enter, 14 more will argue they should enter instead

Four teams will enter, 14 more will argue they should enter instead

Florida State is guaranteed to win the ACC

Simply put, the ACC is a disaster and Florida State is the only team with firepower. Clemson and North Carolina are good but don’t have the horses for FSU. The toughest conference game for Florida State will probably be at AAC import Louisville on a Thursday night. Maybe Miami can do something but FSU has everyone else outclassed on paper.

PAC-12 is more likely to have two teams in the playoff than the SEC.

The PAC-12 plays nine conference games a year while the SEC still does eight. Last season, that trait alone boosted the PAC-12’s rankings and they’ll be right there with the SEC this year. All 14 SEC schools play a FCS opponent compared with eight of the PAC-12 schools. If the selection committee values non-conference schedules then the PAC-12 has the inside edge.

SEC champ will come out of the East division

The East division has been pushed around by the West lately and I’m calling that to change this year. Georgia was banged up last season and look for them to be deeper this season as a result. South Carolina is waiting to break through after three-straight 11-2 seasons. Luck should come to one of these schools and upset Auburn or Alabama in the SEC championship. I give the edge to Georgia.

Everyone in the Big Ten will have at least two losses.

With Ohio State losing quarterback Braxton Miller the Big Ten is lacking a power team. Look at this candidate for the most depressing tweet of the year.

If Michigan State loses to Oregon (Sept. 6) and Wisconsin loses to LSU this Saturday in Houston then the conference is out of options. Will the committee select a Big Ten team with two losses? Highly unlikely. Maybe the Spartans can run the table in conference play and get in with just the Oregon loss. Hard to see that happening though.

Oklahoma is a lock to be in the playoff.

Oklahoma is coming off a huge win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and should be favored in every game this season. OU gets Baylor at home, the team in the league with the most explosive offense. With Texas rebuilding and Oklahoma State having to replace most of its team this has to be Oklahoma’s year.

The mid-majors will struggle for attention

The “Group of Five” has little chance of breaching the playoffs and that’s a problem. The top mid-major will get into a BCS level bowl but that’s not part of the playoff. Schools like Boise State, Central Florida and Louisiana have loaded up on their non-conference schedules but that will only help them if they go undefeated. Marshall is the favorite to win Conference USA but plays nobody. The MAC is the most unpredictable conference as its schools will beat each other up. These five conferences are going to have to reevaluate things soon.

The playoff format will work… for the most part.

Four is better than two but someone is going to be upset when the selections are announced. I predict that will be Big Ten fans as the odds are shaky for them in getting a spot. The mid-majors might have to make their own subdivision soon as the power conference schools are taking things over. Still, this will be better than last decade of postseasons. New Year’s Day matters again without compromising the regular season.

As for the championship I’m picking Oregon to beat Georgia. Hey, the more things you guys have to make fun of me for the better.

Budget Games of the Opening Week

Budget Games newCollege football schedules are driven by revenue and there are schools that need revenue badly. The first few weeks of the season are loaded with power conference programs paying mid-major FBS schools to serve as target practice. Such is life in the “Group of 5” (AAC, CUSA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt). Welcome to the “Budget Games” slackers, where the odds are never in your favor.

Georgia Southern at NC State, Aug 30.

The Eagles are entering year one as a FBS school and that costs money. Money North Carolina State is willing to provide to the tune of $700,000 for a home game. NC State went a dismal 3-9 last year and were uncompetitive against the likes of Boston College, East Carolina and Maryland. The Eagles beat Florida last year so taking down a FBS school like NC State is nothing new.

Georgia Southern has an opportunity here to get paid and score a win. I give the Eagles a 40% chance of pulling off the upset. That will be a happy Thanksgiving, merry Christmas, and a happy New Year all over again.

Temple at Vanderbilt, Aug 28

The American Athletic Conference is now on the same level as the MAC and Conference USA. This means Temple is back to collecting cash and Vanderbilt is its first supplier. The Owls went 2-10 in 2013 but had decent showings in their final six games. While Vanderbilt has a new head coach in Derek Mason, it seems hard to believe they’ll drop a Thursday night game to a team like Temple. The pressure will be on running back Jerron Seymour to carry Vandy’s offense as the passing attack is inexperienced. I place Temple’s chances of an upset at 25 percent.

Appalachian State at Michigan Aug 30

Michigan is paying Appalachian State 1 million dollars to get a chance at revenge. Why else would Michigan schedule them? MAC schools surround the Wolverines so importing a Sun Belt program from North Carolina is a little obvious.

The Mountaineers are now in the FBS and their upset over Michigan in 2007 had plenty to do with that. App State went 4-8 last season but returns their starting QB, RB and offensive line. That could make things interesting. If Akron scared Michigan last year then you know Appalachian State has a shot. I give them a 20 percent chance.

Utah State vs. Tennessee, Aug 31

Utah State of the Mountain West will take its crack at a SEC school on a Sunday game. The Aggies have potential too coming off a 9-5 year. The Volunteers have not scared anyone in years and Utah State is coming to win. Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton is better than anyone Tennessee has under center.

I view this as a coin-flip as Tennessee may panic at home if this is close late. I give the Aggies a 49 percent chance. Better bring your best game Tennessee.

FAU vs. Nebraska, Aug 30

Florida Atlantic opens the season at Nebraska and at Alabama. Now that’s an athletic department in need of funds. Bo Pelini is taking heat from Nebraska fans and a loss to a Sun Belt team in the opener will cause a revolt. Wyoming almost knocked off Nebraska in Lincoln last season and Florida Atlantic is not too far off in talent from Wyoming. The Owls also won their last four games in 2013 but I can only give them a 20 percent chance. The Cornhuskers would have to turn the ball over a lot to choke this one, but did I mention Nebraska was -11 in turnover margin last year. Whoops.

Rice vs. Notre Dame, Aug 30

Our third Owl team on the list and this is the best of them. Rice won Conference USA last season and will receive a 1.1 million dollar check to play Notre Dame. Rice lost their top QB, RB and its two best tacklers on defense to graduation so that’s a big mountain to climb in the first week. I give Rice a five percent chance of winning.

Idaho vs. Florida, Aug 30

Idaho is trying hard to recruit in Sun Belt territory and raise funds in the process. The solution is to play Florida for $975,000. The Vandals will be better than their 1-11 team from last season but Florida will be better too. If Idaho can’t stay close to Washington State in 2013 (42-0) then Florida should hold its own here. I give the Vandals a five percent chance to pull the upset.

The Best of College Volleyball on Social Media and the Worst

Who knew "kill" would be so peaceful and elegant in cursive?

Who knew “kill” would be so peaceful and elegant in cursive?

While college football and college basketball are the main sports I follow, I try to give some love to the Olympics sports when I can here at the nc2anerd. Volleyball is a particular favorite as its games are right there in the basketball arena.

If a school knows how to promote itself, volleyball can be a revenue producing sport. With the women’s volleyball season starting the same weekend as football, let’s take a look at where volleyball programs are breaking through the football blanket to make a name for themselves in social media and where they’re failing to do so.

McNeese State

The most hilarious volleyball promotion on social media was this You Tube clip of the McNeese State players putting on knee pads and walking down a hallway. Are these Cowgirls going to play a volleyball game because we never see a ball, net, or court for that matter? It’s as if they were denied access to arena the day of shooting. I thought the music change in the middle was a mistake the first time I watched it too.

At lease McNeese State made a promotional video unlike these two schools.

Penn State and Wisconsin

The fact I lumped these two together is a bad sign. Penn State defeated Wisconsin in last year’s title game to win its fifth championship in seven years. Yet both schools have been lackluster in their social media promotions. Wisconsin has had more swagger on Twitter showing off their “finalist rings.”

Besides that and a few “Throwback Thursday” photos, both schools have been quiet and unimpressive on the promotion front. Football as is a big reason why as both schools are football powers in the Big 10.

Texas

The No. 1 seed in last year’s volleyball tournament was Texas and the Longhorns are pretty blunt about how they feel about volleyball compared with their heroes on the gridiron.

Wow, a 3.4 GPA is all it took? That’s what I had in college with only moderate effort. Sorry Mom.

Texas is complimenting their women’s volleyball team here but it also comes across as reinforcing the stereotype that women’s sports are only there to balance out the bad academics of the men. Texas missed a golden opportunity to promote its four players on the preseason All Big 12 team last week. Contrast this with Kansas State (only one player on the list) who quickly jumped to promote their star setter.

Now that is how you showcase your best players Texas. To find a school placing stock in its volleyball program you need to to select one that either doesn’t have a football team or just has a bad one. This brings us to…

Purdue

The Boilermakers went all out to promote their volleyball photo day. Even set up a site for behind the scenes access. Slow motion videos capture the work that went into their team poster.

Sam Diving from Purdue Athletics on Vimeo.

The school is also using social media to sell tickets. Purdue created the BumpTo1000 hashtag as an effort to double the number of season tickets from a year ago. Purdue went to the elite eight last year before falling to Wisconsin in four sets. With their top two leaders in attack percentage returning in Kiki Jones and Faye Adelaja, this could be Purdue’s chance to knock Penn State off the Big 10 Throne.

Minnesota

Purdue isn’t the only Big 10 school trying win over publicity for volleyball. The Golden Gophers have a three-game ticket plan where fans choose from a hierarchy of opponents.

Group one consists of the three schools in the conference with the most volleyball tradition and it moves on down from there. It’s a very interesting ticket plan for an obsessed volleyball fan.

Minnesota reached the Sweet 16 in 2013 but lost their two kill leaders from last season.

Washington

Out in PAC-12 country the Washington Huskies are predicted to not win the conference, just like last season. That’s fine for the Huskies as they won the PAC-12 in 2013 and made it to the Final Four in the tournament. Washington’s volleyball program is nestled in a nice situation as the school’s football team is not overpowering. Check out its short promotional video. Something Penn State and Texas don’t have.

Washington has expanded into sand volleyball in 2014, a very promising sign that the school is committed to being a power in the indoor sport as well. Senior outside hitters Kaleigh Nelson and Krista Vansant return as the two leaders in kills and were named to the All PAC-12 preseason team.

Marquette

Marquette does not have a football team meaning volleyball is large and in charge in autumn. Don’t believe me? Take a look at these ticket prices.

Dang, $70 for courtside seats is almost as expensive as the Milwaukee Bucks. The Golden Eagles lost in the second round last year to Illinois. Unfortunately, Marquette has just one senior on the roster so it will be a challenge for it to improve on that finish.

Morehead State

Smaller schools, such as Morehead, are also promoting volleyball stronger than the finalists from last season. Take a look at Morehead boasting about its Ohio Valley Conference titles.

With #EagleEmpire you know you’re a volleyball school.

New Hampshire

The Wildcats won the American East last season and are the favorites to do so again. The conference let New Hampshire Outside Hitter Abby Brinkman take over the league’s Twitter account in July and there were plenty of highlights.

Abby made this picture the banner photo for the conference for a weekend to put some muscle into the American East.

Buffalo

Things got silly for the Bulls at their media day. It’s an early candidate for selfie of the year.

Southern Mississippi

Want to know what a coach thinks of a player? Well Southern Miss just comes out and says it in its tweets.

The WINNER: Hawaii

The best volleyball program on social media leading up to the season has been the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine. First, the school is making a strong effort to honor its coach, Dave Shoji, who is celebrating 40 years at the program. Picture after picture has been used to show Coach Shoji at the time of each significant achievement in his tenure. To national championships to reaching 500 wins.

The woman on the right must be really glad the school brought back that picture.

Most of all though is the passion of the Hawaii fans. Look at how many were at last year’s first round win against Idaho State.

Over 8,000 fans were on hand for that first round game. That’s more than three times the attendance at Penn State’s second round game against Utah and more than twice of the second round game at Texas. Did I mention Texas was playing arch rival Texas A&M in that game? Whoops.

For volleyball to grow it needs to have schools see it as a companion to football and not as a side item. Hawaii and the Big West Conference have been the leaders on that process so far.

That’s why I’m picking Hawaii to beat Washington in the championship at Oklahoma City this December. Not because of talent but because of fan support and passion.

Will it happen though with eight newcomers? The Rainbow Wahine should be hungry after being caught off guard against BYU in the second round in 2013. They were the No. 11 overall seed last year and return some key players from their team that beat Texas in the regular season. Hawaii is deep in outside hitters with Nikki Taylor, Tai Manu-Olevao and senior leader Kalei Adopho.

Either way, Hawaii will be the most interesting team to follow in women’s volleyball this season. With its fan support you can count on that.

No, the NCAA is Not Falling Apart

Everyone PANIC!

Everyone PANIC!

There was plenty of overreaction Thursday to the 16-2 vote from the NCAA Board of Directors giving the power five conferences more autonomy. Banter ranging from Athletes being paid to the death of the NCAA was controlling the news. Some punks in the media even called it the creation of “Haves and Have Nots in college sports.”

My response is simple.

Where the heck have you been?

The NCAA has always been operating in a “haves and have nots” system. Especially in football. The Sun Belt has never been equal to the SEC. The same for the MAC and the Big Ten. In terms of resource disparity, Thursday’s vote changed nothing.

In a lot of ways, the vote will do some immediate good. The NCAA has never been able to police the institutions in charge. The cheaters who launder money know how to get around them. The power five conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, PAC 12 and SEC) are more nimble in making preventive measures around cheating. Stipends, not paying players thousands of dollars, are long overdue. You can’t eliminate cheating but you can place players in a less vulnerable position financially.

Seeing Oklahoma self report itself for giving players too much pasta has to end. Heck, South Carolina self reported itself for having too much icing on a cake. The system is broken and the power five are more qualified to fix it than the overwhelmed enforcement staff in the NCAA.

The NCAA is still needed as there has to be a governing body for all schools, and Thursday’s vote didn’t change that either. The bigger conferences have different needs than the rest and the Board of Directors recognized that. That doesn’t mean the NCAA is going to disappear.

As much as the SEC wants to just be by itself, it will always need competition from around the country to validate its prestige. That keeps the NCAA safe from elimination.

The real issues will be how much compensation the power five will agree to disperse to players? Will mid-majors drop down in competition? Staple issues, like Title IX, are not going away either.

But don’t expect the sky to fall because of Thursday’s vote. Intercollegiate athletics is not going to blow itself up. The “Star Trek” clip resembles the situation as Scotty thinks the cloaking device will overload. However, sometimes you just have to throw the switch.

Football Teams in Love with Cupcakes

Don't laugh, that might be what your favorite team actually looks like on the field.

Don’t laugh, that might be what your favorite team actually looks like on the field.

Every year, football programs try to manufacture the perfect schedule and the teams below didn’t make the cut. While there is no “perfect schedule,” there are schedules that treat its fans like they are a Comcast customer.
Discarding the conference slate, as schools don’t have control on those games, here are several non-conference schedules that are ripping off fans and their conference rankings.

Marshall

The Thundering Herd are a front-runner in Conference USA this season but does not play a single power conference school. Instead, Marshall loaded up on three MAC schools and FCS Rhode Island. If Marshall wants to make a splash it will have to go undefeated before pollsters notice them. Maybe the weak schedule will help the Herd obtain the coveted mid-major spot in the four big bowls. Then again it might cause Marshall to fade away into obscurity.

Oregon State

The PAC 12 has nine games in league play allowing just three games out of conference. Oregon State took that opportunity and converted it into FCS Portland State, at Hawaii and San Diego State. Hawaii only won one game last year so way to push the envelope there Beavers. With that said, Oregon State lost to FCS Eastern Washington a year ago so maybe it’s tough enough.

Baylor

Baylor won the Big 12 last season so why in the world are Bears afraid to play anybody? It’s toughest out of conference game is at Buffalo of the MAC. SMU and FCS Northwestern State round out an unimpressive trio. This is not great for the Big 12’s strength of schedule rankings.

Middle Tennessee State

The Blue Raiders open against FCS cupcake Savannah State and then travel to their toughest non-conference foe on the season in… Minnesota? MTSU is also at Memphis of the AAC and at Old Dominion of the Sun Belt. Not a slate that will impress people and the weakest team is the only home game.

Ball State

My alma mater in Ball State has the issue of playing two FCS programs this year. BSU does play at Iowa but that doesn’t really make up for the fans having to see Colgate and Indiana State. There is no value in beating two FCS schools as the second win does not count towards bowl eligibility.

Houston

The Cougars are another school playing two FCS programs (Grambling State and Tennessee Tech) that I’m sure fans are dying to see. UTSA is Houston’s best non-conference opponent at home as BYU is away. Did I mention this is only the fourth year UTSA has had a football program?

Georgia Tech

For the second straight year the Yellow Jackets will be playing two FCS opponents. It’s as if Georgia Tech is conceding multiple losses in ACC play and the rivalry game to Georgia with that attitude. Tech also traverses to AAC Tulane which could be a trap game costing it bowl eligibility if it falters there.

With their schedule I don't think winning a prize pack is a good thing.

With their schedule I don’t think winning a prize pack is a good thing.

North Carolina State

Another ACC school topped Georgia Tech as NC State will play 2 FCS schools too. NC State’s sexiest home game out of conference is Old Dominion of the Sun Belt. There is a trip to South Florida but that does nothing to accommodate the fans at home. For an ACC school to go this soft is a giant white flag in confidence coming off a 3-9 season. Hope the people in Raleigh like cupcakes because they’re about to get a lot of them.

Other flimsy non-conference schedules: Buffalo, Florida International, Air Force, Vanderbilt, Western Kentucky