Scheduling is not easy for college athletic directors, but Power 5 conferences have privileges the mid-majors and FCS schools do not. Money, attendance and prestige for starters, as the big schools can get anyone to play them and pick where they play.
So when I see a Power 5 school go light with their non-conference schedule I get annoyed. Sure, everyone is entitled to play a FCS school and a Sun Belt doormat, but when that’s all your team does outside of conference action it’s time to grab your pitchfork and charge the athletic office. Here is a look at some schools that could have done a little more in non-conference.
No. 7: Washington State
Washington State has a relatively small stadium for a Power 5 school and that’s a good thing with the weak home slate the Cougars have. It at least gives them hope of selling out when Portland State and Wyoming comes to town. They do travel to a Big Ten team in Rutgers but the PAC-12 schedule is one of the weakest in the conference with USC and Utah left off. Only Stanford and Arizona State will come into Pullman as teams that played in a bowl last year. By the time they do arrive the Cougars may be 2-5 so buy those season tickets today.
No. 6: Arkansas
Give credit to Arkansas for playing Texas Tech but it only has four true road games on the schedule. With seven home games and a neutral site contest with Texas A&M, Arkansas is determined to make Head Coach Bret Bielema look as good as possible in his third year. Poor UTEP, Toledo, and UT-Martin. Just let those cupcakes bake at 350 degrees and let them cool for five minutes.
No. 5: Florida
The Gators are just as guilty as the Razorbacks with only four road games. Florida though has to play Florida State as a rivalry so that doesn’t mean much in terms of scheduling credit. Especially in a year where Auburn and Alabama are not on the schedule making SEC play somewhat manageable. East Carolina is a tough Group of Five school but New Mexico State and Florida Atlantic are pure cupcakes.
No. 4: Penn State
Penn State does have stomach to play at Temple but that doesn’t mean much when you have won the last 31 meetings. Home games against Buffalo, San Diego State and Army West Point are added to a suspect Big Ten slate. The Nittany Lions dodge all the good teams of the West Division. Instead of dealing with Iowa and Wisconsin it’s Northwestern and Illinois. Maryland was supposed to be a road game but that it is a neutral site contest in Baltimore. The result is only three true road games in conference to go along with a four mid-majors. If Penn State is not 6-0 going into Ohio State on Oct. 17 than it should be considered a failure.
No. 3: Florida State
FSU has to outdo in-state rival Florida so it welcomes two FCS programs to Tallahassee in 2015. Again, you can’t give credit to the Seminoles for playing at the rival Gators. That game is an obligation. When you add South Florida, Texas State, and Chattanooga to an unappealing ACC menu it does not attract interest. At Clemson and at Georgia Tech are games of interest but the Noles will face the challenge of not looking ahead to those games. Miami and Louisville are at home minimizing the upset potential.
No. 2: Boston College
Boston College opens with two FCS schools in Maine and Howard. The Eagles are another school with only four road games. Yeah, it’s cool Boston College plays Notre Dame and a tough MAC school in Northern Illinois but the road schedule is Duke, Clemson, Louisville and Syracuse. Not exactly the gauntlet. Part of the problem is that there are not that many FBS programs in the northeast. I would like to see Boston College play Connecticut but maybe they fight over recruits too much.
No. 1: North Carolina
North Carolina doesn’t have the excuse Boston College has as there are plenty of good football programs in the South. UNC also plays two FCS schools and only has four road games. Heck, just two of those games take place before November. I like the Tar Heels playing the Gamecocks of South Carolina on a neutral field but that’s the only thing to like here. Illinois is at home and sandwiched between FCS North Carolina A&T and FCS Delaware. The big kicker though is Florida State and Clemson are not on the ACC schedule. Instead it draws C-listers Wake Forest and North Carolina State out of the Atlantic division. So not exactly must see games will be going down at Chapel Hill this year. You can’t blame UNC for the weaker ACC slate as the conference does that but the Tar Heels should have been more bold in non-conference to make up for it. Two FCS schools when you are in an area filled with CUSA and Sun Belt teams can’t be accepted. I guess this is what happens when you lose to East Carolina two straight seasons.