Last week we highlighted the 12 Power teams who have two Power opponents scheduled in non-conference play in 2018. This week we look at the opposite angle, Power programs who’ve opted not to play a Power member in non-league action.
Of the 64 Power teams, six (or 9%) are guilty of under-scheduling this season. The Big Ten and Pac-12 both have two representatives and the Big 12 and SEC have one apiece. The ACC avoids the list completely.
In each case, it’s a one game advantage over the rest of the field.
If last week’s teams were on the scheduling honor roll, this weeks are on the naughty list. Stay tuned to see if Santa Claus puts coal in their stockings this postseason.
Arkansas – Eastern Illinois (Sept. 1), at Colorado State (Sept. 8), North Texas (Sept. 15), and Tulsa (Oct. 20)
Arkansas hasn’t avoided playing a Power conference member in non-SEC play since 2007. That season the Hogs hosted Troy, North Texas, and FIU and balanced out the schedule with Chattanooga. They finished 8-5; 4-0 in non-conference play and 4-4 in the SEC. They fell to (7) Missouri in the Cotton Bowl.
Given the SEC and ACC’s eight-league game format (and the fact that no ACC team made the list), Arkansas’ lack of a quality non-conference foe makes it the only Power program to play just eight Power opponents in 2018.
Note: Arkansas did have a home-and-home series with Michigan scheduled for 2018 and 2019, but UM backed out of the contract to renew their series with Notre Dame. Arkansas then received an exemption from the SEC to add a road game at Colorado State and count it as their Power non-conference game.
Compare to LSU: Miami Fla. (Sept. 2, at Arlington, Texas), Southeastern Louisiana (Sept. 8), Louisiana Tech (Sept. 22), and Rice (Nov. 17).
Illinois – Kent State (Sept. 1), Western Illinois (Sept. 8), and USF (Sept. 15)
Illinois also under-scheduled in 2017, beating Ball State and Western Kentucky to start the season before falling at (22) USF in Week 3. The two wins were the only in a 2-10 finish.
To be fair to the Illini, you have go all the way back to 1934 to find a season when they didn’t manage to play a team that is a current member of a Power league (or Notre Dame) in the regular season. Illinois faced Bradley, Washington (Missouri) and Army that year out of conference play. It finished 7-1, tied with Ohio State for second place in the Western (the precursor to the Big Ten) – one game behind Minnesota which went 8-0 and won a share of its second national championship.
Compare to Northwestern: Duke (Sept. 8), Akron (Sept. 15), and Notre Dame (Nov. 3)
Minnesota – New Mexico State (Aug. 30), Fresno State (Sept. 8), and Miami Ohio (Sept. 15)
Look for the Golden Gophers to start the season 3-0 and potentially be ranked for the first time since 2014. The last time Minnesota had it so easy outside of Big Ten play was in 2013, when it lined up against UNLV, New Mexico State, FCS Western Illinois and San Jose State to start the season. Those Gophers went 8-5; 4-0 in non-conference play and 4-4 in Big Ten action. They lost to Syracuse in the Texas Bowl.
Minnesota also failed to play a Power member in 2008, instead opting for Northern Illinois, Bowling Green, FCS Montana State and FAU. That team finished 7-5; 4-0 in the non-Big Ten games, 3-5 in conference play and a loss to Kansas in the Insight Bowl.
Compare to Nebraska: Akron (Sept. 1), Colorado (Sept. 8), and Troy (Sept. 15)
Oklahoma State – Missouri State (Sept. 1), South Alabama (Sept. 8), and Boise State (Sept. 15)
Oklahoma State’s under-scheduled as recently as 2015, when it started the season with Central Michigan, FCS Central Arkansas and UTSA. That team finished the regular season 10-2, ranked No. 13 in the AP before falling to (16) Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl.
Prior to that, the Cowboys also fell short in 2006, opening with FCS Missouri State, Arkansas Statne and FAU. After sweeping those games, OSU went 3-5 in Big 12 play and finished 7-6 after beating Alabama 34-31 in the Independence Bowl.
Compare to Oklahoma: FAU (Sept. 1), UCLA (Sept. 8), and Army (Sept. 22)
Oregon – Bowling Green (Sept. 1), Portland State (Sept. 8), and San Jose State (Sept. 15)
The Ducks are set to face their easiest non-Pac-12 slate since 2012, when they welcomed Arkansas State, Fresno State and FCS Tennessee Tech to open what ultimately was a 12-1 campaign. It was Chip Kelly’s final season at the helm and the team finished at No. 2 in the AP after beating (7) Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Since then, Oregon has doubled-up on non-conference Power opponents twice; Virginia and Nebraska in 2016 and Virginia and Tennessee in 2013. It makes the Ducks appearance on this list even more noteworthy. It also gives new head coach Mario Cristobal a pathway to a 3-0 start and a shot at the Top 25.
Note: Oregon did have a home-and-home series with Texas A&M scheduled for 2018 and 2019, but the Aggies backed out of the contract.
Compare to Oregon State: at Ohio State (Sept. 1), Southern Utah (Sept. 8), and at Nevada (Sept. 15)
Washington State – at Wyoming (Sept. 1), San Jose State (Sept. 8), and Eastern Washington (Sept. 15)
This is Washington State’s third-consecutive season without a Power opponent in non-conference play. It makes the Cougars the biggest repeat offender on the naughty list.
WSU played FCS Montana State, Boise State and Nevada last season and FCS Eastern Washington, Boise State and Idaho in 2016. Its most recent regular-season game against a Power school from an opposing conference was on Sept. 12, 2015 when it edged Rutgers 37-34 in Pullman. The Cougars also under-scheduled in 2011, opening with FCS Idaho State, UNLV and San Diego State.
Compare to Washington: Auburn (Sept. 1 at Atlanta, Ga.), North Dakota (Sept. 8), and BYU (Sept. 29)
Historical data courtesy of Sports Reference-College Football.