Power teams who won’t play a non-conference Power opponent in 2018

By Amy Daughters -

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.

Comments (26)

To be fair, Arkansas had Michigan on the schedule for both 2018 and 2019 before Michigan pulled out so they could play Notre Dame. Hogs were unable to find a power 5 replacement on short notice.

Some of these (Oregon, Washington State, Minnesota), are quite contemptible, but others really aren’t. Arkansas has their home and home with Michigan scheduled, while Oklahoma State is playing home and home with Boise State, who finished last year, like most years, in the top 25. There is really high variance in power 5 and group of 5 teams, and a team like Boise State or UCF can be the main game of a decent non conference schedule.

I hate lists like these, because clearly some Group of 5 programs are much better than some Power 5 programs.

Rutgers non-conference schedule features only Kansas as a Power-5. I could name at least twelve G5 schools that could smoke Kansas.

You are JUST now realizing this… I have know this for MANY years. I perfomed, published and copyrighted research on the subject of college football more specically at the FBS level. Book is called “College Football In The BCS Era The Untold Truth Facts Evidnece and Solution” (Siggelow, (2016 & 2013). I also publish a blog called cfbpoexpert.com that has dicussed many issues within CFB and publishes more accurate rankings.

and Ok. State is playing Boise State..that alone is better than scheduling half of the Big 10.

ArKansas beat Florida A&M, New Mexico State, Coastal Carolina and Ole Miss in 2017. One of these things is not like the other. So sick and tired of hearing about SEC prowess. What a joke.

I enjoy this site quite a lot, but I agree with SOME of the content of Craig’s statement. I often find Amy’s content insulting to Group of 5 schools. This article is a perfect example of what I am talking about. Scheduling Boise State over Kansas is not shame-worthy. Last season, UCF was far better than Rutgers. I am not offering this feedback to insult Amy’s work. I hope that your team will consider this feedback, and provide content that does not unfairly insult your audience’s favorite team or alma mater. If a team is bad, then they’re bad… It doesn’t matter which conference they are members. I’m not a real journalist either, but I understand that this analysis has a great deal of fallacy. As an alum of an AAC school, these articles really strike a nerve with me. Most seasons, my school beats one or two “Power 5” programs. Scheduling us in simply not a cop-out from scheduling a teal team.

We don’t write articles to “shame” schools that I’m aware of. If you’ve read most of Amy’s pieces, they generally revolve around facts or numbers, not opinion. This article is exactly what the title suggests, nothing more, nothing less.

Greg is right in the sense that not all Power Five teams are equal. And that is something the committee takes into account… It’s clear that they think the eight game SEC and ACC conference schedules are clearly better than the 9 game conference schedule in other conferences.

But Greg is a little misguided on his criticism, I think. Amy doesn’t determine who is and is not a Power Five program. Those designations have been made by others. It’s not fair to blame her for simply using the existing division.

Not blaming her. Not blaming anyone. Offering constructive feedback on this article. Saying that treating all Group of 5 teams as far less superious than all Power 5 programs is a fallacy. Rutgers has one of the worst nonconference schedules out there in 2018. They don’t make this list because the article assumes that somehow playing Kansas is less shame-worthy than playing Boise State or USF.

Kevin, I agree to disagree. If you reject my feedback, that’s fine. But let’s not pretend that this article that this article is not insulting Group of 5 schools, and in particular includes USF and Boise State, which are clearly decent football teams.

Exact quotes from the article…
“Of the 64 Power teams, six (or 9%) are guilty of under-scheduling this season.”
“If last week’s teams were on the scheduling honor roll, this weeks are on the naughty list”
“In each case, it’s a one game advantage over the rest of the field.”

All I’m saying is maybe improve the analysis to actually weigh the quality of G5 and P5 scheduling. Rutgers non-conference schedule (Buffalo, Texas State, Kansas) is far more shame-worthy than some of the teams on this list. It doesn’t take a great deal of analysis to see my point. If you’re going to critique a schedule, why not do it right.

Amy is a contributor and writes about one piece a week, the topic of which is at her discretion. Two others (Brian and Eric) contribute during the season. I work on the schedules and schedule articles, so I don’t have the time for deeply analytical scheduling articles.

If you know someone who would be interested in that, send them this way.

First shame on the programs on this list and if any of them sniff the college football playoff or new years six game they should be viewed like they have another loss. One year on this list if explainable, contracts get canceled and the AD may or may not try that hard to schedule another Power 5 team. But Washington St has been on this list for 3 years now, is scheduled to be for the next two when they play BYU to get off it. Oklahoma St and Illinois at least play on of the 5 teams not in the Power 5 that play like they are in Boise ST and USF. I will someday calculate the 5 Power Teams that do not play like it, but since Purdue played their way off it last year and Kansas does not play anyone important out of conference. Arkansas just might join Illinois on that list this year, we will see how the new coach does.

Kevin Kelly or Amy, you are welcome to my idea ( I am sure I am not the first) of the list of teams in the Group of 5 that should be considered for scheduling like Power 5 teams (Boise St, UCF, N. Illinois, Houston) depending how many year window you use and then another article on the list of teams that are in the Power 5 and play like Group of 5. Kansas, Illinois, Rutgers, Vanderbilt could all be options again depending on how long a window you wish to use. Greg, I say this to agree with your point. There are many different levels of play in both Power 5 Conferences and Group of 5 Conferences and that should not be the only way to grade schedules.

When did BYU become a P5 school? They’re not by these arbitrary definitions, and the fact that the Cougs played Boise State — a very good regional opponent — the last two years isn’t exactly Hall of Shame material. The real crime is playing FCS schools, and still only three FBS schools can say they’ve never done that: Notre Dame, USC, UCLA.

Let’s not forget why teams schedule bad teams (whether G5 or P5): because they need to pad their records in order to climb the rankings and be considered for the “playoff.” If there was a playoff where every conference champ was admitted, schools would challenge themselves in OOC games more often, in order to be ready for conference play. And the cost wouldn’t be so severe if they lost one of these games (because they could still win their conference). Watching UMBC knock off UVa in the NCAA hoops tournament only made me think again about just how amazing a real postseason tournament would be — and how it would make the regular season that much better.

This is a temporary 2-year blip for Arkansas. Unfortunately Michigan weaseled out of a home and home with the Hogs in 18/19. 2019 has the Hogs’ OOC schedule with the likes of Portland State, Colorado State, San Jose State and Western Kentucky. However, of the known OOC games (schedules not complete) in 2020/2021 the Hogs have Notre Dame and Texas.


BYU has been a P5 team for some time now, they’re also independent & play almost as tough schedule as ND.
There is no crime in playing FCS schools, its great that teams like ND, USC & UCLA have not play one, congrats to them but don’t be surprised if one day down the road they do add on an FCS team to their schedule. Yet I would say UCLA may want to add on a FCS team by the way they’re playing.
P5 schools have been scheduling FCS & G5 teams for years, it has nothing to do with padding their records in order to be considered for the playoff system. It is not a shame to play an FCS & there is a lot more that goes into then just scheduling a win. Some of these FCS are better & play harder then some P5 teams.