Whether it’s geographic convenience, history or a long-standing rivalry – conferences tend to have favorites when scheduling non-league opponents.
Following are the seven most-frequent matchups between FBS conferences in 2017. Of these, the SEC and C-USA are both listed three times, meaning their scheduling efforts are the most concentrated.
To illustrate, the 14 SEC members are slated to play 56 non-conference games in 2017. Of these, 26 (or 46%) are scheduled against opponents from the ACC, C-USA or Sun Belt. Beyond that, 14 (or 25%) are vs. FCS schools. That leaves just 16 (or 29%) opponents from the other six FBS leagues and Independents.
The only conference not mentioned is the Big 12, with only 10 members playing three non-league games each it had lower totals across the board.
The rarest matchups in 2017 are the following six combos, all with only one meeting each: ACC-Pac-12, Big 12-Mountain West, Big 12-Sun Belt, Pac-12-MAC, SEC-American, and SEC-MAC.
The only matchup you won’t see at all in the 2017 regular season is a Conference USA team playing a Mountain West member.
American Athletic vs. C-USA: Cincinnati vs. Marshall, Houston at UTSA, Houston vs. Rice, Navy at FAU, SMU vs. North Texas, Tulane at FIU, and UCF vs. FIU
Of the seven American Athletic-CUSA matchups only one has significant history – SMU and North Texas – playing 36 times since first meeting in 1922. The two have met five times since 2006 and consecutively since 2014. The Mustangs lead the all-time series 30-5-1, but the Mean Green have won two of the last five.
The only first-ever matchup is Tulane and FIU.
C-USA vs. MAC: Charlotte at Eastern Michigan, Florida Atlantic at Buffalo, Marshall vs. Miami (Ohio), Marshall vs. Kent State, Middle Tennessee State vs. Bowling Green, UAB at Ball State, and Western Kentucky vs. Ball State
Marshall gets its two MAC opponents early in 2017, hosting Miami (Ohio) in the opener and then Kent State in Week 3. Both are long-standing series. The Thundering Herd have played the Redhawks 43 times since 1905. They’ve won eight of the last nine, but are behind 12-30-1 in the all-time series. They’ve hooked up with the Golden Flashes 36 times since 1952, the series is tied at 18 wins apiece.
It’s UAB and Ball State’s first-ever football meeting.
SEC vs. C-USA: Florida vs. UAB, Kentucky at Southern Miss, Mississippi State at Louisiana Tech, South Carolina vs. Louisiana Tech, Tennessee at Southern Miss, Vanderbilt at Middle Tennessee State, and Vanderbilt vs. Western Kentucky
The SEC-CUSA matchup with the most history is Vandy-Middle Tennessee. The two schools have clashed 17 times since 1915. The Blue Raiders have only won three meetings – scoring consecutive wins in 2001, 2002 and 2005. This year’s game is in Murfreesboro, where it’s been played only twice previously, in 1920 and 2015.
ACC vs. SEC: Clemson vs. Auburn, Clemson at South Carolina, Florida State vs. Alabama (at Atlanta, Ga.), Florida State at Florida, Georgia Tech vs. Tennessee (at Atlanta, Ga.), Georgia Tech vs. Georgia, Louisville at Kentucky, NC State vs. South Carolina (at Charlotte, N.C.), and Syracuse at LSU
The most frequent regular season non-conference combo involving two Power leagues, the ACC-SEC continues to thrive because of its four annual, in-state rivalry games. Beyond that, Clemson, Florida State and Georgia Tech each play an additional SEC opponent in 2017. From the other side of the aisle, South Carolina doubles up on ACC foes this season.
The oldest matchup in the bunch is Georgia Tech-Georgia which kicked off 124-years ago in 1893. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 65-40-5 and the visiting team has won the last three. The two schools shared membership in the same conference (the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association/the Southern and the SEC) from the turn of the century until the early 1960s making the meetings from 1897-1963 all league games.
The matchup with the most history is Clemson-South Carolina which has been played 113 times since 1896. The Tigers lead the all-time series 67-42-4. Like Georgia Tech-Georgia, the two schools played as conference rivals from 1915-1970, when the Gamecocks left the ACC to become independent (they joined the SEC in 1992).
Big Ten vs. MAC: Illinois vs. Ball State, Michigan State vs. Bowling Green, Michigan State vs. Western Michigan, Minnesota vs. Buffalo, Nebraska vs. Northern Illinois, Northwestern vs. Bowling Green, Penn State vs. Akron, Purdue vs. Ohio, and Rutgers vs. Eastern Michigan
The Big Ten-MAC (like the Pac-12-Mountain West and SEC-Sun Belt below) is all about the Power conference in one geographic area hosting opponents from the nearby non-Power league. It’s the big brother-little brother and/or David vs. Goliath scenario.
It’s also one of only two frequent matchups (along with the SEC-Sun Belt) that will be exclusively be played at the Power school’s home field.
Of the nine, the combo with the most history is Michigan State-Western Michigan, a 14-game series that kicked off in 1908. The Spartans lead the all-time series 12-2, the Broncos haven’t scored a win since 98-years ago in 1919.
Pac-12 vs. Mountain West: Arizona State vs. San Diego State, Colorado vs. Colorado State (at Denver, Col.), Oregon at Wyoming, Oregon State at Colorado State, Stanford at San Diego State, UCLA vs. Hawaii, Utah vs. San Jose State, Washington vs. Fresno State, Washington State vs. Boise State, and Washington State vs. Nevada
With a whopping 10 matchups, the Pac-12-Mountain West combo is tied with the SEC-Sun Belt for the most regular-season meetings in 2017. Unlike the other big school-little school combos, three of the Pac-12 members will travel to the MWC team’s home field.
The most storied series in the bunch is Colorado-Colorado State, first played in 1890. The Buffaloes lead all-time 65-22-3 and have won seven of the last ten. The longest-awaited reunion belongs to UCLA-Hawaii – which haven’t clashed since the 1939 Poi Bowl in Honolulu, a 32-7 win for the Bruins.
SEC vs. Sun Belt: Arkansas vs. New Mexico State, Arkansas vs. Coastal Carolina, Auburn vs. Georgia Southern, Auburn vs. ULM, Georgia vs. Appalachian State, LSU vs. Troy, Missouri vs. Idaho, Ole Miss vs. South Alabama, Ole Miss vs. UL Lafayette, and Texas A&M vs. UL Lafayette
Of the 10 SEC-Sun Belt fixtures, six include either Arkansas, Auburn or Ole Miss – all doubling up on Sun Belt opponents in 2017. Overall, the SEC teams hold a 30-1 all-time advantage in the matchups. The only loss came in 1996 when UL Lafayette upset (25) Texas A&M in Lafayette, La.
The matchup with the most history is Auburn-ULM, the two schools meeting 10 times since 1994. The oldest is Missouri-Idaho, a two-game series which dates back to 1958.
First-ever meetings are Arkansas-Coastal Carolina (which moves up into the FBS ranks in 2017) and Ole Miss-South Alabama.