Oklahoma State, whose 2015 nonconference football schedule consisted of Central Michigan, Central Arkansas and UTSA, announced a home-and-home series with Arizona State recently.
Kansas State, who played South Dakota, UTSA and Louisiana Tech last year, has scheduled four Pac-12 home-and-homes between 2016 and 2029.
Baylor, ridiculed for scheduling SMU, Lamar and Rice last season, still has Liberty, Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word on future dockets. But at least the Bears recently announced a home-and-home with BYU to go with one already scheduled with Utah.
“That’s something we really preached at the conference meeting when all of us were together, the ADs and the conference presidents — get these out-of-conference schedules tougher,” David Boren, University of Oklahoma president and Big 12 board of directors chair, said recently. “I’ve been jaw-boning that with other conference schools... It’s getting substantially better.”
Fans have the College Football Playoff to thank for that. The first guideline listed for the CFP selection committee to follow is conference championships won. The second is strength of schedule.
Explaining the Big 12’s decision to reinstall a league football championship, Boren said: “We knew we needed the 13th data point. That statistically shows it helps your chances of getting into the playoff. But the other thing that’s very important is strength of out-of-conference schedule.”
Fans, too, have themselves to thank for better September football matchups. It is becoming more convenient to enjoy fall Saturdays from the comforts of home at the same time it is becoming less cost-effective to shell out hundreds of dollars to watch Power 5 teams beat FCS cupcakes by 60 points.
It is a problem for Power 5 athletic directors who need football revenue to support the rest of their department while helping fund facility upgrades/stadium renovations. These ADs must give their fan base a reason to keep buying tickets. Scheduling Arizona State, Stanford and BYU instead of Central Arkansas, South Dakota and Incarnate Word is an attractive place to start.
But let’s see how the Big 12 is attacking the issue in general. Here’s a ranking of future nonconference football schedules, from most courageous and fan-friendly to least:
1 – Texas
2016: Notre Dame, UTEP, at Cal
2017: Maryland, Central Florida, at USC
2018: at Maryland, USC
2019: at Rice, Louisisana Tech, LSU
2020: USF, at LSU
2021: at Arkansas
2022: at South Florida, Ohio State
2023: Rice, at Ohio State
2024: at Michigan, USF
Five college football giants in Notre Dame, USC, LSU, Ohio State and Michigan. A delicious matchup against an old Southwest Conference rival. Attractive second-tier games against Cal and Maryland. An absence of laugh-track games.
Texas’ football scheduling almost makes up for the league-wide grief it catches for the Longhorn Network.
1A – Oklahoma
2016: at Houston, ULM, Ohio State
2017: UTEP, at Ohio State, Tulane
2018: Fla. Atlantic, UCLA, Army
2019: Houston, at UCLA
2020: at Army
2021: at Tulane, Nebraska
2022: UTEP, at Nebraska
2026: at Michigan
TBD: LSU home and home
Blue bloods in Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan and LSU. Desirable road trips to UCLA (Hollywood!), Army (West Point!) and Houston (driveable!).
Joe Castiglione and Bob Stoops have this down pat.
3 – TCU
2016: South Dakota State, Arkansas, at SMU
2017: SMU, at Arkansas
2018: Ohio State, at SMU
2019: at Ohio State
2020: at Cal
2022: at Colorado
2024: at Stanford
We have reached the point where Big 12 playoff contenders should be scheduling at least one must-see game a season.
TCU has become that contender, and is scheduling accordingly with the possible exception of slumbering Colorado.
4 – West Virginia
2016: Missouri, Youngstown State, BYU (Landover, Md.)
2017: Va. Tech (Landover, Md.), East Carolina, Delaware State
2018: Tennessee (Charlotte), at North Carolina State
2019: at Missouri, NC State
2020: at East Carolina, Maryland
2021: at Maryland, Virginia Tech
2022: at Pitt, at Va. Tech
2023: at Penn State, Pitt
2024: Penn State, at Pitt
Among the reasons Oliver Luck was so highly regarded as West Virginia AD before taking a position with the NCAA — that football schedule.
5 – Kansas State
2016: at Stanford, Missouri State, Fla. Atlantic
2017: Central Arkansas, at Vanderbilt, Charlotte
2018: South Dakota, Mississippi State, UTSA
2019: Presbyterian, Bowling Green, at Miss. State
2020: Buffalo, Vanderbilt
2022: Abilene Christian
2025: at Arizona
2026: Washington State
2027: at Colorado
2029: at Washington State
Bill Snyder has come a long way since his first term at K-State, when you had to drag him kicking and screaming into a September game against Southern Illinois.
6 – Texas Tech
2016: Stephen F. Austin, at Arizona State, Louisiana Tech
2017: Eastern Washington, Arizona State, at Houston
2018: Missouri State, Houston
2019: Montana State, UTEP, at Arizona
2020: at UTEP, Wyoming, Arizona
2021: at Houston
2022: Houston, at North Carolina State
2023: at Wyoming
2027: NC State
It would appear the Big 12 and Pac-12 have formed something of an unofficial scheduling alliance. There is nothing wrong with that, especially for Big 12 fan bases foreign to Salt Lake City, Seattle, Palo Alto/Berkeley, Eugene and Tempe.
7 – Oklahoma State
2016: Southeast Lousiana, Pitt, Central Michigan
2017: Tulsa, at South Alabama, at Pitt
2018: Central Mich., South Alabama, Boise State
2019: at Oregon State, at Tulsa
2020: Oregon State, Tulsa, South Alabama
2021: Rice, Tulsa, at Boise State
2022: Arizona State
2023: at Arizona State
Mike Holder has been pushing for a tougher out-of-conference schedule. Mike Gundy has never been wild about the idea, but is on board as long as the Cowboys aren’t playing juggernauts in September.
The appearance of Pitt, Boise State, Oregon State and Arizona State shows that both men are getting their way.
8 – Baylor
2016: Northwestern State, SMU, at Rice
2017: Liberty, UTSA, at Duke
2018: Abilene Christian, at UTSA, Duke
2019: UTSA, at Rice
2020: Ole Miss (Houston), La. Tech, Incarnate Word
2021: at La. Tech, Texas State, BYU
2022: La. Tech, at Texas State, at BYU
2023: Texas State, Utah
2024: at Utah
Baylor added BYU last March, one month after ESPN reported in 2015 a Bears-Ole Miss 2020 season opener, and Utah. So the Bears are on the right track.
It’s going to take more than that, though, to make up for dreadful September games between 2012 and 2019.
9 – Iowa State
2016: Northern Iowa, at Iowa, San Jose State
2017: Northern Iowa, Iowa, at Akron
2018: South Dakota State, at Iowa, Akron
2019: Northern Iowa, Iowa, ULM
2020: South Dakota, at Iowa, UNLV
2021: Northern Iowa, Iowa, at UNLV
2022: Southeast Missouri, at Iowa, Ohio U.
2023: Northern Iowa, Iowa, at Ohio
2024: Arkansas State
2025: at Arkansas State
It has been said Iowa State is a football mid-major playing in a Power 5 conference. That schedule, Iowa aside, is a big reason why.
10 – Kansas
2016: Rhode Island, Ohio U., at Memphis
2017: Southeast Missouri, Central Michigan, at Ohio
2018: at Central Mich., Rutgers
2019: at Houston
2024: at Illinois
An out-of-conference schedule is hardly worth discussing given the current state of KU football.