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Season Preview: Non-Conference Schedules Around the Pac

The season is rapidly approaching.  In eight days, Oregon kicks off the Pac-10 season when they travel to Boise to take on the Blue Turfers.  Today, ADS will take a look at the non-conference schedules of the Pac-10 teams. 

The Pac-10 and Big East are the only "major" conferences in college football that play a true round-robin schedule.  What that means is each team in the Pac-10 plays each of the nine other teams in the conference once per season.  The NCAA allows 12 regular games per season (not counting a conference title game for those conferences that have one).  So, with 12 possible games, and nine slots already filled by Pac-10 games, teams in the Pac are left with three non-conference games to schedule each year. This is a significant disadvantage when compared to the other BCS conferences. 

Here is a breakdown of each conference's number of teams, conference games, and non-conference games.  

ACC: 12 teams/8 conference games/4 non-conference games

Big 12: 12 teams/8 conference games/4 non-conference games

Big East: 8 teams/7conference games/5 non-conference games

Big Ten: 11 teams/8 conference games/4 non-conference games

SEC: 12 teams/8 conference games/4 non-conference games

The ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, and SEC all have the ability to schedule four non-conference games per season.  The Pac-10, because of its round-robin schedule is limited to three non-conference games.  This limits the opportunity for teams in the Pac-10 to schedule high-profile non-conference games.  Also, on the other end of the spectrum, it prevents teams from scheduling patty-cake teams to increase their bowl-eligibility prospects (hello, Arizona). 

The result of this schedule rigidity, is that the Pac-10 has consistently as of late played one of the toughest non-conference slates in the country.  This season is no exception.  Let's break it down.

Arizona: Central Michigan, Northern Arizona, @ Iowa

Schedule strength:  B

Central Michigan is no push-over.  The Chippewas are the returning MAC champions, and have star quarterback Dan LeFevour returning.  Northern Arizona is Northern Arizona.  The Lumberjacks are an FCS team, and unfortunately bring nothing to the schedule.  Traveling to Iowa week 3 makes Arizona's schedule respectable.  Kinnick Stadium is no treat. 

Arizona State: Idaho State, Louisiana-Monroe, @ Georgia

Schedule strength: B+

Idaho State shares the same conference as Northern Arizona.  No one is making you schedule Idaho State, ASU.  Louisiana-Monroe at least is from the Sun Belt conference.  Not that going 4-8 in the Sun Belt is anything to write home about.  The only thing that gets ASU the B+ is traveling to Athens to take on Georgia.  I'm already smiling thinking about how that game is going to turn out. 

California: Maryland, Eastern Washington, @ Minnesota

Schedule strength: B+

Two big conference opponents, but neither one is elite.  Pac-10 teams love scheduling the Big Sky, as Eastern Washington comes to NorCal to take on the Bears this year.  The Golden Bears better watch out for the Minnesota roadie.  The game starts at 11 a.m. local (9 a.m. Pacific).  Wayyyy too early for a football game.  What's with Big Ten teams and football games before lunch?

Oregon: @ Boise State, Purdue, Utah

Schedule strength: A

Traveling to Boise will be no picnic.  The Broncos protect their home turf better than most.  Purdue feels pretty vanilla this year, but hosting Utah could be a huge trap game, especially with Oregon eye-balling a huge Pac-10 match-up with Cal the following week.  Although Oregon only scheduled one "major" conference team, Boise State and Utah will be motivated to prove they can play with the big boys.  Oregon did themselves, and new coach Chip Kelly zero favors. 

Oregon State: Portland State, @ UNLV, Cincinnati

Schedule strength: B- 

Another Pac-10 team, another Big Sky team in Portland State.  Traveling to UNLV could be difficult, and I guess Cincinnati could give the Beavers a fight.  The Bearcats did kill Oregon State two years ago 34-3.  This is a different team though.  I would be pretty bored with this schedule if I was a Beavs fan. 

Stanford: @ Wake Forest, San Jose State, Notre Dame

Schedule strength: A-

No FCS teams here.  The Demon Deacons will be a very difficult game -- kickoff is set at 9 a.m. Pacific time.  The Cardinal will likely snooze through the first half and fall just short in the fourth quarter.  San Jose State is a mildly intriguing local matchup -- and I mean mildly intriguing only for people who live in the Bay Area.  This schedule would warrant an A if I thought Notre Dame was any good.  I don't. 

UCLA: San Diego State, @ Tennessee, Kansas State

Schedule strength: B+

The Aztecs and Wildcats are pretty soft.  Traveling to Neyland Stadium to take on the Vols is pretty daunting, however.  Unfortunately, for Bruins fans, that trip to Tennessee is going to show how much work Slick Rick still has to do in Westwood. 

USC: San Jose State, @ Ohio State, @ Notre Dame

Schedule strength: A+

This is the toughest schedule in the conference, but it's closer than many think.  The Trojans will invade the Horseshoe to play a tough Buckeye squad that will have revenge on its mind.  Terrelle Pryor is terrifying.  Whoever is at quarterback for USC better have some thick skin.  This game will show the rest of the Pac if USC really is going to suffer a down year.

Washington: LSU, Idaho, @ Notre Dame

Schedule strength: A

This schedule is nearly as tough as USC.  By the end of the year, it may prove to be tougher.  LSU is a great team.  The only thing separating the Trojans schedule from the Huskies is LSU travels to Seattle.  If UW went to Death Valley to take on the Tigers, I'd give them an A++++++ schedule rating.  Death Valley is no joke.  Regardless, why in the name of Zeus would Washington schedule LSU?  Tough start for a rebuilding program. 

Washington State: Hawaii, SMU, @ Notre Dame

Schedule strength: B

Hawaii and SMU are push-overs.  Well, they would be push-overs for any other Pac-10 team.  WSU has the talent to go win-less again.