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Arizona football: Tougher non-conference games might not be realistic or beneficial for Wildcats

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Rich Rodriguez is 12-0 in non-conference games, with just one coming from a power five team

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Rich Rodriguez is now 12-0 in regular season non-conference games in his first four years at Arizona.

Through those 12 games, Arizona has only played one power five opponent, Oklahoma State back in 2012, which resulted in a 59-38 win. A couple of match ups with UNLV, UTSA and Nevada, to go along with South Carolina State and Toledo, and the non-conference schedule has surely been a disappointing and unexciting draw.

Arizona's future schedule looks like this

2016

BYU (at Glendale) September 3rd
Hawaii September 17th
Grambling State TBA

2017

Houston September 9th
at UTEP September 16th

2018

BYU September 1st
at Houston September 8th
UTEP September 15th

It's not until 2019 do we see a power five opponent, with Texas Tech. And 2019 is realistically the soonest Arizona could start scheduling bigger opponents, with Texas Tech and Hawaii being the only scheduled games.  Arizona also has Mississippi State locked up for 2022 and 2023, with BYU and Hawaii scattered throughout the next 12 years. Here's the entire breakdown of Arizona's future non-conference schedule.

These match ups are scheduled years in advance, often four or five years. But there are some teams that have had some luck scheduling teams almost within two years. Some of those mid-tier programs include: Missouri, West Virginia, Minnesota and Indiana.

It's hard to believe that there are many middle tier power five conference teams that are willing to play Arizona, given the rapid rise of the program over the last three years. Ideal opponents would be Kentucky, North Carolina, Minnesota, Kansas State, Arkansas, NC State, and teams of that caliber. But those teams would be likely to schedule weaker teams or power five teams more on their level, with an exception here or there in an attempt to maintain bowl relevance.

It seems as if Arizona is going to have to go after some of the bigger programs in the nation if they're going to improve their schedule. Teams willing to schedule tough games to open the season, such as Baylor, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Florida State, TCU, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Clemson, and so on. But Arizona coming out with a loss in a hyped up game might not be best for the program.

Look at Arizona State and their attendance after the Texas A&M loss, deflating the program temporarily. The exposure is great and you're going up against some of the best competition, as a win would make a national statement. But a loss, such as Arizona State's, could demoralize the team.

Sure, adding one tough opponent to the schedule would be nice, but Arizona has really needed the three easy non-conference games to boost their win total the past three years. Then this year, with all of the injuries, this non-conference schedule couldn't have been any better.

Even if Arizona could start scheduling the middle tier power five teams, it won't be happening until early 2020 at least, five seasons from now. The scheduling system demands time, and now with the given success of the program, we'll see how Greg Byrne utilizes his time to schedule the future non-conference games.