One of the great dilemmas to scheduling nonconference games is weighing the type and quality of opponent versus your league contests.
How many cupcake games do you want to schedule?
How many marquee games?
How do you make a schedule tough, but not back breaking?
How do you avoid jeopardizing your chances at going undefeated?
These are questions every athletic director and coach grapples with when phone calls start going out to schedule nonconference games. Some leagues are notorious for going the cupcake route; others provide more challenging tests. As you ready earlier today, Syracuse is embarking on a nonconference schedule that is practically unheard of featuring four games against teams from AQ conferences.
While researching that post, I went ahead and looked at every single team's nonconference schedule to find just how many games come against teams from the six automatic qualifying conferences. I did not take into account independents, so Notre Dame is not factored into these numbers.
Public perception is the SEC plays the weakest nonconference schedule. But that is actually not the case. While the SEC has its fair share of cupcakes, the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten all play fewer games against teams from AQ conferences. Of the SEC's 14 games against AQ teams this year, only one missed a bowl in 2011. That would be Syracuse.
Pitt and Cincinnati are still in need of one nonconference game each, so these numbers take into account contests that have been announced.
Total nonconference games against teams from AQ conferences
Big East: 14
Big Ten: 11
Big 12: 6
* Note: Of these six leagues, only the ACC and Big East feature each one of their teams playing at least one opponent from another AQ conference.
Of the non-AQ conferences:
Conference USA: 23
Sun Belt: 21
Mountain West: 14