Plenty of non-AQ schools get saddled with tough nonconference schedules in order to get big guarantee money to pay the bills. But today I have decided to look at some of the potential top non-AQ schools that have the most difficult schedules. This eliminates a school such as FAU, which opens with an extremely difficult stretch of games against Florida, Michigan State and Auburn.
Here are my top 5:
East Carolina: vs. South Carolina, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, at Navy
Fresno State: vs. California, at Nebraska, North Dakota, Ole Miss, Boise State, at San Diego Sate
Nevada: at Oregon, at Texas Tech, at Boise State, UNLV, New Mexico
SMU: at Texas A&M, Northwestern State, at TCU, Navy
Tulsa: at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, at Boise State, North Texas
The Pirates are the only school of the bunch playing all four nonconference games against bowl teams. But Tulsa is the only one playing three schools expected to be ranked in the preseason top 10. Nevada has a brutal stretch to open, but also gets easy-peasy UNLV and New Mexico. For those wondering, the Bulldogs have six nonconference games because they are at Hawaii this year, allowing them to play 13 games. SMU has three bowl teams, including two expected to be in the Top 25.
Boise State just missed the cut. All five of its opponents in nonconference play went to bowl games last season: vs. Georgia, at Toledo, Tulsa, Nevada, at Fresno State. So that makes its schedule much more difficult than perhaps the casual fan realizes. I almost nudged them in ahead of Fresno State because the Bulldogs have one FCS and two losing teams on their schedule.
But on the whole, Boise State most likely will be favored in all its nonconference games. Stay tuned next week as I start a video series looking at teams that could potentially upset the Broncos. Three of them are listed here.
Now it is your turn to vote. Which team do you think has the toughest out-of-conference schedule among the top non-AQ contenders? Did I forget anybody? Note, independents are not listed since there is no nonconference schedule.