THE SCHEDULING HALL OF SHAME
We'll roll out the conference comparison in a few days (probably after the Oregon hoops trip), but we wanted to provide you with a little teaser.
Before we get going, we have a confession to make on the Hill. All this scheduling jazz doesn't change the price of tea in Gainesville, or the fact that in most seasons SEC schools have a tougher in-conference slate than schools from other conferences. While we dispute the contentions of some southern fans (like the brave anonymous guy who posted here) that there is a large disparity between conferences, we do watch enough football to notice that the SEC is usually tougher top-to-middle (if not bottom) than other leagues. (We do, however, have a theory about why it's harder than most people think to run the table in the Pac-10, which we'll trot out at a later date)
OK, that's done. Without further ado, here is a slightly subjective Hall of Shame - the eight worst non-conference slates in America for 2007. Note - these aren't the eight worst average slates (by Sagarin rating), but the eight most shame-worthy in our opinion - programs that are clearly punching below their weight in 2007. Since we're not just haters here on the Hill, we'll have an equally subjective list of the very best non-conference schedules out sometime soon.
#8. Auburn (New Mexico State, South Florida, Tulane, TBD)
Auburn's a great and storied program. Their fans deserve better than this (USF's recent improvement notwithstanding). Maybe Tubs can get the suits to re-jigger the BCS formula to make strength of schedule even less important, so he won't have to cry in his coffee if he comes up short by a point or two next year. Otherwise, he'll have to defer his NC dreams until 2008, when the Tigers start a two-gamer with West Virginia. Now that's good scheduling (especially considering that Auburn also plays Southern Miss). Kyle has a great point about Oregon State and Auburn both having open dates in '07 - let's get them together! No, on the other hand you better go play Citadel, Tubby.
#7. Mississippi (Missouri, Louisiana Tech, Northwestern State, @ Memphis)
CoachO wannagetbollelgibel soonespozzble. Somehowdeygotsa tripda WakeForrrist nexyeah, deysgotta dosumthin boudatsoon.
#6. Minnesota (TBD, Miami OH, @ Florida Atlantic, N. Dakota St)
The worst thing about this sorry slate is that Minnesota might go .500, depending on which MAC school they bring in to fill the fourth slot. Actually, they could go 1-3, since North Dakota State is pretty darn good for a 1-AA program and only lost to the Gophers by a point this year. Things don't get much better in 2008, when the Gophers bring in Montana State. Cal visits in 2009, and then they do a home-and-home with Washington State.
#5. Indiana (Indiana State, @ Akron, Central Michigan, TBD)
Great coach, wonderful story, awful schedule. Fun fact: Towson Freaking State is on the docket in 2010.
#4. Penn State (Florida International, Notre Dame, Buffalo, @ Temple)
Wait - how can a team that schedules Notre Dame be on this list? Look at the other three games. Just look at them. One of the greatest programs in CFB history is playing FIU, Buffalo and Temple. Even with the Domers, their opponents' Sagarin average is below 60 (Notre Dame's at 83, FWIW) Should we give them credit for the 200-mile roadie to Philly? No, didn't think so. (BTW, hope we're not giving away the big surprise of which conference has the weakest non-conference slate) In the future: a fun home-and-home with Bama, full of cool slo-mo flashbacks of Barry Krauss and Mike Guman:
#3. Clemson (Furman, La-Monroe, Temple, @ South Carolina) Yuck. Constitutionally-mandated rivalry game aside, this is the worst three game slate this side of Fayetteville. And even with the Gamecocks, Tiger opponents barely break 60 in the Sagarin ratings. They don't play a real non-con game (Carolina excepted) until 2010, when they travel to Pittsburgh.
#2. Arkansas (Troy, North Texas, UT-Chattanooga, Florida International)
In fairness, they might not have enough players left by September to give Troy a game. One ray of hope for the future - Texas is back on the Hogs' schedule for a home-and-home starting in 2008. Our guess is that they'll be accompanied by lots of directional schools.
#1. Kansas (C Michigan, SE Louisiana, Toledo, Florida International)
You fat, sorry bastard. This is the best you could do? We know you're at a basketball school, and you want to get bowl eligible, but no one wants to see this slate. Let's see, 1-AA school? Check. At least two directionals? Yup. All at home? You bet! The sick thing is that Kansas can win these four games, pick off three bottom-feeders in the Big XII, and go to a bowl game. There ought to be a law.