April 14, 2009

Non-conference slates continue to weaken

We're about 4 1/2 months away from the start of the football season, but it's never too soon to begin breaking down 2009 schedules.

Today, we'll have a broad overview of each league's non-conference schedule. Wednesday, we'll look at the 12 most embarrassing non-conference games of the season. Thursday, we'll look at the 12 best non-conference games of the season.

INSIDE THE SCHEDULES
"Big Six" vs. FCS games
2008: 56 games
2008: 51 games
2007: 41 games
2006: 47 games
2005: 31 games
(NOTE: 12-game regular seasons started in 2006.)
Playing at least 3 "Big Sixers"
(NOTE: Asterisks denote "Big Six" schools)
Arkansas State
Central Michigan
Connecticut*
East Carolina
Eastern Michigan
Florida International
Fresno State
Georgia*
Georgia Tech*
Houston
Kent State
Louisiana-Lafayette
Louisiana-Monroe
Miami University
Middle Tennessee
Rice
Southern Miss
Syracuse*
Toledo
Western Michigan
Playing two FCS teams
Duke
Kansas State
Ole Miss
North Carolina
North Carolina State
USF
Playing no "Big Sixers"
Ole Miss
Texas
Texas Tech
Wisconsin
(NOTES: This is the fourth season in a row Texas Tech is on the list and the third time in four seasons for Wisconsin.)
Teams with eight home games
Auburn
Michigan
North Carolina State
Oklahoma State
Penn State
Syracuse
Tennessee
Non-"Big Sixers" playing host to "Big Sixers"
Oregon at Boise State, Sept. 3
Connecticut at Ohio U., Sept. 5
Ole Miss at Memphis, Sept. 6
Colorado at Toledo, Sept. 11
Pittsburgh at Buffalo, Sept. 12
Kansas at UTEP, Sept. 12
Texas at Wyoming, Sept. 12
Oregon State at UNLV, Sept. 12
Kansas State at Louisiana-Lafayette, Sept. 12
USF at Western Kentucky, Sept. 12
Duke at Army, Sept. 12
Mississippi State at Middle Tennessee State, Oct. 17
Indiana at Akron, Sept. 19
Florida State at BYU, Sept. 19
Iowa State at Kent State, Sept. 19
Virginia at Southern Miss, Sept. 19
Missouri at Nevada, Sept. 25
Texas Tech at Houston, Sept. 26
Vanderbilt at Rice, Sept. 26
Louisville at Utah, Sept. 26
Cincinnati at Miami University, Oct. 3
Vanderbilt at Army, Oct. 10
Miami at UCF, Oct. 17
Rutgers at Army, Oct. 24
Wake Forest at Navy, Oct. 24
Virginia Tech at East Carolina, Nov. 5
Wisconsin at Hawaii, Dec. 5
One thing to note: While Notre Dame isn't a member of a "Big Six" conference, we are including the Irish when we talk about "Big Six" schools.

You'll no doubt notice the growing number of games played by "Big Six" schools against Football Championship Subdivision (i.e., Division I-AA) schools. In 2005 the last season before the 12-game regular season became standard there were 31 such games. This season, there are 56, an increase of five from last season and an increase of 15 from 2007.

The "Big Six" leagues

ACC: For the second in a row, the ACC gets the ignominious honor of playing the most FCS schools of any Football Bowl Subdivision (i.e., Division I-A) conference: 14, the same as last season. Every league team except Virginia Tech is playing at least one FCS opponent, and Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State are playing two each. But the ACC also gets to boast that it is the "Big Six" league playing the most non-conference games against other "Big Six" teams, with 20. Georgia Tech is playing three such games. And six ACC teams are playing road games against non-"Big Six" opponents.

Big East: There is one caveat with this league Rutgers still has one more game to fill on its schedule. As of now, Big East schools are playing nine games against FCS opponents, up two from last season. Every league member is playing at least one and USF is playing two. Big East teams are playing 16 non-conference games against other "Big Six" opponents, with Connecticut and Syracuse each playing three. Six Big East teams are playing road games against non-"Big Six" opponents.

Big Ten: Big Ten members are playing nine games against FCS schools, the same number as last season. Ohio State and Purdue are the only league teams not playing an FCS opponent. League schools are playing 14 non-conference games against other "Big Six" schools. Of note: For the third time in four seasons, Wisconsin is playing zero non-conference games against other "Big Six" schools. The Big Ten is tied with the Pac-10 for the least number of road games two against non-"Big Six" opponents.

Big 12: There are 10 games against FCS schools, a decrease of one from last season. Kansas State is playing two such opponents welcome back, Bill Snyder! while Colorado, Nebraska, Texas and Texas A&M are playing none. But Texas and Texas Tech also aren't playing any "Big Six" schools in non-conference games; there are just four "Big Six" schools nationally in that category. This is the fourth season in a row Texas Tech is playing no "Big Six" schools in non-conference play. Yes, you read that right: For the fourth season in a row, Texas Tech is playing zero non-conference games against "power conference" schools. In all, league schools are playing 11 non-conference games against other "Big Six" schools, which is the lowest figure for any FBS conference. Baylor is the only league school playing more than one "Big Six" non-conference game. But league schools are playing seven road games against non-"Big Six" members, and that's the most of any "Big Six" conference.

Pac-10: League schools have four games against FCS schools, an increase of two from last season but still tied for the lowest of any FBS league (with the Sun Belt). The conference schools playing FCS foes are Arizona, Arizona State, California and Oregon State. Pac-10 schools are playing 15 non-conference games against "Big Six" opponents. The Pac-10 also is tied with the Big Ten for the least number of road games two against non-"Big Six" opponents.

SEC: There are 11 games against FCS opponents, an increase of two from last season; LSU and Tennessee are the only schools not partaking, while Ole Miss is playing two. Ole Miss also is playing zero non-conference games against "Big Six" opponents, one of just four "Big Six" schools that can make that claim. Other SEC schools are playing 14 "Big Six" foes in non-conference games; Georgia has three such games. SEC schools are playing four road games against non-"Big Six" opponents.

The Other Leagues

Conference USA: There are nine games against FCS opponents two more than last season with Rice, UAB and UTEP the only league schools not partaking. There also are 25 non-conference games against "Big Six" opponents, which is the second-highest total nationally; seven of those will be hosted by C-USA schools. East Carolina, Houston, Rice and Southern Miss each are playing three "Big Six" schools.

Mid-American: League schools are playing nine games against FCS members, an increase of one from last season, with Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Miami and Toledo the league schools not playing an FCS opponent. But MAC schools also are playing 28 non-conference games against "Big Six" foes, which is the highest total in the nation; six of those will be on MAC campuses. Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Miami, Toledo and Western Michigan are each playing three "Big Six" opponents.

Mountain West: There are six games against FCS schools, with BYU, New Mexico and Utah the three conference members not involved; that is one less FCS game than last season. Mountain West schools also are playing 14 non-conference games against "Big Six" opponents, with four of those on MWC campuses.

Sun Belt: TThere are four games against FCS schools, which ties the Pac-10 for the lowest nationally; that is one less than last season. There also are 22 non-conference games against "Big Six" opponents, with two of those on a Sun Belt campus. Arkansas State, Florida International, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe and Middle Tennessee each are playing three "Big Six" opponents.

Western Athletic: There are seven games against FCS foes, the same number as last season. Idaho and Nevada are the only league schools not playing an FCS team. There also are 15 non-conference games against "Big Six" opponents, with three of those on a WAC campus. Fresno State is playing three "Big Six" opponents.

Independents: There are two games against FCS foes, with Army and Navy each playing one. Army and Navy each are playing four "Big Six" teams, while Notre Dame is playing 10.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.



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