Ranking the Pac-10's nonconference schedules

While many BCS conference teams hide from tough competition and try to schedule their way to artificially inflated success-- hey look! seven wins! -- the Pac-10 has rarely taken the easy road with scheduling.

And 2010 might be as challenging a nonconference slate as the conference has played.

Try this on:

  • 12 of 31 nonconference games are on the road.

  • 15 are against AQ conference foes

  • Three that are not against AQ conference foes are against Boise State, TCU and BYU.

  • Seven nonconference foes are ranked in Mark Schlabach's Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2010.

  • Or is it more impressive to say that six nonconference foes are ranked in Schlabach's top-12?

  • The schedule ranked easiest here includes a road trip to No. 9 Wisconsin.

So how do these nonconference schedules rank in terms of difficulty?

The top-three here are brutal. No. 5 through nine were extremely close in terms of difficulty.

1. Oregon State

Sept. 4 TCU (Cowboys Stadium)

Sept. 18 Louisville

Sept. 25 at Boise State

Verdict: Two top-10 teams on the road (TCU and Boise State) and a third vs. an AQ conference foe. Moreover, its remains a fairly thankless task to play the elite teams of the non-AQ conferences. While TCU and Boise State might be every bit as good as, say, Texas or Alabama next year, a loss to the Horned Frogs and/or Broncos won't be treated the same by pollsters as one to the Longhorns or Crimson Tide.


Sept. 4 at Kansas State

Sept. 18 Houston

Sept. 25 at Texas

Verdict: Two road games vs. Big 12 teams, including top-10 Texas. And who really wants to play Houston and QB Case Keenum, a leading Heisman Trophy candidate?

3. Washington

Sept. 4 at BYU

Sept. 11 Syracuse

Sept. 18 Nebraska

Verdict: A top-10 team (Nebraska) and a road game at top-25 BYU. And Syracuse was good enough to beat Northwestern and Rutgers last year.

4. USC

Sept. 2 at Hawaii

Sept. 11 Virginia

Sept. 18 at Minnesota

Nov. 27 Notre Dame

Verdict: The Trojans have played tougher nonconference schedules -- where's the marquee national game here? -- but they get extra credit for playing four instead of three and two on the road. Also, three of four are vs. AQ conference teams.

5. Washington State

Sept. 4 at Oklahoma State

Sept. 11 Montana State

Sept. 18 at SMU

Verdict: Two tough road games. SMU welcomes back 17 starters from a team that won five of its last six games -- including a bowl win -- last year. And the Mustangs figure to be perturbed about the way they lost in Pullman last fall.

6. Arizona

Sept. 3 at Toledo

Sept. 11 Citadel

Sept. 18 Iowa

Verdict: The Wildcats should be able to handle the first two, though strange things can happen on the road. Iowa should be one of the leaders in a very strong Big Ten next year.

7. Stanford

Sept. 4 Sacramento State

Sept. 18 Wake Forest

Sept. 25 at Notre Dame

Verdict: Two AQ foes, one on the road. Still, Cardinal may be favored in all three games.

8. Oregon

Sept. 4 New Mexico

Sept. 11 at Tennessee

Sept. 18 Portland State

Verdict: New Mexico and Tennessee are rebuilding, so the Ducks should roll through this slate. But, of course, you never know what's going to happen in front of 100,000 fans in the Deep South humidity.

9. California

Sept. 4 UC Davis

Sept. 9 Colorado

Sept. 18 at Nevada

Verdict: The dangerous game here is the trip to Nevada, which welcomes back 18 starters from an eight-win team, including nine back from the nation's No. 2 offense.

10. Arizona State

Sept. 4 Portland State

Sept. 11 Northern Arizona

Sept. 18 at Wisconsin

Verdict: When the Sun Devils lost their game with San Jose State to Alabama, they couldn't find any other FBS foes to fill the gap. Ergo, a schedule that includes two FCS foes, which will require them to win seven games to become bowl eligible. The Badgers offense will be a good match for a good Sun Devils defense.