Ranking the nonconference slates

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

This is a ranking of the Pac-10 nonconference schedules from toughest to easiest.

Got to be honest, though: After switching these around for 30 minutes or so, I just threw them into the air.

Because just about every conference team plays at least one traditionally challenging foe, it's hard to differentiate.

Is it more difficult to play two mid-level BCS teams -- say Maryland and Minnesota (California) -- or one against a nationally ranked foe, say Georgia (Arizona State) or Iowa (Arizona)?

And what about the home-road variable? For example: Would you rather play at Ohio State (USC) or have LSU (Washington) come to town?

Anyway... away we go.

1. Oregon (at Boise State, Purdue, Utah): Boise State and Utah will be ranked in the preseason. Boise State never loses at home on the Smurf Turf. Purdue is a BCS foe. And there's the added element of Boise State and Utah being non-BCS, which puts further pressure on the Ducks.

2. USC (San Jose State, at Ohio State, at Notre Dame): Two road games against BCS foes, including the Buckeyes, likely a preseason top-10 team.

3. Washington (LSU, Idaho, at Notre Dame): It was really stupid for Huskies administrators to invite LSU to town, but... oh well. The upside is the nation's longest losing streak (14 games, then 15 after the Tigers pack up for Baton Rouge) ends against Idaho.

4. UCLA (San Diego State, at Tennessee, Kansas State): Tennessee and Kansas State are breaking in new coaches (or new-old, in K-State's case), but they are still legit BCS foes. And it's never easy to play in front of 110,000 orange-clad crazies.

5. Stanford (at Wake Forest, San Jose State, Notre Dame): This slate nips California's because San Jose State is FBS team. That visit to Wake should be particularly interesting -- it might define the Cardinal's season.

6. California (Maryland, Eastern Washington, at Minnesota): None of these teams figures to earn a preseason ranking, but Maryland and Minnesota will be good test for a Bears team with big goals. The Terrapins embarrassed Cal last year, while the Golden Gophers are breaking in a fancy new stadium.

7. Arizona (Central Michigan, Northern Arizona, at Iowa): While most will look at the visit to Iowa as a measuring stick game for the Wildcats -- and, perhaps, the Pac-10 -- I'd advise the Wildcats not to overlook a good Central Michigan team.

8. Arizona State (Idaho State, Louisiana-Monroe, at Georgia): The Sun Devils scheduled themselves a 2-0 start with at least a puncher's shot Between the Hedges.

9. Oregon State (Portland State, at UNLV, Cincinnati): Hardly easy. There's a road game and Cincinnati is the defending Big East champion. Still, the Beavers should get a rare fast start vs. this slate.

10. Washington State (Hawaii in Seattle, SMU, Notre Dame in San Antonio): This is a solid schedule for the Cougars, who could win two of these games.