The easiest path to a mythical college football national championship is to go undefeated. The easiest way to do that? Not play anybody Mark Schlabach gives his take on the teams that have the weakest opponents:
1. KANSAS: The Jayhawks’ nonconference schedule includes more cream puffs than your favorite bakery: Central Michigan, Division I-AA Southeastern Louisiana, Toledo and Florida International (all at home). Kansas doesn’t play Texas or Oklahoma in Big 12 Conference play, and the Jayhawks will face Nebraska in Lawrence, Kan., and Missouri in Kansas City.
Nonconference opponents: Central Michigan (home), Southeastern Louisiana (home), Toledo (home), Florida International (home)
Toughest game: at Texas A&M, Oct. 27
Easiest game: vs. Southeastern Louisiana, Sept. 8
Hawaii 2. HAWAII: Warriors quarterback Colt Brennan won’t have many problems putting up Heisman Trophy-like numbers against Hawaii’s schedule. The Warriors play two nonconference games against Division I-AA teams Northern Colorado and Charleston Southern, along with a road game at UNLV and home game against Washington. The Warriors’ WAC schedule includes home games against Fresno State and Boise State and road games at San Jose State and Nevada.
Nonconference opponents: Northern Colorado (home), UNLV (road), Charleston Southern (home), Washington (home)
Toughest game: vs. Boise State, Nov. 23
Easiest game: vs. Charleston Southern, Sept. 23
Arkansas 3. ARKANSAS: The Razorbacks’ slate is a perfect example of why SEC teams have a poor reputation when it comes to out-of-conference scheduling. The Hogs will get fat on a nonconference schedule that includes home games against Troy, North Texas, Division I-AA Tennessee-Chattanooga and Florida International. SEC road games at Alabama, Tennessee and LSU prevented this from being the country’s easiest schedule.
Nonconference opponents: Troy (home), North Texas (home), Chattanooga (home), Florida International (home)
Toughest game: at LSU, Nov. 23
Easiest game: vs. Tennessee-Chattanooga, Oct. 6
Indiana 4. INDIANA: In a season in which the Hoosiers don’t play Big 10 heavyweights Michigan and Ohio State, they beefed up their nonconference schedule with the likes of Division I-AA Indiana State, Western Michigan, Akron and Ball State. Indiana plays rival Purdue and Penn State at home, but travels to Iowa and Wisconsin. Thanks to the soft schedule, look for the Hoosiers to play in a bowl game for the first time since 1993.
Nonconference opponents: Indiana State (home), Western Michigan (road), Akron (home), Ball State (home)
Toughest game: at Wisconsin, Oct. 27
Easiest game: vs. Indiana State, Sept. 1
Connecticut 5. CONNECTICUT: The Huskies might have put together a tougher schedule by returning to the Atlantic 10. Their nonconference schedule includes games against Division I-AA Maine and two of the worst I-A teams — Duke and Temple. The Huskies play seven of their 12 games at home, including key Big East dates against Louisville and Syracuse.
Nonconference opponents: Duke (road), Maine (home), Temple (home), Akron (home), Virginia (road)
Toughest game: at West Virginia, Nov. 24
Easiest game: vs. Maine, Sept. 8
Navy 6. NAVY: The Midshipmen play only four Division I-A teams that finished with winning records last season: Rutgers, Wake Forest, Notre Dame and Northern Illinois. Five of Navy’s 2007 opponents won four games or fewer last season, including Duke (0-12), Temple (1-11), North Texas (3-9), Army (3-9) and Air Force (3-8).
Toughest game: at Rutgers, Sept. 7
Easiest game: vs. Duke, Sept. 22
Northwestern 7. NORTHWESTERN: The Wildcats could see a big turnaround in coach Pat Fitzgerald’s second season, thanks to a not-so-daunting schedule. Nonconference games against Division I-AA Northeastern, Nevada, Duke and Eastern Michigan (at Detroit) are potential victories. Home games against Minnesota and Indiana could bring the victory total to six, making Northwestern eligible for a bowl game.
Nonconference opponents: Northeastern (home), Nevada (home), Duke (home), Eastern Michigan (neutral)
Toughest game: at Ohio State, Sept. 22
Easiest game: vs. Northeastern, Sept. 1
Texas Tech 8. TEXAS TECH: Give the Red Raiders some credit for scheduling a pair of nonconference road games â€¦ at SMU and Rice. A home game against UTEP might be challenging, but a Sept. 29 game against Division I-AA Northwestern State will be a rout. Texas Tech plays home games against two of the Big 12 conference’s most talented teams, Texas A&M and Oklahoma.
Nonconference opponents: SMU (road), UTEP (home), Rice (road), Northwestern State (home)
Toughest game: at Texas, Nov. 10
Easiest game: vs. Northwestern State, Sept. 29
Ohio State 9. OHIO STATE: The Buckeyes won’t miss Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith and the rest of their departed stars during the nonconference schedule. Not against Division I-AA Youngstown State, Akron and Kent State, anyway. At least a Sept. 15 game at Washington will be played outside the state of Ohio. The Buckeyes play two of their most difficult Big 10 games on the road, at Penn State on Oct. 27 and at Michigan on Nov. 17.
Nonconference opponents: Youngstown State (home), Akron (home), Washington (road), Kent State (home)
Toughest game: at Michigan, Nov. 17
Easiest game: vs. Youngstown State, Sept. 1
Texas 10. TEXAS: The Longhorns get kudos for scheduling a home game against TCU, a possible BCS sleeper. But the rest of the schedule sets up very well for coach Mack Brown. The other three nonconference games should be routs, against Arkansas State, Central Florida and Rice. The Longhorns play top Big 12 foes Nebraska and Texas Tech at home, along with the Red River Shootout against Oklahoma in Dallas.
Nonconference opponents: Arkansas State (home), TCU (home), Central Florida (road), Rice (home)
Toughest game: vs. Oklahoma (Dallas), Oct. 6
Easiest game: vs. Arkansas State, Sept. 1
You can’t blame the athletic directors. It’s to each school’s benefit to play weak teams — so long as they don’t lose.