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Boston College Football Schedule: Finding A Power Conference Opponent For 2016

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Not a pretty picture.

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I wish Boston College could simply waive a magic wand and schedule one or more marquee non-conference opponents every season. I really do. However, the realities of non-conference scheduling today are pretty harsh for programs like Boston College, as well as other ACC schools that don't have a annual non-conference rivalry game against another Power 5 conference opponent.

I've documented those increasingly restrictive non-conference scheduling constraints here in the past, but here's the mathematical breakdown. Skip the next section if math isn't your thing.

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– There are 50 Power 5 conference opponents available from the Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 (and not including Notre Dame, which now falls under the ACC scheduling umbrella, for lack of a better term).

– Starting in 2016, the Big Ten is moving to a nine-game conference schedule. That leaves a total of 42 non-conference scheduling slots available to non-Big Ten programs.

– The Big Ten will be joining the Big 12 and Pac-12 as power conferences with a nine-game conference schedule. The Big 12 and Pac-12 gives us an additional 66 scheduling slots.

– The SEC, along with the ACC, will maintain an eight-game conference schedule for the foreseeable future. The SEC adds an additional 56 scheduling slots for a total of 164.

– All told, non-ACC Power 5 conference teams are averaging 0.88 Power 5 non-conference opponents / year, per current 2016 scheduling obligations. So, on average, the vast majority of Power 5 conference schools schedule one and only one non-conference game against another Power 5 conference opponent.

– A total of nine schools from the other four Power 5 conferences have yet to, or will not face a Power 5 conference opponent in 2016: Arizona, Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Maryland, Mississippi State, Purdue, Utah and Washington State. Only Mississippi State has not, but will be required to, add a Power 5 conference opponent per the SEC's strength of schedule requirement.

– Six of these schools—Baylor, Kansas, Maryland, Purdue, Utah and Washington—have completed their 2016 non-conference schedules, which include no Power 5 conference opponents. Since the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 don't require at least one Power 5 conference opponent a year, they are removed from the total available non-ACC P5 teams, so 44 remain.

– Currently, only three of the 44 remaining non-ACC P5 schools will face more than one Power 5 conference opponent in 2016: Oregon, Texas and USC. Since Texas and USC face Notre Dame, an "ACC" team for these purposes, those slots aren't included. So this only adds one additional scheduling slot.

– Let's say the remaining 44 schools will face just one Power 5 conference opponent in 2016, for a total of 46 scheduling slots.

– Of those 46 slots, Notre Dame accounts for four of those games in 2016, which reduces the number to 42. That number is further reduced to 36 after removing annual inter-conference permanent rivalry games (the four SEC slots in the ACC-SEC matchups, and both Iowa and Iowa State from Iowa-Iowa State).

– The resulting inter-P5 conference matchups:

Pair 1 Pair 2
1 Alabama USC
2 Arizona --
3 Arizona State Texas Tech
4 Arkansas TCU
5 Auburn Clemson
6 California Texas
7 Colorado Michigan
8 Illinois North Carolina
9 Indiana Wake Forest
10 Kansas State --
11 LSU Wisconsin
12 Minnesota Oregon State
13 Mississippi State --
14 Missouri West Virginia
15 Nebraska Oregon
16 Northwestern Duke
17 Ohio State Oklahoma
18 Oklahoma State Pittsburgh
19 Ole Miss Florida State
20 Oregon Virginia
21 Penn State Pittsburgh
22 Rutgers Washington
23 Tennessee Virginia Tech
24 Texas A&M UCLA
25 Vanderbilt Georgia Tech

– After you remove the ACC teams from the above, a few which play multiple P5 opponents, there's simply not enough remaining P5 conference opponents for every P5 to play at least one other P5. This is due to the fact that several Power 5 conference teams don't play any P5 opponents in a given year, others matchups are annual fixtures on the schedule and multiple programs count Notre Dame as their one P5 opponent.

If scheduling was more centralized at the Power 5 / NCAA and conference level, the system could be better standardized such that conferences played the same number of conference games and the 64 Power 5 conferences teams were paired in 32 (or more) non-conference matchups. But, given the free-for-all nature of the current setup, some programs will end up with multiple P5 matchups in a given year. Others will end up with none.

Even though the math doesn't work out in BC's favor, there is at least one positive in this arrangement.

– Beginning in 2016, the SEC will require all members to schedule at least one non-conference game against another Power 5 conference team. The ACC will follow suit the following year, in 2017. Unfortunately for a school like BC, the one Power 5 league which aligns with the ACC's schedule model is the one that represents the least "fit" in terms of BC's history and culture. In a word, good luck trying to convince an SEC school to come to New England to play in BC's bandbox of a stadium.

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In sum, this is not great news for Boston College football—both for 2016 as well as moving forward. The math simply does not add up for BC or other ACC programs that don't have an established non-conference permanent rivalry game. That's why, as ridiculous as it may appear at face, schools like North Carolina and Wake Forest almost are required to ink these "non-conference" conference series. It's almost out of necessity at this point.

But let's get back to 2016, specifically. BC currently has non-conference scheduling obligations with UMass on September 17 and at Northern Illinois the following week (September 23). BC does have the option of moving that game to the following season—September 2, 2017—based on, presumably, whether they can get a seventh home game in 2016 or not. Assume an FCS opponent is the third team, leaving one non-conference scheduling slot in 2016.

While the ACC's non-conference strength of schedule requirement won't kick in until 2017, I think it's imperative for Brad Bates and BC to ink at least one Power 5 conference opponent next season (particularly in light of this year's 2 FCS game fiasco). The problem is the pickings are already very slim more than a year and a half out.

Here's a conference-by-conference breakdown of the Power 5 conferences programs existing non-conference scheduling obligations for 2016:

Big Ten

-- Non-conference games: 3
-- Swore off FCS schools but will allow programs to continue to play them where contracts already existed.
-- No strength of schedule requirement.

Big Ten Open Slots 3-Sep 10-Sep 17-Sep Other Dates
Illinois 0 Murray State North Carolina* Western Michigan
Indiana 0 at FIU Ball State Wake Forest*
Iowa 0 Miami (Ohio) Iowa State* North Dakota St.
Michigan 0 Hawaii UCF Colorado*
Michigan State 0 Furman Notre Dame* BYU (10/8)
Minnesota 0 Oregon State* Indiana State Colorado State (9/24)
Nebraska 0 Fresno State Wyoming Oregon*
Northwestern 0 Western Michigan Illinois State Duke*
Ohio State 0 Bowling Green Tulsa Oklahoma*
Penn State 0 Kent State Pittsburgh* Temple
Rutgers 0 Washington* Howard New Mexico
Wisconsin 0 LSU* Akron Georgia State

– Teams with openings (0)

Right off the bat, the Power 5 conference that arguably represents the best fit in terms of non-conference opponents for BC is completely booked in 2016. No Big Ten program plays more than one Power 5 opponent in non-conference play, and Maryland plays zero.

Big 12

– Non-conference games: 3
– No strength of schedule requirement

Big 12 Open Slots 3-Sep 10-Sep 17-Sep Other Dates
Baylor 0 Northwestern State SMU Rice (9/24)
Kansas 0 Ohio Memphis Hawaii (9/24)
Kansas State 1 FAU (TBA), Missouri State (TBA)
Iowa State 0 Northern Iowa Iowa* San Jose State (9/24)
Oklahoma 0 Houston ULM Ohio State*
Oklahoma State 0 SE Louisiana Central Michigan Pittsburgh*
TCU 0 South Dakota State SMU Arkansas (TBA)
Texas Tech 1 Stephen F. Austin Arizona State*
West Virginia 0 Missouri* Youngstown State BYU (9/24)

– Teams with openings (2): Kansas State, Texas Tech (both have already scheduled FCS opponents)

Of the 10 teams in the Big 12, only two have yet to complete the 2016 non-conference portion of the schedule—Kansas State and Texas Tech. The Red Raiders already play at Arizona State this season so will likely be looking for a home game only. K-State may have a bit more flexibility to go on the road with two home games against FAU and Missouri State scheduled.

Pac-12

– Non-conference games: 3
– No strength of schedule requirement
– USC and UCLA have yet to face a team from the FCS.

Pac-12 Open Slots 3-Sep 10-Sep 17-Sep Other Dates
Arizona 1 BYU Grambling State (TBA)
Utah 0 Southern Utah BYU San Jose State
Washington State 0 Eastern Washington Boise State Idaho
Arizona State 0 Northern Arizona Texas Tech* UTSA
California 0 South Dakota San Diego State Texas*
Colorado 0 Colorado State Idaho State Michigan*
Oregon State 0 Minnesota* Boise State (9/24), Indiana State (TBA)
Stanford 1 Rice Notre Dame* (10/15)
UCLA 0 Texas A&M* UNLV BYU
Washington 0 Rutgers* Idaho Portland State
Oregon 0 UC Davis Virginia* Nebraska*
USC 1 Alabama* Notre Dame* (11/26)

Teams with openings (3): Arizona (already scheduled FCS), Stanford (yet to schedule FCS), USC

Again, slim pickings. Of course, I'd love to see a Stanford or a USC again, but my guess is both programs will round out the schedule with a team from the Group of 5 / Mountain West (USC in particular, which already draws Alabama and Notre Dame in 2016). An Independence Bowl rematch with Arizona is somewhat intriguing, though the Wildcats are another program that's really shied away from scheduling other Power 5 conference opponents in recent seasons.

SEC

– Non-conference games: 4
– Strength of schedule requirement begins in 2016, requiring each program to play at least one team from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, or Notre Dame, annually.

SEC Open Slots 3-Sep 10-Sep 17-Sep Other Dates
Mississippi State 1 South Alabama Louisiana Tech Tulane (9/24)
Alabama 1 USC* Western Kentucky Kent State (9/24)
Arkansas 1 Louisiana Tech Texas State TCU* (TBA)
Auburn 0 Clemson* Arkansas State ULM (10/1), Alabama A&M (11/19)
Florida 1 UMass North Texas Florida State* (11/26)
Georgia 1 Nicholls State UL Lafayette (11/19), Georgia Tech* (11/26)
Kentucky 3 Louisville* (11/26)
LSU 0 Wisconsin* Jacksonville State Southern Miss (10/15), South Alabama (11/19)
Missouri 2 West Virginia* Eastern Michigan
Ole Miss 0 Florida State* Memphis Wofford Georgia Southern (10/8)
South Carolina 1 Clemson* (11/26), Coastal Carolina (TBA), East Carolina (TBA)
Tennessee 0 Appalachian State Virginia Tech* Ohio (TBA), Tennessee Tech (TBA)
Texas A&M 1 UCLA* Louisiana Tech UTSA (11/12)
Vanderbilt 1 Middle Tennessee Georgia Tech* Western Kentucky (9/24)

Teams with 3 openings (1): Kentucky 
Teams with 2 openings (1): Missouri
Teams with 1 opening (1): Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt

Here, Kentucky probably makes some sense as a home-and-home target for BC given the sheer number of openings available. Though UK does go on the road to face Louisville to end the year and we know that every other SEC school basically pleads poverty if it can't have three non-conference home games a season. So a 2016 date might have to be in Lexington.

Similarly, Missouri plays at West Virginia and will be looking for two more home games (one likely an FCS opponent) to complete their 2016 schedule. Of the remaining SEC schools with openings, only Georgia and South Carolina have already scheduled FCS opponents.

ACC

– Non-conference games: 4
– Strength of schedule requirement begins in 2016, requiring each program to play at least one team from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, or Notre Dame, annually.

ACC Open Slots 3-Sep 10-Sep 17-Sep Other Dates
Boston College 2 Massachusetts Northern Illinois (9/24)
Clemson 0 Auburn* Troy South Carolina* (11/26), SC State (TBA)
Duke 0 Northwestern* Notre Dame* (9/24), Army (TBA), NC Central (TBA)
Florida State 1 Ole Miss* USF (9/24), Florida* (11/26)
Georgia Tech 0 Mercer Vanderbilt* Georgia Southern (11/19), Georgia* (11/26)
Louisville 0 Charlotte Marshall (9/24), Houston (11/19), Kentucky* (11/26)
Miami 1 Florida A&M Notre Dame* (10/29), FAU (TBA)
N.C. State 0 Old Dominion Notre Dame* (10/8), East Carolina (TBA), William & Mary (TBA)
North Carolina 3 Illinois*
Pittsburgh 0 Villanova Penn State* Oklahoma State* Marshall (10/1)
Syracuse 1 Colgate USF Notre Dame* (10/1)
Virginia 0 Richmond Oregon* Connecticut Central Michigan (TBA)
Virginia Tech 0 Liberty Tennessee* East Carolina Notre Dame (11/19)
Wake Forest 1 Delaware Indiana* (9/24), Tulane (TBA)

The last resort, of course, is to look at a "non-conference" conference series with an ACC opponent that BC does not face in 2016. After you take out BC's Atlantic Division opponents, permanent cross-over Virginia Tech and rotating cross-over Georgia Tech (game rumored to be in played in Ireland), you are left with either Miami or North Carolina as BC's only options.

Teams with 3 openings (1): North Carolina
Teams with 1 opening (1): Miami

A season-opening "non-conference" conference game might alleviate BC and either of these program's scheduling difficulties, with the return game played in a year when the Eagles didn't fare them in conference play. BC next faces Miami in conference play during the 2018 season; North Carolina in 2020.

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Basically, I'm not sure where BC can turn here to ink a Power 5 conference opponent in 2016 without a Power 5 team moving some commitments around. The pickings are really, really slim as it is now, still a year and a half out. This is where scheduling a "non-conference" conference series with a NOT Virginia Tech Coastal Division team sounds increasingly less ridiculous based on the shift in supply and demand for inter-P5 conference matchups.

It's worth noting that the ACC's decision to treat BYU as a Power 5 conference team for scheduling purposes also should help, as BYU is a school that has shown an interest in inking another home-and-home with BC, specifically (BYU has 3 open slots in 2016).

That said, it's not a pleasant picture for programs like BC, which could really use some top-down scheduling reform here—re-introducing a ninth ACC game, or eliminating FCS-FBS matchups across the board—to alleviate many of the headaches programs they, and other ACC programs like them, are facing moving forward.

* Power 5 conference opponent