Strength of schedule truthers, rejoice!
On Monday, the Big 12 followed the lead of all the cool kid Power 5 conferences -- Big Ten, SEC and ACC -- in requiring all teams to play a non-conference game against a Power 5 conference opponent, or Notre Dame. The new scheduling requirement does not impact existing non-conference game contracts, so there won't be an impact to next year's schedules. But over time, Big 12 members notorious for scheduling three bodybags in non-conference play -- most notably, Baylor, but they are far from the lone offenders (see also: Oklahoma State, Kansas State) -- will ultimately have to adapt their non-conference scheduling to including a Power 5 opponent.
That's great news for a Boston College fan base starved for non-conference home-and-homes with programs outside of the American Athletic, Mid-American and FCS's Colonial Athletic Association. BC will be similarly required to schedule at least one Power 5 non-conference opponent each year starting in 2017, which means that as early as 2018, Brad Bates and the football program will need to find a Power 5 non-conference opponent (Notre Dame, which will count towards the ACC's strength of schedule requirement, visits the Heights in '17).
Not all Big 12 opponents are created equal however. Would a home-and-home against, say, Kansas really move the needle here? I tend to doubt it. So to cut down on the number of phone calls the BC athletics department needs to make, I've gone ahead and ranked every Big 12 program using a number of different factors:
- Recruiting - How would the game impact BC in terms of recruiting?
- TV/Exposure - Would the game make waves beyond the Heights, or would it be met with a collective yawn nationally?
- Alumni - Is the game located in an area where many BC fans can make the game?
- Watchability - College football should be fun. Based on the 2015 versions of these programs, how watchable are each of these games?
- Winnability - Again, based on the 2015 versions of these programs, how winnable is the game?
- Desirability (of location) - Somewhat related to alumni, but how fun is the campus and surrounding area to visit?
Each program was graded against each other, with 10 points going to the best and 1 to the worst. Without further ado,
10. Iowa State
You had to figure either the Jayhawks or Cyclones would land in this spot. I've been to Ames and while it's a fun little college town, there is not a whole lot to do around here. The Cyclones just fired head coach Paul Rhoads after winning just 8 games over the last three seasons and replaced him with Toledo's Matt Campbell. It's hard to imagine Iowa State rebuilding in a conference stacked with some traditional powers and high octane offenses, so it's tough to envision Iowa State being that much better in a few years. Winnability a 9 tho.
In a minor upset, Kansas, which finished the year without a win, edges Iowa State for the 9th spot. The way I figured it, Lawrence is at least a short drive away from Kansas City and you could make a full weekend out of it. Lawrence is a pretty neat town and if nothing else, you could go check out the Phog, one of college basketball's most historic venues. The football however? Pass.
7t. Texas Tech
Texas Tech lands in a tie for 7th on this list. Recruiting gets a 6 since it's still technically Texas, but Lubbock is a long way away from anywhere, really. It would be fun to see Texas Tech's air raid offense go against BC and Don Brown's defense.
7t. Kansas State
There's nothing wrong with a potential home-and-home with Kansas State, really. There's nothing too remarkable about it either. Kansas is the nation's 34th most populous state, ahead of only West Virginia in the Big 12, so there's not much to be made of the recruiting benefits of a trip like this. Still, as long as Bill Snyder is around, the Wildcats have the potential to be a dangerous team in non-conference play.
5t. West Virginia
That a former Big East rival only ranks tied for 5th on this list speaks less to West Virginia's desirability as a non-conference opponent and more to the strength of the four programs ahead of the Mountaineers. While not located in Texas, have to think the recruiting benefits associated to a trip to Morgantown (and nearby Western Pennsylvania and Ohio) are strong. This would be a nice throwback to an old timey Big East knock down, drag out fight. Pray for couches everywhere.
5t. Oklahoma State
Another immovable object vs. unstoppable force type game, except that Oklahoma State has had more success recently than Texas Tech.
Edging both West Virginia and Oklahoma State is the Big 12's College Football Playoff representative, Oklahoma. As one of the Big 12's two college football bluebloods, the Sooners would rank higher on this list if not for a '1' in the winnability column. Still, outside of Austin, no Big 12 team carries more cache and clout than the Sooners.
At #3, the TCU Horned Frogs. I figured no other Big 12 school could match the alumni accessibility of TCU, situated in the heart of the DFW metroplex. There probably isn't a ton of alumni overlap with the Big 12's geographic footprint in general, but TCU likely is the easiest stop to make for Dallas-based alumni. TCU's brand new Amon G. Carter Stadium is a pretty fine blueprint for renovating a modestly-sized on-campus stadium for a small-ish private school, too.
Where Baylor fell short of TCU in the alumni column they more than made up for in watchability. There probably isn't a hotter team in the Big 12 than Baylor, which has been on a meteoric rise to the top of the college football landscape over the last half decade. McLane Stadium looks every bit as nice as Amon G. Sailgating, anyone?
Despite its recent downturn, Texas is still Texas. Austin is one of the coolest cities in the country and Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium is one of the sport's venerable venues. Did I mention that Texas is Texas?
Just one man's opinion. Your thoughts?