A September to Remember: NCAA Football's Toughest September Schedules
I recently wrote an article asking how exactly to determine strength of schedule. One aspect is the assumptions we have and our own opinion on who is a good team and who is not.
These are my picks for who is playing the toughest September schedule from each conference. Of course this is open to debate so feel free to tell me if you think I missed a tougher one.
To the following teams I say, way to set the bar high. Oh, and good luck.
The opening weekend isn’t as tough as last year, not by a long shot. The Tigers play Middle Tennessee State in game one. Now don’t sleep on the Blue Raiders, they beat Maryland last season and are capable of pulling an upset when they catch a team off guard.
They jump right into conference play for week two and three. First is a trip to play at Georgia Tech followed by a home date with Boston College. Both will be considered contenders for the ACC title.
For the final week of September they host potential BCS buster, TCU. The Horned Frogs will be hoping to bolster their resume with a win over an ACC team on the east coast.
Simply by opening with Georgia on the schedule puts the Cowboys ahead of all the rest of the Big XII teams. The one thing going in their favor is that the game is at home.
In fact all the games in September are at home for Oklahoma State. After Georgia, Conference USA comes to town when Houston and Rice visit back to back.
Now before you question why I picked Oklahoma State, one, look at the other schedules and two, don’t forget that Houston beat Oklahoma State just a couple years ago in 2006.
I guess the Orange think they are in the Big Ten because that’s what their September schedule looks like. They take on three Big Ten bowl teams from last season, including a trip to the 2008 Big Ten champs, Penn State.
That game is sandwiched between two home dates. First up is Minnesota who finished at 7-6. After the Penn State game is a visit from 9-4 Northwestern.
While the opener with Syracuse is a sleeper the rest of the month fires up nicely.
Hosting two out of conference games will be a nice way to break in the new stadium, or will it?
First up is the much overlooked Air Force out of the Mountain West. Everyone wants to talk about Utah, TCU, and BYU out of the Mountain West but Air Force was right behind the big three.
After that is a California team that many believe have a shot at winning the Pac-10 this season.
Before the month is out, the Golden Gophers open conference play at Northwestern.
The Owls are going on the road. And a lot. Out of four games in the month of September, they don’t play a home game until the end of the month.
The season opens at UAB in a cross divisional matchup. That’s the easiest game on the slate.
Rice then takes back to back trips to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Both of these teams are expected to have pretty good seasons again this year.
Then the one home game, a game where one of the big boys comes to town. Well as big as Vanderbilt can be I suppose. They did win their bowl game, though.
Last year they scored a big upset over Michigan. This year they are taking a stab at three BCS conference schools.
Week one is their first test when they travel to Purdue.
After that is where I am surprised as they didn’t get just one BCS school to travel to Toledo but two. First is a visit from Colorado. Toledo is probably capable of getting a win off one of these first two.
The next team coming in is Ohio State. There is no way home field helps them here.
Even their final game is no gimme as they travel down to Florida International. FIU has not been historically a great team at the FBS level but they have been making strides of improvement.
The Cougars are taking on the National Championship game runner up to open the season. Oklahoma will again be one of the teams favored to make it the title game again.
A couple weeks later BYU will host another team favored to win their conference in Florida State from the ACC.
To close out September, BYU will open conference play with Colorado State. The Rams were bowl winners to end last season.
No I am not just being a homer. Although the Ducks kind of are. Three of the four games in September are home dates.
Not the first game though. In week one, Oregon goes to Boise State. The Broncos have lost like one game at home over the last like five seasons or something like that.
Their first of three games comes against Big Ten opponent Purdue. Last years game at Purdue went in to overtime.
Next up is last season's only undefeated team and Sugar Bowl Champions, Utah. While they are not expected to find exactly the same success as last season they are still expected to do well.
The last game in September for the Ducks is a Pac 10 matchup with California. Cal and Oregon are expected to vie for the Pac 10 title with USC.
Overall three of the four games could likely be with ranked opponents.
Four BCS conference schools. Two home and two away. Two from out of conference.
The Bulldogs start out at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys finished the season with a loss to Oregon in the Holiday Bowl but were still ranked in the top 20. The Cowboys have also been tabbed by many to start the 2009 season in the top 10, or at least 15.
The next two are in-conference games. First, the home opener with South Carolina followed by a date at Arkansas. I doubt if South Carolina or Arkansas will truly challenge for the conference title, but both games should still be good nonetheless.
They close September with a return date with Arizona State. Georgia should win this one like they did last season but the thing about Arizona State is that they are inconsistent and went from good to bad in a matter of one season. They could reverse that and show sudden improvement too.
After what should be an easy home opener with Southern University, the Ragin’ Cajuns are hosting Kansas State.
It is the next couple games where the real challenge begins.
In week three they travel to LSU and in week four they will go to Nebraska.
Seems like each season we see a Sun Belt team upset someone from a BCS conference, I don’t know that I see that happening for ULL in 2009.
San Jose State
San Jose State
Three games on the road to open the season but none are all that far. Oh yeah, the first two happen to have won BCS bowls last season.
First, they will take on the USC Trojans. One of the lesser programs of California going to the premier program in the state.
For game two they will go to take on Sugar Bowl champions, the Utah Utes. Utah is, for now the premier program of the non-BCS conferences.
For their last “road” game they could walk. Well maybe not, but the trip wont take very long. The Spartans will go up the road to take on Stanford. I think due to the proximity of the schools this is a little bit of a rivalry.
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