College Football Teams with Best Home Game Schedules in 2014
If you could buy season tickets to any team's stadium in 2014—not including the team you fancy—which one would you pick?
And why would you pick them?
Let's indulge the hypothetical—but with one important caveat: The atmosphere of the stadium doesn't count. You can't pick Ohio State just because you've had seeing The Horseshoe on your bucket list since you were 16; you have to pick based on their schedule, in a vacuum where all home stadiums are considered equal.
In fact, let's take it one further.
Try to ignore the quality of the home team, as well. Obviously, the more Alabama games you see next season, the better your chances of witnessing history—of watching a national champion in action. But try, for the sake of this list, to divorce your mind from such factors.
The following are the eight teams whose home-game schedules seem the best to me on paper. Based on the quality of their opponents—and their relationship to each opponent—they would warrant my spending God-knows-how-much-money on season seats.
(Or at least they would come the closest to doing so.)
Chime in below, and let me know whom you would choose.
Two of the nonconference games are duds. In typical SEC fashion, Arkansas will host Nicholls State and UAB next season.
But other than that, the Razorbacks' schedule reeks of intrigue. The third nonconference home game features MAC stalwart Northern Illinois, and even without Jordan Lynch, that should be fun to watch.
During SEC play, Bret Bielema's team welcomes three of the best teams in the country—Alabama (Oct. 11), Georgia (Oct. 18) and LSU (Nov. 15)—during the span of roughly a month. One week after playing the Tigers, it also gets to host a dangerous team from Ole Miss.
The team Cal fielded last season did not give fans much reason to attend home games.
There is no guarantee that things will be different in Sonny Dykes' second year, but, at the very least, the schedule is promising enough to entice some ticket sales in Berkeley.
Things pick up in October, when the Bears host Washington, UCLA and Oregon in consecutive weeks. If you need to visit the Northern California area for a month but don't quite feel like shelling out the money for a 49ers ticket, this would be the time to come.
If you miss that window, though, the end of November is a decent consolation. Cal closes its schedule with home games against Stanford and BYU—two of the most consistent programs in America.
Florida State fans are love drunk with their team right now—and rightfully so.
They would—and will—show up en masse to watch the Seminoles beat the stuffing out of a team like The Citadel for 60 minutes.
Fortunately, that is not the only thing on FSU's docket. The Seminoles host both of their biggest rivals—Clemson and Florida—in 2014 and also get a home game against partial-ACC member Notre Dame.
All three of those teams have made a BCS bowl in the last two seasons, Clemson winning the 2014 Orange Bowl, Florida losing the 2013 Sugar Bowl and Notre Dame losing the 2013 BCS National Championship.
It is rare to find so much recent pedigree on just one team's home schedule.
Iowa State does not have a single home clunker.
It starts the season against back-to-back FCS champion North Dakota State, which lost head coach Craig Bohl to Wyoming this offseason but should still be formidable. The Bison beat Kansas State—which Iowa State hosts in Week 2—in Manhattan to start last season.
The Cyclones follow up NDSU and KSU with homes games against Big 12 favorite Baylor and a plucky Toledo team that this writer picked to win the MAC in an article last week.
After hosting another Big 12 favorite, Oklahoma, and one of the most entertaining teams in the country, Texas Tech, Iowa State finishes its home schedule with a rematch of last year's thrilling, triple-overtime game against West Virginia, which the Cyclones won 52-44.
I'll take a ticket to all of those.
Notre Dame doesn't play a true road game until visiting Florida State on October 18, and even though two of its early season contests—versus Syracuse and Purdue—are on a neutral field, the way it starts its season will be memorable nonetheless.
It opens the year against Rice, the reigning C-USA champion, and follows with the last scheduled game (for now) between the Irish and Michigan. Before heading to Tallahassee, Brian Kelly's team also gets to host reigning Pac-12 champion Stanford and plucky ACC upstart North Carolina as a part of its partial-ACC membership.
The other two home games on the Irish's schedule are Northwestern and Louisville—two teams that won double-digit games as recently as 2012. Each could go either way this season, and it is likely that at least one is better than we currently expect.
Plus, there's the whole artificial turf thing.
Tennessee hauled in one of the best recruiting classes in the country this year, something that helped it pack Neyland Stadium with 68,548 fans during its spring game—fourth most in the country.
"With the youthfulness of our football team, playing in front of as many fans as we can have in Neyland Stadium for the Orange and White Game is gonna be critical," said head coach Butch Jones about a week before the game took place. Operation: Success.
And there will be reason for UT fans to keep flocking out during the regular season. The Vols start the season against Utah State—one of the best games on the Week 1 schedule—follow up the next week against co-Sun Belt champion Arkansas State and host a rivalry game against Florida October 4 in the SEC home opener.
Later in the season, Alabama and Missouri will travel to Knoxville for what should be a couple of sold-out stadiums.
Every season, the biggest game on Texas' schedule takes place on a neutral field, the Texas State Fair, against Oklahoma.
That can make it difficult to have a stacked slate of true home games, but in 2014, the Longhorns defy the odds and have just that.
BYU comes to town for a rematch of last year's infamous matchup—a 40-21 blowout where the Cougars rushed for 550 yards and essentially got Manny Diaz (and, one could argue, Mack Brown) fired.
Not long after, reigning conference champion Baylor comes rumbling into Austin, which should make for a great atmosphere.
And even though UCLA is playing the Longhorns in Arlington, that should be one of the most important games of the college football season, so I am willing to cheat, just once, and take that into consideration for this list.
The UT faithful will travel (not far) for that one.
UCLA's home schedule is back-loaded, beginning with a nonconference clunker against Memphis and a tepid Pac-12 opener against Utah.
But from there, things get better in a hurry.
Oregon visits the Rose Bowl October 11, and Arizona visits on the first day of November. Both of those teams should be competitive in 2014, but more than just that, head coaches Mark Helfrich and Rich Rodriguez run aesthetically pleasing, offensive-minded schemes that should keep fans entertained all game.
UCLA ends the season with a different style: home games against USC and Stanford in back-to-back weeks. Those games should be more ground-and-pound, grit-out-the-victory-type football, showcasing the talent and depth on the Bruins' 2014 schedule.