NCAA Football: Top 10 Toughest 2010 Road Schedules
Taking the show on the road is never an easy task. Even when facing off with a mediocre opponent, the best teams can find themselves in the tightest of situations.
Finding a way to drown out that hostile crowd noise, concentrating on the situation at hand, and maintaining consistency on every play is even harder when the home field advantage is in the hands of opponents making their way up college football’s Top 25 rankings.
While a tough road schedule often provides a team with some serious street cred and eventually will help you in the BCS rankings, if you don't find a way to win on the road, you could end up shooting yourself in the foot.
Nonetheless, a tough road schedule is almost like a badge of honor and those that choose to accept the challenge will find out very quickly why cupcakes are so sweet. The road is a beast that can make or break a season and the following list of teams have the toughest opponents waiting for them once their bus rolls to a stop in 2010.
No. 10: Washington Huskies
Many yearn to knock the Pac-10, and the recent moral downfall of Oregon accompanied with the sudden turmoil within USC adds fuel to their fire.
Despite those speed bumps, the Ducks and Trojans still have more than enough talent to go around and should continue to create havoc within the Pac-10.
Washington has the pleasure of testing the resolve of these battered champions while wearing its away whites. Unfortunately, the Huskies have lost six straight to the Ducks, including the last three times they visited Eugene.
Things don’t get much better against the Trojans.
While last season’s defeat of USC was memorable, the Huskies had lost the previous seven in the rivalry.
They are riding a five-game losing streak at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, but this year’s matchup of Pete Carroll protégés should be enough to draw everyone’s attention away from this blemish.
No. 9: Miami Hurricanes
The Miami Hurricanes open up their 2010 road schedule with a bang and they continue to hit nuggets of road challenges along the way.
Their first road game of the season thrusts this young team into the Horseshoe where they will face the top ranked Buckeyes. It has been 33 years since the Hurricanes last landed in Columbus, and Ohio State will be anxious to pounce on this early test.
This game sets off a series of rough road dates for Miami, which lands in Pittsburgh (which should be ranked) and Clemson the following weeks.
The Hurricanes finish their road schedule in Bobby Dodd Stadium against Georgia Tech, where they have lost two straight and should have more problems containing this swarm.
Miami is quietly reviving its name and has the talent to carry over the momentum gained last season. If the Hurricanes can find a way to finish the season with a solid road record, the return of “The U” should not be far behind.
No. 8: UCLA Bruins
While the Bruins finally appear to be heading in the right direction, their road schedule will definitely test the capacity of this upstart team.
The vibrant stadiums of both the Pac-10 and Big 12 champions are on the Bruins' schedule—and they are just the start of their worries when it comes to this season's road matchups.
While Texas should have the upper hand in the teams' early season matchup, the turmoil in Oregon raises questions and could open the window for a UCLA road victory. But don’t be fooled, because exiting Autzen Stadium with at “W” is never easy.
If that wasn’t enough, the Bruins also have to make a trip to Berkeley, where they have not won beaten Calsince 1998.
The road will be rough for UCLA, but this team may have just enough talent to squeak by with a winning record.
No. 7: Virginia Cavaliers
A trip to Southern California starts off Virginia’s away schedule, and it is just the beginning of a wicked road agenda for the Cavaliers.
Once Virginia enters conference play, their road schedule continues to get hairy. Virginia’s in-conference road trips include grueling games against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Boston College.
The Cavaliers have not won in Blacksburg in over 10 years and have yet to beat BC in Massachusetts, but luckily, they have found some recent success against the Yellow Jackets on their home field.
A road schedule that contains three teams on several preseason Top 25 lists should make these Cavaliers long for that Virginia love.
No. 6: Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama’s quest to defend its SEC championship begins on the road against the dangerous Arkansas Razorbacks.
The Tide will need to be firing on all cylinders to beat this explosive Arkansas crew, especially in front of the 76,000 Razorbacks fans pushing their team towards an early-season upset.
Also on the road docket for Alabama are LSU and Tennessee.
LSU has tamed the Tide in three of their last five meetings in Tiger Stadium and will look to snap a two-game skid against Alabama.
Last season the Vols appeared to be turning over a new leaf in this one-sided rivalry, but depending on how Tennessee deals with its coaching transition, Alabama may take the crowd out of this game fairly early.
No. 5: Iowa State Cyclones
The Cyclones' road schedule begins the second week of the season against their in-state rivals, Iowa.
The Hawkeyes have not lost to Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium since 2002, and with Iowa looking to open the season in the Top 25, this story should not shift too far from the norm.
Things don’t get any easier on the Cyclones further down their schedule.
Road trips to both Texas and Oklahoma in one season usually spell undeniable doom for any team, and while both Big 12 powerhouses are heading towards a smidgen of uncertainty this year, Iowa State will, without a doubt, still have its hands full.
Unfortunately for the Cyclones, they also have the arduous task of playing the Longhorns and Sooners in back-to-back weeks. This should produce quite a miserable October for their fans.
No. 4: Ole Miss Rebels
Besides the obvious road bruisers with Alabama (the Rebels are currently riding a nine-game losing streak in Tuscaloosa) and LSU (losing three of their last four in Baton Rouge), Ole Miss also has extremely tough games at Tennessee and Arkansas.
The Rebels snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Vols last year but have not beaten Tennessee in Neyland Stadium since 1983. It is never easy playing the Volunteers at home, but if Ole Miss is ever going to sneak a win out of Knoxville, it will be during this transitional season.
While Ole Miss is also riding a two-game winning streak against the Razorbacks, the Rebels have won only nine times in Arkansas, and Ryan Mallet and company will make it difficult leaving Fayetteville with a win.
With several question marks still buzzing around the Rebels' camp this spring, stealing a single win from this stretch of games may require a miracle.
No. 3: San Jose State Spartans
To say that the Spartans were overambitious with their non-conference schedule might be a bit of an understatement.
The Spartans kick off their season in Bryant-Denny Stadium to face the defending NCAA champion Alabama Crimson Tide. While their schedule does get progressively easier from there, their road into conference play could be quite disastrous.
In its second week, San Jose State travels to Madison to take on the resurgent Badgers. Wisconsin is expected to land somewhere in the middle of the Top 25 when it comes out and should be there when the Spartans come into town in the middle of September.
To top off their thorny road schedule, the Spartans make a trip to Salt Lake City to confront the Utah Utes. It is never an easy task going into Utah and leaving with a win, and this year will not be any different.
This is the second year that San Jose State has put together a rather insane non-conference schedule, and hopefully after this season, the Spartans will finally learn their lesson.
No. 2: Mississippi State Bulldogs
If playing in the SEC wasn’t tough enough for the Bulldogs, their road schedule almost makes you feel bad for the devoted Mississippi State fan base.
In its conference schedule, Mississippi State is forced to face LSU, Florida, and Alabama on the road. All are expected to rank somewhere in the Top 25 when the AP poll is finally released, and coming out of any of these games with a win could be wishful thinking.
The Bulldogs’ tough road schedule doesn't stop there.
The week before their trip to Florida, they have a tilt with the Houston Cougars in Texas.
The return of Case Keenum has many people expecting the Cougars to light up scoreboards once again, and this could be yet another road headache for Mississippi State.
No. 1: Penn State Nittany Lions
The Nittany Lions are slated to face both Alabama and Ohio State away from the comforts of home in arguably the hardest road schedule in college football.
The Crimson Tide and the Buckeyes are No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in several preseason rankings, and it is hard to disagree with their overabundance of talent.
Having both teams on a schedule would be punishment enough, but Joe Paterno and his boys will be forced to prove that they can handle these powerhouses on the road.
If that wasn’t a sufficient amount of road pain, Penn State also has to face another one of the Big Ten’s emerging teams in a hostile environment.
The Iowa Hawkeyes are climbing several polls since their success last season and will certainly be one of the tougher games in the Big Ten this season.
Penn State has not won in its past three visits to Kinnick Stadium and has beaten the Hawkeyes only once in the past 10 years.