With the college football season approaching, it's time to take a look at FBS scheduling.
Team schedules range from "extremely tough" to "what the heck were they thinking." Here is a prediction of the top-10 toughest schedules in the country for 2010. Enjoy.
Note: Phil Steele's Preseason Top-25 Rankings are used next to scheduled teams to put the toughness of the games in perspective.
Example: Alabama (No. 3)
The Duke Blue Devils open their season with an easy home game against Elon, but the rest of the season is the exact opposite.
They travel to Wake Forest for their second game, only to be facing Alabama (No. 3) and Army, both at home, to close out September. After facing Maryland away, the Devils have a bye week before facing the highly touted Miami Hurricanes (No. 9) at home.
Bouts at Virginia Tech (No. 13), Navy, and Georgia Tech complete their away game schedule, while they face Virginia, Boston College, and North Carolina (No. 12) at home.
Minnesota starts out the season with two cupcake games— at Middle Tennessee and South Dakota at home. The tables turn when the Golden Gophers host the USC Trojans (No. 8) on September 18, in which their two previous games don't ready them for.
After hosting Northern Illinois and Northwestern at home, the Gophers hit the road to take on the rising Wisconsin Badgers (No. 23) and the Purdue Boilermakers.
Minnesota does have two key games at home, as they will face Penn St. (No. 18) and Ohio State (No. 2) in back-to-back weekends in late October.
Their bye-less stretch of Wisconsin, Purdue, Penn St., and Ohio State will make an exhausting mid-season.
Early November will bring the Gophers at both Michigan State and Illinois, with a bye week before facing the Iowa Hawkeyes (No. 14) to end the season on November 27.
UCLA opens their 2010 campaign with an out of conference game against Kansas State, followed up by an early Pac-10 conference game against the up and rising Stanford Cardinal at home. The Bruins remain at home the following week for a battle with the Houston Cougars (No. 24).
After being tested against the Cardinal and Cougars, UCLA faces the Texas Longhorns (No. 11) out in Texas, a stretch of games that no team would necessarily like to have.
October brings in an easy win against Washington State at home, followed by road trips against California and Oregon (No. 10). A convenient bye week before playing in Autzen Stadium is a plus for the Bruins.
They close out the month at home against the Arizona Wildcats (No. 25), who has proven their underestimated status false in 2009.
The Bruins' first November game is a home game against the Rodgers brothers, a.k.a. Oregon State. They then face Jake Locker and the Washington Huskies and the struggling Arizona State Sun Devils on the road.
UCLA's final regular season game will be December 4 at home against their cross-town rival, the USC Trojans (No. 8).
The Washington Huskies are out to prove themselves in 2010, and their schedule proves it.
They start the season with three consecutive out of conference games: at BYU, followed by hosting Syracuse and Nebraska (No. 5). Call this insane, but they might be setting themselves up for a disastrous start.
After the tough OOC games, the Huskies have a bye before heading down to L.A. to face USC (No. 8), after an astonishing upset over the Trojans in 2009. Jake Locker and company will then face Arizona State and Oregon State at home before heading down to Tucson to take on the Arizona Wildcats (No. 25), where U of A is looking to rebound off their close loss to the Huskies last season.
The Huskies host Stanford and UCLA out of their remaining five games. They make road games to their Pac-10 rival Oregon Ducks (No. 10), California, and in-state rival Washington State to end the regular season.
The LSU Tigers have a scheduling mess. They start off the season playing eight games without a bye.
Those games consist of at North Carolina (No. 12), at Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, West Virginia (No. 22), Tennessee, at Florida (No. 7), McNeese St, and finally at Auburn (No. 15). The Tigers then get their bye week, but this eight game stretch with no breathing time could bring disaster to their season.
In November, the Tigers host Alabama (No. 3), cupcake team Louisiana-Monroe, and Ole Miss. Their last game of the regular season is a visit to Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks (No. 17).
The Miami Hurricanes (No. 9) are in the process of returning to the glory days, and if they can make it through their 2010 schedule, they might just very well get there.
The 'Canes start off the season with a home game against Florida A&M on September 2, and will not return back for a home game until October 9. The month of away games consists of visiting Ohio State (No. 2), Pittsburgh, and Clemson.
The October 9 game against Florida State (No. 20) in at home is a bonus for the Hurricanes, but the rivalry will be heated as always. The remainder of October includes a game at Duke, North Carolina (No. 12) at home, and Virginia on the road.
Miami gets a break at home against Maryland, but travels to the intense compounds of Georgia Tech for a November 11 meeting. The 'Canes close out their regular season against Virgina Tech (No. 13) and South Florida, both at home.
The Oregon State Beavers, fully equipped with the Rodgers brothers, have been eying the Pac-10 crown for years. After narrowly missing the Rose Bowl with a loss to Oregon in the Civil War game, they are poised to have a huge 2010 season—that is, if they can get through their unfavorable schedule.
OSU's opening game is against the BCS buster TCU Horned Frogs (No. 4) in Cowboys Stadium, a game that will likely set the tone for the season for both teams. The Beavers will then play the Louisville Cardinals at home after a bye week, only to hit the road again to play the Fiesta Bowl champion Boise State Broncos (No. 6) in Boise.
Then it's time to enter conference play, where home games in 2010 will help the Beavers a little, playing Arizona State, California, Washington State, USC (No. 8), and Oregon (No. 10) at home.
Conference road games consist of at Arizona (No. 25), Washington, UCLA, and Stanford.
While the Mississippi State Bulldogs have seven home games and just five away games, none of them are to be considered easy by any means.
MSU's September schedule consists two home games against Memphis and Auburn (No. 15), a trip over to LSU, and back home against the Georgia Bulldogs (No. 19) for a September 25 duel.
They open October against Alcorn State at home, only to travel two consecutive weeks to play Houston (No. 24) and Florida (No. 7). The remainder of the season entails Kentucky and Arkansas (No. 17) at home, and trips to Alabama (No. 3) and Mississippi.
The Gamecocks have a Phil Steele preseason ranking of No.21, and play in a tough conference where home games are key.
They open the season with three games at home against Southern Mississippi, Georgia (No. 19), and Furman.
Closing out September is a game at Auburn (No. 5), with a bye week before they play the 2009 National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide (No. 3) at home.
The Gamecocks then hit the road again for two weeks with bouts against Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Returning back home the day before Halloween to play Tennessee is a plus, instead of facing the Vols in one of the most hostile stadiums in the country. Following the duel with the Vols is another home game against the Arkansas Razorbacks (No. 17), a team returning nearly all of their offensive weapons.
SC closes out the season at Florida (No. 7), home against Troy, and a final game at rival Clemson.
The Cyclones open their season with a cupcake game against Northern Illinois at home, then hit the road for two Saturdays playing the Iowa Hawkeyes (No.14) and the Kansas State Wildcats. Iowa will be their first major test, playing against a top ten caliber team on hostile grounds.
September 25 marks a three-game home skid against Northern Iowa, Texas Tech, and Utah. The latter two teams are definitely a plus have at home, but the Cyclones will have to be on their A-game just to keep up.
The remainder of their Iowa State's 2010 schedule is horrendous. They play the Oklahoma Sooners (No. 1) and Texas Longhorns (No. 11) away, before coming back home to play Kansas and Nebraska (No. 5). Closing out their season with an away game at Colorado and at home against Missouri.