2016: The 9-game conference schedule, out-of-conference games and you

Ronald Martinez

More conferences are changing to nine-game schedules. Let's take a look in the future at how this could affect out of conference scheduling and college football as a whole.

One of the results of conference realignment is that more leagues are talking nine-game conference schedules. The Pac-12 and Big 12 already do it, the Big Ten will start in 2016 after Maryland and Rutgers come aboard, and the ACC and SEC have at least discussed it. Chances are good that if your team plays in a major conference, it will play a nine-game conference schedule eventually.

Since this is a thing in college football that exists, it has drawn a wide array of opinions ranging from THAT'S GREAT to THIS IS LITERALLY THE WORST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED. It's neither of those things, but there are positive and negative aspects, to be sure.

On the positive side, larger conferences have made some conference rivals essentially into strangers that play every four or five years. Adding another game to the schedule would help alleviate that issue and make two divisions feel more like one conference again.

Also, a larger conference schedule could force teams to drop that fourth cupcake out-of-conference game, which would make fans, especially season ticket holders, happy campers. There is little entertainment value in watching the pillars of the sport batter FCS-East 77-0 with backups playing for three quarters. The Big Ten has already said it'll stop scheduling FCS programs, and other conferences could follow that lead.

In terms of negatives, the dream that the impending playoff system will reward challenging schedules could be rendered fiction. Teams schedule weak out of conference opponents because a shiny record is viewed more favorably than an impressive resume with a loss or two. Unless teams are rewarded for challenging schedules, a ninth conference game would just give schools an excuse to schedule three chip shots.

High-profile out-of-conference games are the sauce to the meat of the college football season. They provide huge flavor in relatively small amounts, and without them, it's all just kind of dry. A nine-game conference schedule across the major conferences could rob the college football public of its sauce. I don't know about you, but I like sauce.

With all that in mind, let's conduct a thought exercise. The year is 2016, and the five major conferences have all committed to playing nine-game schedules. Would out-of-conference scheduling look appreciably different than it does today?

Some points of order: A few teams had four games already scheduled for 2016. In those instances, I dropped the weakest game. Also, these games are still over three years away, and the schedule could look very different by the time we get there. Teams that look tough now could be terrible, and supposed gimmes now could be much tougher. The discerning reader should estimate schedule difficulty with one or more grains of salt.

ACC

Team Out of Conference Opponents

Boston College UMass Buffalo TBA

Clemson South Carolina S. Carolina State TBA

Duke Notre Dame Northwestern Army

Florida State Florida TBA TBA

Georgia Tech Georgia Vanderbilt TBA

Louisville Kentucky TBA TBA

Miami Notre Dame Toledo FAU

NC State Notre Dame East Carolina TBA

North Carolina East Carolina TBA TBA

Pitt Penn State Villanova TBA

Syracuse Notre Dame TBA TBA

Virginia Oregon UConn Richmond

Virginia Tech Notre Dame Wisconsin East Carolina

Wake Forest Indiana Tulane Delaware

Observations:

A whole lot of Notre Dame on there. The Irish are a de facto conference game for these ACC teams, but the Irish only have to play five ACC teams instead of nine.

Duke, Virginia Tech, and Virginia look to have the toughest roads.

Big 12

Team Out of Conference Schedule

Baylor SMU Rice Northwestern State

Iowa State Iowa San Jose State Northern Iowa

Kansas Ohio Memphis TBA

Kansas State Charlotte TBA TBA

Oklahoma Ohio State TBA TBA

Oklahoma State Central Michigan McNeese State TBA

TCU Arkansas SMU TBA

Texas Notre Dame Cal UTEP

Texas Tech TBA TBA TBA

West Virginia BYU Maryland East Carolina

Observations:

Texas probably has the toughest road of any team in the Big 12, with West Virginia not far behind.

Kansas State's only out-of-conference game at this point is against a team that has never played a game. Stay Snyderin'.

Big Ten

Team Out of Conference Schedule

Illinois Western Michigan TBA TBA

Indiana USF Wake Forest Ball State

Iowa Iowa State North Dakota State TBA

Maryland West Virginia UCF FIU

Michigan Colorado Hawaii Ball State

Michigan State Alabama Notre Dame Eastern Michigan

Minnesota Miami (OH) Colorado State New Mexico State

Nebraska Tennessee Northern Illinois Fresno State

Northwestern Stanford Duke Western Michigan

Ohio State Oklahoma Tulsa Bowling Green

Penn State Pitt Kent State Temple

Purdue Notre Dame Cincinnati Nevada

Rutgers UCLA TBA TBA

Wisconsin Virginia Tech TBA TBA

Observations:

Oh, Michigan State, you courageous fools.

Purdue and Sparty's series with Notre Dame could be a casualty of the Big Ten's move to a nine-game schedule, so this could change dramatically.

It's good to challenge yourself, Illinois.

Pac-12

Team Out of Conference Schedule

Arizona BYU Grambling TBA

Arizona State LSU UT-SA Northern Arizona

Cal Texas Nevada San Diego State

Colorado Michigan Colorado State San Jose State

Oregon Virginia TBA TBA

Oregon State Boise State TBA TBA

Stanford Notre Dame Northwestern Rice

UCLA Rutgers Nevada UNLV

USC Notre Dame Texas A&M TBA

Utah BYU Southern Utah TBA

Washington TBA TBA TBA

Washington State Boise State TBA TBA

Observations:

USC doesn't appear to be messing around. What are the chances Lane Kiffin is still there to coach those games?

Stanford's schedule: NNNNNNEEERRRRRRDDDDDSSSSSS

Both Oregon State and Washington State get to tangle with Boise State. This is far off to be projecting, but will the Pac-12 win either of those games?

SEC

Team Out of Conference Schedule

Alabama Michigan State TBA TBA

Arkansas TCU Louisiana Tech TBA

Auburn TBA TBA TBA

Florida Florida State North Texas UMass

Georgia Georgia Tech Georgia Southern TBA

Kentucky Louisville TBA TBA

LSU Arizona State Southern Miss Western Kentucky

Missouri Memphis TBA TBA

Mississippi State Louisiana Tech Tulane South Alabama

Ole Miss Memphis Wofford TBA

South Carolina Clemson East Carolina S. Carolina State

Tennessee Nebraska UConn TBA

Texas A&M USC Louisiana Tech TBA

Vanderbilt Georgia Tech Middle Tennessee TBA

Observations:

Not a ton going on outside traditional rivalry games. USC vs. A&M, Alabama vs. Michigan State, and LSU vs. ASU look intriguing.

Don't hurt yourselves, Missouri and Mississippi State.

Vols vs. Cornhuskers, putting the world on eye-strain alert.

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