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Ranking the 2017 college football schedule’s 22 weirdest road trips

Sometimes, Power 5 teams travel to play smaller programs, rather than the other way around.

TCU v Oklahoma State
Pistol Pete surveys Mobile, Alabama
Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

When college football teams depart from the usual mode of mid-majors playing at power-conference programs, there’s usually a good reason. Long-term scheduling is tricky, as demonstrated last year by five-time national champ Miami playing at FBS newb Appalachian State.

2017’s schedule includes quite a crop of weird road trips by Power 5 teams, for various reasons. Most are parts of multi-year, home-and-road agreements, some of which involve the lower-tier team making multiple trips in order to earn one return visit. And some even have some back-and-forth history to them.

Let’s rank!

(This doesn’t include Utah and Wisconsin playing at BYU. The Cougars are as close to power status as a non-Notre Dame independent can be, and Utah is a state rival anyway. This also doesn’t include neutral-siters; Louisville-Purdue in Indianapolis might top that list.)

22. Texas Tech Red Raiders at Houston Cougars

They’ve played 30 times since 1951, used to be in the same conference, and have both employed coaches such as David Gibbs and Art Briles. And UH holds the all-time series advantage. Not one bit weird.

21. Virginia Tech Hokies at East Carolina Pirates

VT-ECU is sorta a minor rivalry already, even though nobody wants to call it that.

20. Vanderbilt Commodores at Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
19. Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Appalachian State Mountaineers

Nashville to Murfreesboro is only a 40-minute trip, MTSU had a three-game win streak over Vandy in this millennium, and the crowd could be right around Vandy’s home standards. Winston-Salem to Boone is longer, and they haven’t played since Division I split in half, but playing in front of 20,000-plus North Carolinians is business as usual for Wake.

18. Duke Blue Devils at Army Black Knights

These two routinely end up with odd schedules and have met 24 times since 1944. I would believe any schedule that had either Army or Duke playing any team anywhere on Earth.

17. Virginia Cavaliers at Boise State Broncos

Boise hosting powers: not uncommon. Three Pac-12 teams did it in the last decade. Florida State, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, and Oregon State are on future home schedules.

16. Arizona Wildcats at UTEP Miners

They’ve played 41 times and shared a conference long ago, but have only met once since 1999. A 300-mile drive along I-10 builds character.

15. Kentucky Wildcats at Southern Miss Golden Eagles

Well, UK lost to USM last year in monumentally embarrassing fashion, so how weird could this be?

14. Oregon State Beavers at Colorado State Rams

I dunno. CSU will probably win.

13. Illinois Fighting Illini at USF Bulls
12. Stanford Cardinal at San Diego State Aztecs
11. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at UCF Knights

These might be three of the country’s best non-powers this year, so you might lose. But you’ll be in good recruiting areas, so try to win!

Games with storylines can’t be all that weird, and storylines kind of abound! Lovie Smith returns to Tampa! Former UCF coach George O’Leary went 3-0 against the Knights as GT’s head coach! Stanford and SDSU share such a large state!

10. Kansas Jayhawks at Ohio Bobcats
9. Boston College Eagles at NIU Huskies
8. Iowa State Cyclones at Akron Zips

Struggling powers join the MAC!

Never forget Kansas — which is 0-2 all-time against Ohio — beat Texas last season.

7. Mississippi State Bulldogs at Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
6. Oregon Ducks at Wyoming Cowboys
5. North Carolina Tar Heels at Old Dominion Monarchs

Recently good Power 5 teams traveling to play mid-majors? Weird. But if those are recently good mid-majors in stadiums that are reasonably close to respective conference footprints? Not that weird.

The ODU game ranks highest here, since the Monarchs only joined FBS in 2014.

4. Missouri Tigers at UConn Huskies

Did you enjoy 2015’s 9-6 game that was decided by this fake field goal attempt?

Well, here it comes in even colder weather, probably!

3. UCLA Bruins at Memphis Tigers

Two top programs that have played seven times since the 1970s. In basketball.

In 2014, a Memphis that’d gone 3-9 the year before did put a big scare into No. 11 UCLA in their only meeting, at least.

2. Miami Hurricanes at Arkansas State Red Wolves

Made either more or less weird by Miami playing at App State in 2016 and at Toledo in 2018, with a few recent trips to in-state mid-majors as well. Let’s go with more.

1. Oklahoma State Cowboys at South Alabama Jaguars

OSU might enter the season as the Big 12 co-favorite after losing (via shenanigans) to a mid-major at home last year.

USA is a toddler-aged program that beat Mississippi State last year, but went 6-7.

In short,

OSU has nothing to gain from this, but is risking quite a bit.

South Alabama is making two road trips for this one by Oklahoma State, so the full deal that was arranged in 2014 (when USA had completed exactly two FBS seasons) isn’t the strangest ever, but that doesn’t make 2017’s schedule any less bizarre in isolation.