Sporting News 2011 Top 10 Non-Conference Football Schedules

By Kevin Kelley -

Sporting NewsThe LSU Tigers have the toughest 2011 non-conference football schedule according to Sporting News. The publication ranks Mississippi State’s schedule as the worst.

LSU’s season opener against the Oregon Ducks at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas is ranked as one of the five best non-conference games in 2011. The other four are Boise State vs. Georgia (at Atlanta, GA), Oklahoma at Florida State, Ohio State at Miami (FL) and Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (at Arlington, TX).

LSU opens the season against the Oregon Ducks at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas (09/03). The Tigers host Northwestern State the following week (09/10), travel to West Virginia (09/24) and later host Western Kentucky (11/12).

Sporting News 2011 Top 10 Non-Conference Schedules

  1. LSU – vs. Oregon (at Arlington, TX), Northwestern State, at West Virginia, Western Kentucky
  2. Pittsburgh – Buffalo, Maine, at Iowa, Notre Dame, Utah
  3. Colorado – at Hawaii, California, Colorado State (at Denver, CO), at Ohio State
  4. Miami – Ohio State, Kansas State, Bethune-Cookman, at South Florida
  5. Ohio State – Akron, Toledo, at Miami (FL), Colorado
  6. Florida State – ULM, Charleston Southern, Oklahoma, at Florida
  7. Georgia – vs. Boise State (at Atlanta, GA), Coastal Carolina, New Mexico State, at Georgia Tech
  8. UCLA – at Houston, San Jose State, Texas
  9. USC – Minnesota, Syracuse, at Notre Dame
  10. Clemson – Troy, Wofford, Auburn, at South Carolina

Sporting News 2011 Bottom 10 Non-Conference Schedules

  1. Mississippi State – at Memphis, Louisiana Tech, at UAB, Tennessee-Martin
  2. Indiana – Ball State, Virginia, South Carolina State, at North Texas
  3. NC State – Liberty, South Alabama, at Cincinnati, Central Michigan
  4. Texas Tech – Texas State, at New Mexico, Nevada
  5. Washington State – Idaho State, UNLV, at San Diego State
  6. UConn – Fordham, at Vanderbilt, Iowa State, at Buffalo, Western Michigan
  7. Rutgers – North Carolina Central, at North Carolina, Ohio, Navy, at Army
  8. Kentucky – Western Kentucky, Central Michigan, Louisville, Jacksonville State
  9. Tennessee – Montana, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Middle Tennessee State
  10. Virginia Tech – Appalachian State, at ECU, Arkansas State, at Marshall
  1. Erik G.
    July 6, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Southern Cal? Really?!?!

    I’m a little surprised East Carolina didn’t make the list instead:
    at Virginia Tech, at North Carolina, vs. Navy, vs. South Carolina (neutral site in Charlotte)

    And UCLA?!?! Are we all assuming that Texas is going to be a 10-win team again (?), because Houston and San Jose State aren’t anything to write home about.

    • John
      July 6, 2011 at 11:50 pm

      This list is only for AQ teams… Otherwise the worst game of the year would have to be Akron vs. VIM

      I agree ECU should get some credit.
      Toledo has it tough too with O$U, Boise St and Syracuse.

    • Jinzo
      July 7, 2011 at 1:12 am

      UCLA will have thier hands full with a vestly improved San Jose State team….I know the Spartans went 1-12 last year but a deeper team plus meeting the Bruins relatively early will make SJS a legit threat to win.

      And 3 SEC teams in the bottom 10……like thats a shocker,not!

    • PNB
      July 7, 2011 at 5:55 pm

      Did you notice 2 SEC teams in the top 7? Guess not……those haters of the best conference in football only notice the bad things. Did you also notice 5 straight National Championships?

    • Jinzo
      July 8, 2011 at 12:01 am

      LSU is number one? really?

      Northwestern State and Western Kentucky? c’mon PBJ,hey real….that non-conference is a joke,Colorado has the most rugged schedule by far. Most Pac 12 teams play far more difficult schedules then Schedule Eay Cupcakes…

    • BAB
      September 13, 2011 at 10:33 am

      PNB: Did YOU notice 2 ACC teams in the top 6??? Better statistically than your heralded sec??

  2. PNB
    July 6, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Houston is projected by Phil Steele to win the West in C-USA and be a 10 win team. Maybe the writers at the Sporting News think the same thing.

  3. p
    July 6, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    I think Colorado has the toughest schedule. LSu plays a div1aa and sunbelt team. How can teams with div1aa make the list?

    • RiverCityRat
      July 15, 2011 at 7:29 pm

      Colorado has one team of note, being tOSU…

      LSU plays Oregon (better than Ohio State) and West Virginia (ranked in top 20) *both on the road* …

      That is the reason LSU’s OOC sched is ranked the toughest, over Colorado.

    • go_buffs
      August 10, 2011 at 2:57 pm

      thank you! Colorado has the no.1 toughest schedule according to Phil Steeleand and with a new coach it’ll be even harder to win.

    • go_buffs
      August 12, 2011 at 5:54 pm

      RiverCityRat Colorado has a very tough schedule they play 3 top 20 teams in the 8 first games and have 6 road games with a new coach.

    • go_buffs
      August 13, 2011 at 4:57 pm

      RiverCityRat we play oregon too and USC and stanford!!!

  4. AC
    July 7, 2011 at 9:49 am

    How is Cal a non-conference opponent for Colorado since both are in the Pac-12?

    • Kevin K.
      July 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm

      Cal and Colorado has scheduled this game prior to Colorado moving to the Pac-12. Both schools decided it would be easier to keep the game rather than cancel and find a new opponent. The NCAA agreed and the game will not count as a conference game in the Pac-12 standings.

    • Anonymous
      August 28, 2011 at 2:45 am

      colorado went to the Big 10

    • Anonymous
      August 28, 2011 at 2:47 am

      sorry I meant Nebraska, but right. It won’t count because it was schedule awile ago

  5. Brad
    July 8, 2011 at 8:39 am

    How is Ohio State in the Top 10?

    Example: WVU is not in the Top 10 and probably should not be, however, they play LSU, Maryland, Marshall, Bowling Green, and Norfolk State.

    The first (LSU, Maryland, and Marshall) are certainly better than Miami, Colorado, and Akron/Toledo.

    ECU plays South Carolina, Virginia Tech, North Carolina (3 BCS schools), and Navy. They should easily be in the Top 5 toughest.

    OSU in the Top 10, how ridiculous.

    • Brad
      July 8, 2011 at 8:43 am

      Also, Notre Dame isn’t in a conference, but has a tough schedule as usual. Why even come up with a list like this that doesn’t show anything (SOS) and means nothing? It’s simply some random person’s opinion that was too lazy to look at all of the AQ teams.

  6. Kenny
    July 16, 2011 at 8:18 am

    USC and Ohio St. do not belong in the top 10. If anything Rutgers who is in the bottom 10 has a tougher schedule than those two. And two schools that should be in the top 10 are ECU and Marshall. ECU’s schedule has already been discussed so I’ll stick with Marshalll’s:

    @ WVU – Big East favorite
    Virginia Tech – ACC favorite
    @ Ohio – MAC favorite
    @ Louisville – BCS school

  7. Gregory Koch
    July 18, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    Obviously this only includes major conference schools. Florida Atlantic plays Auburn, Michigan State, and Florida on the road, plus UAB. These Sun Belt schools have long been whipping boys for the big boys.

  8. Max
    August 2, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    ECU would get some credit if they were in an AQ conference. Notre Dame won’t get any recognition because their entire schedule is OOC. Although I have to give them credit for 1.) scheduling tougher teams and 2.) not putting all the Armed Forces on their schedule.

  9. Anonymous
    August 28, 2011 at 2:44 am

    This list is horrible, a monkey could have picked these. WVU is gonna suck, so LSU has the toughest schedule because they play Oregon. Give me a break

    • Justin V
      October 25, 2011 at 12:57 am

      Ok 1st things 1st, Even bagging on the fact LSU non-conf. schedule being the hardest look back at this season when they played Oregon Oregon was the number 2 or 3 team in the country on a neutral field. Then LSU plays an easy team in Northwestern State. After that they traveled to MSU there first conference game of the year. After that they go to Morgantown and play WVU who put up over 500yds on LSU and has only lost 2 games. Yes LSU plays 2 week opponets in the non confrence side but both of LSU’s big non-conf. opponets have lost a combined of only 3 games this season and both of those were on the road the numbers show for therself.

  10. Anonymous
    November 3, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Ohio State does not belong on this list for toughest. A joke. Colorado is going to be tough?? Really? Why Wisconsin isn’t at the top of this list is beyond me. UNLV at home, followed by the juggernaut that is Oregon home. Then they take a NEUTRAL SITE GAME 90 miles to the south in Chicago to play the perennial national power Northern Illinois. Then comes the toughie…South Dakota’s nasty Coyotes in week 4. How this team EVER got ranked as high as they did is amazing. They are another overrated Big Ten joke.

  11. Texas Hoosier
    December 7, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    Year in and Year Out, USC has one of the toughest, if not the toughest non-conference schedule. They almost always book teams on a home and home basis – that is something Florida, Alabama, Texas, and LSU do not do. They don’t book Division II teams – they are one of only five universities that has NEVER scheduled a DII team. Most important, they win home or on the road. In fact, since the loss against K-State in 2003, the only Non-Conference games they have lost were against Texas in the Rose Bowl in 3006 and last year’s Notre Dame game in the Coliseum. The victims include Auburn, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Michigan, Arkansas, Virgina Tech and Notre Dame (7 of the last 8 years), all at both home and away with the exception of Michigan & Illinois (the Rose Bowl multiple times) and Virgina Tech (which was played on the East Coast). No other school can boast that kind of Non-Conference schedule or success; in fact, that may be most impressive element of the USC football legacy over the last decade. The future schedules include Texas, Texas A&M, Boston College, and Tennessee, again all home and home. Its hard to predict what kind of teams each of these schools will have playing 5, 6, even 10 years from now, but if history is any predictor, they should be very good teams. Not even close on this one. Maybe not the toughest every year (based on what I described above), but they are way ahead of everyone else over the test of time. I also like Georgia and Ohio State who also try and schedule on a home and home basis against good teams year in and year out.

    • college football fanatic
      January 4, 2012 at 6:05 pm

      Great job. Don’t forget about Iowa in the 2003 Orange Bowl and Penn State in the 2009 Rose Bowl.

  12. SEC = BCS
    January 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    It’s called domination!! Talk trash about scheduling easy opponents but that’s not the case! Those teams ask to play them cause they get a check to cover expenses over the next few years! Would you really want to play LSU, BAMA, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina every year? No I didn’t think so, the worst teams in the SEC could beat most teams from other conferences! So stop being jealous of 6 in a row, and we(sec) have the most players in the pros! It’s funny cause there really isn’t even an argument about the best conference, it’s the SEC!!!

    • AllAboutTheU
      February 19, 2012 at 11:07 am

      Honestly the only teams that need to brag about those national titles are LSU, Bama, Fl, and AU! The other teams that have been their little whipping posts the whole decade need to hop off their jocks and get a ring of their own! Otherwise quit bragging about what you don’t have and that’s the hardware.

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