The SEC’s new scheduling format, requiring members to play at least one “major non-conference game” starting in 2016, brings up an interesting question: Which programs from a power-five league (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) don’t have a non-conference game scheduled against another power-five team in 2014?
Here’s a look at the offenders, teams which should have an easier road to bowl eligibility than their counterparts.
North Carolina State
The Wolfpack are one of only two ACC teams that won’t square off with a power-five member in non-conference play this season.
NC State’s non-ACC schedule consists of the opener against Georgia Southern (moving up from the FCS to the Sun Belt conference in 2014), Old Dominion (joins Conference USA in 2014), USF and FCS Presbyterian.
This stretch makes it likely that the Wolfpack will improve on their 3-9 finish from last season after only four weeks this year.
NC State’s last regular-season, non-conference game against a power-five member came in its 2012 home opener to Tennessee, a 35-21 loss. Its last win in such a game came in 2003, when the Wolfpack drilled Texas Tech 49-21.
Wake Forest is another team which ought to be off to a 4-0 start in 2014. The Demon Deacons open the season at ULM, host FCS Gardner-Webb, travel to Utah State and then welcome Army to Raleigh.
Wake last scheduled a regular-season, non-conference game against a power-five member in 2013, when it was nipped by Vanderbilt 23-21 to close out a 4-7 campaign. The last regular-season win over a power team came against Vanderbilt in 2010.
The 2014 Bears—the only Big 12 team not to have a power opponent in non-conference play—will have three full weeks to ramp up to the rest of their schedule. Baylor has SMU in its opener, hosts FCS Northwestern State in Week 2 and then hits the road to face Buffalo on Sept. 13.
Baylor hasn’t played a power team in a regular-season game since 2009, when it traveled to Wake Forest, picking up a 24-21 win.
The only Big Ten team without a power game outside of conference play, Penn State opens up its season against UCF, winner of last year’s BCS Fiesta Bowl over Baylor.
After facing the Knights in Ireland, Penn State plays Akron in Week 2, UMass in Week 4 and then waits to close out its non-conference slate until Nov. 15 when it hosts Temple.
As a bonus, the Nittany Lions also have the benefit of facing three of their four non-Big Ten foes at home in Happy Valley and the other at a neutral site (Ireland).
Penn State hasn’t had a power team on its non-conference slate since Virginia in 2012 (a 17-16 loss) and hasn’t won such a game since pounding Oregon State 45-14 in 2008.
One of three Pac-12 teams on our list, Oregon State’s 2014 non-conference slate consists of FCS Portland State, Hawaii and San Diego State.
The Beavers haven’t played a power-five member in the regular season since 2012 when they upended No. 13 Wisconsin 10-7 in the opener.
Arizona started its 2013 season 3-0 and should begin its 2014 campaign in similar fashion.
The Wildcats open up at home against UNLV, travel to Texas to face UTSA and finish up back in Tucson with Nevada.
Arizona’s last regular-season game against a power program came in 2012 when it took down No. 18 Oklahoma State 59-38.
Colorado has struggled enough in recent years that it seems harsh to call its schedule soft, but that said the Buffs are still Pac-12 members.
In 2014, Colorado opens up against in-state rival Colorado State in Denver, travels to UMass in Week 2 and then finishes its non-conference slate by hosting Hawaii in Week 4.
The Buffs last scheduled a power non-conference opponent in 2011 when they lost at Ohio State 37-17. The last win came in 2010 when the then Big 12 Buffaloes nipped Georgia 29-27.
One of a whopping four SEC teams on our list, Vandy’s 2014 non-conference slate ought to guarantee the Commodores four wins this season.
Vandy opens up at home against Temple, hosts UMass in Week 2, hosts FCS Charleston Southern on Oct. 11 and then welcomes Old Dominion to town on Nov. 1.
Yes, Vanderbilt has a tough conference schedule, but its non-SEC opponents are among the most underwhelming in the big leagues.
The Commodores’ last non-conference, regular-season game—and win—came last season with a 23-21 victory over Wake Forest.
In 2014 not only will Mississippi State not play a power team outside of the SEC, it will face four non-conference opponents who combined for a 14-36 record in 2013.
The Bulldogs open the season with home games against Southern Miss and UAB, travel to South Alabama in Week 3 and then finish up by hosting FCS UT Martin on Nov. 8.
Mississippi State last played a power team out of conference last season when they lost 21-3 to Oklahoma State in the opener. The last win came all the way back in 1999 when they beat Oklahoma State 29-11.
Though the Rebels will meet Boise State in Atlanta to open the 2014 season, it still won’t face a power team outside of its SEC slate.
The balance of Ole Miss’ non-conference schedule is a Week 2 showdown with UL Lafayette, a Week 5 visit by Memphis and then a Nov. 15 game with FCS Presbyterian.
The Rebels last scheduled a non-league game against a power team in 2013, when they traveled to Austin to beat Texas 44-23.
The Aggies haven’t faced a power foe in non-conference play since they joined the SEC in 2012.
In 2014, Texas A&M’s non-league slate consists of home games against FCS Lamar and Rice, a road trip to SMU and then a Nov. 1 game in College Station against ULM.
The Aggies’ last non-conference power opponent came in 2011, when they lost 42-38 to Arkansas. The last win came in 2004 when they beat Clemson 27-6.