Which Conference Plays the Most Power Five Opponents in 2016?

By Amy Daughters -

Even though establishing standards for non-conference play has made strides in scheduling equality, it’s not the ultimate answer.

One of the lingering issues is that each of the five Power leagues builds its schedule on a different number of conference games. Where the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 all play nine league opponents each year, as of now, the ACC and SEC face only eight.

What it means (in a perfect world where all Power teams actually play one Power opponent out of conference) is that 60% of the field is playing an extra Power school (in the form of a conference game) while the other 40% plays one fewer.

It’s an even bigger deal when you’ve got five Power conferences trying to squeeze into a four-slot CFB Playoff bracket.

Take a look at the Power conferences ranked by the average number of Power opponents they’ll face in 2016.

For the sake of comparison, we’ve counted BYU and Notre Dame (and only BYU and Notre Dame) as additional Power opponents across the board.

5. SEC – 9.07

Coming in dead last, the SEC will collectively play fewer Power teams than any of the other leagues.

All but one member of the conference will play just nine Power schools in 2016. That amounts to 13 teams, or 52% of the only 25 Power programs who are set to face fewer than 10 Power foes this season.

The exception is Georgia, who has eight SEC games plus North Carolina and Georgia Tech.

4. ACC – 9.43

The other Power league that currently plays only eight conference games, the ACC outranks the SEC because it has seven members (Clemson, Florida State, Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Pitt and Virginia Tech) with 10 power opponents on their 2016 slates.

Though these teams get extra credit for having scheduled two Power foes out of conference, in truth they’ll play the same number of Power teams that they would if they were in the Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 and played just one.

It illustrates the bigger picture—strength of schedules across conferences is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

At the other end of the spectrum is Boston College, with only eight Power games this season, the fewest of any Power team.

3. Big Ten – 9.93

In the middle of the scale is the Big Ten, the first of the three Power leagues that schedule nine league games. Its average is boosted by having only two members below the 10-Power game mark—Maryland and Purdue.

At the top of the heap is Michigan State with 11 Power games, adding Notre Dame and BYU to its conference slate. The Spartans are one of only seven Power-league members with more than 10 Power foes in 2016.

2. Big 12 – 10.00

Coming in second, every Big 12 school has double-digit Power foes with the exception of Baylor and Kansas with nine each, or zero Power teams out of conference. Before condemning the Bears and Jayhawks, keep in mind that they’ll play the same number of Power teams as all but one member of the SEC and half of the ACC.

Boosting the number are Texas and West Virginia, each with 11 Power teams. The Longhorns have Notre Dame and Cal while the Mountaineers will square off with Missouri and BYU.

Again, what’s impressive here, compared to say North Carolina (with Georgia and Illinois out of ACC play) is that Texas and West Virginia have nine league games (all obviously Power foes) plus two non-conference Power opponents. That leaves just one game for an FCS or non-Power FBS school.

The Tar Heels have eight ACC games plus the additional two Power foes out of conference. That leaves two openings for FCS/non-Power schools.

It amounts to a significant opportunity to pick up an additional win.

1. Pac 12 – 10.25

The conference that will collectively play the most Power opponents in 2016 is the Pac-12, also the only league with just one member under the double-digit mark. That’s Washington State, which will only play Power opponents from within its own league schedule. Again, since they start with nine conference games as opposed to eight, the Cougars’ lack of a non-Pac 12 Power opponent isn’t as dubious as a team from the SEC or ACC.

The Pac-12 has a whopping four members who will square off with 11 Power foes this season — Oregon (Virginia and Nebraska), Stanford (Kansas State and Notre Dame), UCLA (Texas A&M and BYU) and USC (Alabama and Notre Dame).

That means the Pac-12 is home to four (or 57%) of the only seven teams who have more than 10 Power opponents scheduled in 2016.

You have to ask yourself—how big of a coincidence would it be if the Pac-12 is ultimately the conference left out of this year’s CFB Playoff?

And, if anyone else is thinking, “What about Notre Dame?” Well, just like 93% of the SEC and 50% of the ACC, the Irish will play just nine Power schools in 2016.

  1. Josh
    June 28, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    Notre Dame/ACC each get a P5 game by playing each other. What’s also not mentioned here is that there are 4 groups of ACC/SEC rivalries (GT/UGA, L’ville/KY, Clem/SC, FSU/UF) that are essentially “locked” games. So those four teams from the ACC/SEC know in advance they will get 9 P5 games each season. When Notre Dame rotates onto either GT’s, L’ville’s, Clemson’s, or Florida State’s schedule, those four teams are guaranteed ten P5 games. In 2014, FSU and L’ville got both ND and Florida/Kentucky, respectively, and in 2015, GT and Clemson got both ND and Georgia/S Carolina, respectively.

    So before we go bashing the SEC and ACC each as a whole for under-scheduling, let’s remember the arrangements that are in place that may lead a few of these teams to give themselves a break every now and then.

    • Travis B
      June 28, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      I don’t understand your point here.

      1. Nobody is bashing anybody.

      2. What do those locked rivalries have to do with anything? They can all arrange their schedule accordingly no matter if they have a locked game or not. If you’re an ACC school with a locked game and ND, you got 10 and you should be good. If you don’t have ND, you can choose to schedule another Power opponent if you want, and you should, because 3 cupcake games is more than enough. No SEC schools have the ND scheduling agreement so I have no idea why they were brought up in this. The SEC schools with locked rivalries can make that choice to play 9 or 10 power opponents, it’s completely up to them.

      3. How about USC or Stanford? Those schools have NINE conference games every year plus ND every year, so they know right away that they have 10 Power opponents. Then, to top it all off, they almost ALWAYS schedule another Power opponent on top of that. There is NO reason other schools can’t do this, they just choose not to.

    • Jeff
      June 28, 2016 at 4:20 pm

      Wha?? That’s really fuzzy logic, Josh. First of all, teams in the ACC know when Notre Dame is going to be on their schedule at least through 2025, so it’s not they’re holding a spot open just in case Notre Dame sneaks up on them. 2025 is about as far in advanced as most early-planning teams schedule things at this point. Heck, for teams in the Big 12, that’s about as far in advanced as they know if they’ll still be in the same conference (since that’s when the GOR ends, and it changes day to day whether it seems like anything will hold them together after that). But beyond that…? Having an annual rivalry already on the schedule is even more planned-ahead. It’s not like you can’t give yourself a break now and then if you assume that you should have 10 Power-5 teams as a target minimum and once in a while go up to 11 (particularly for the teams that feel they are a contender) or down to 9 (for teams that are just trying to survive).

      Both conferences have avoided going to a 9-game conference format, despite how much sense it makes, and have avoided filling the void with OOC games that are against power-5 teams either. Trying to talk around that by saying “well, annual rivalry games…” doesn’t make it make more sense. In fact, if my team played the same OOC opponent every year, I’d HOPE they’d also play another power team to help keep things from being repetitive. I certainly wouldn’t hope for 2 games against C-USA-level-opponents and a FCS team. It’s one thing to have a game… MAYBE 2… where the least interesting thing is the actual turn-out. But 3? That sucks for the people buying tickets.

      To suggest that they aren’t just trying to fatten up the win total for their conferences is disingenuous.

  2. bwburke94
    June 28, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    In case you’re wondering, BYU plays six power opponents… all within the first seven weeks.

  3. Travis B
    June 28, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    PAC12 does indeed set the bar high in terms of scheduling. I’ve always agreed with that…

  4. Stuart
    June 28, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Basically all conferences have an SOS that requires an additional P5 OOC game. So all schools play +1. The slightly higher score of the ACC and P12 can be chalked up entirely to Notre Dame (5 ACC games, plus Stanford and USC built-in games … Navy is their 8th built-in); that accounts for 5 of the 7 extra ACC games and 2 of the 3 P12.

    The B1G is slightly short because it grandfathered previously scheduled games from the SOS, even counting some ridiculous opponents in G5 as P5. Their P5 OOC will increase in coming years. But that drift up is also with other conferences.

    The number of G5 vs P5 is about 60% in number of what it was 7 or 8 years ago (around 50 fewer). At some point the ACC will move to 9 games (rumored to be a requirement from ESPN to launch a network) you’d probably see the SEC follow, and that would eliminate another 25 G5 vs P5 games.

    • Drew
      June 29, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      yeah the B1G G5 as P5 clause is too arbitrary. It would be nice if they made favorable scheduling something that was achievable, like counting G5 teams that have made BCS/NY6 bowls. Then it would include Boise St, C. Florida, Cincinnati, UConn, Hawaii, N. Illinois, and any team that made it to a NY6 bowl in the future. Not all great all the time but some solid schools and all capable of getting good. Certainly some better than bottom P5 schools

  5. Stuart
    June 28, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    another way to look at it is to consider FCS opponents. P5 play 93 G5 (including 6 games with BYU) and 53 against FCS. 53 of 65 P5 play FCS, the exceptions: Notre Dame, Louisville, Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Nebraska, Stanford, USC, UCLA, California. Except for Louisville that list is pretty consistent year to year.

    The B1G scheduling requirement kicks in for 2017, so from 10 of 14 playing FCS in 2016 it drops to 3 in 2017 (Maryland, Rutgers, Northwestern). There are now 93 G5 vs P5 games. The B1G rule is mostly offset by an increase in P5 OOC games, So the number will be about the same.

  6. Bruce
    June 30, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    Another thought is to consider that of the P5 conferences All of the SEC and 13 of 14 ACC teams (96%) play FCS games, more than half of all P5 vs FCS games in 2016. For the remaining 3 P5 conferences, only 70% play FCS games; with B1G policy of reducing such games kicks in more in 2017, that percentage will drop to 54%, presuming none of the list of FCS abstainers breaks down and falls off the wagon. This disparity is glaring.

    • crimson tsunami
      July 5, 2016 at 12:26 am

      “fcs abstainers” lol! While the BIG subjectively qualifies non P5 teams like army, navy, air force, cinn. etc… as P5? Bahaha…. The only glaring disparity is the level of competition. But it is the Big 10, so…

  7. John D
    July 1, 2016 at 12:51 am

    Interesting. It shows the divide in revenue between conferences is greater than we think. Particularly for the PAC and SEC. The SEC is getting the same money as the B1G for one game less a year while the PAC is getting much less for an extra 1.25 games per year.

    • schoup
      July 3, 2016 at 1:24 pm

      @JOHN D

      B1G money dwarfs everyone with their new deal. B1G was sightly ahead of SEC with SEC on new deal and B1G on old. B1G are going to be about 50million/yr/school with the new deals.

  8. william
    July 2, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    The other Power league that currently plays only eight conference games, the ACC outranks the SEC because it has seven members (Clemson, Florida State, Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Pitt and Virginia Tech) with 10 power opponents on their 2016 slates

    Amy – North Carolina State plays Notre Dame this year – you missed that one, maybe you should check others.

    • william
      July 2, 2016 at 7:57 pm

      Or maybe you meant that the seven schools you listed played 14 such games instead of 10 and you just made an arithmetic error and you were leaving out those playing just one.

  9. schoup
    July 3, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    The CFP should require come 2018 to be considered for the playoff you must play 9 conf games, atleast 1 P5 OOC and no FCS schools. The only way to get out of the 1 P5 OOC is if a schedule game is cancelled by another school, not your school within 2 years of the date, thus leaving no time to schedule another P5.

    • Tully
      July 3, 2016 at 3:51 pm

      The CFP committee has no power to dictate conference scheduling and how would they do that for ND or perhaps BYU…

      What the committee can do this year is to make it know to not have at least 10 regular season games with P5 teams will be a “data point” that teams are leaving on the floor…

      In other words teams which play at least 10 games with P5 teams will be given credit for doing so and teams which so not will have points taken away for not playing 10 games with P5 teams…Playing 11 games with P5 teams is given more credit than playing 10 and way more than playing just 9 such games.

      In 2016 the Big 12 and ND have to overcome they do not have a CCG to play in which the committee in 2014 showed was important.

  10. Tully
    July 3, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    Thank you for recognizing the difference in scheduling….

    While in 2016 the Big 10 joins the Big 12 and PAC 12 in scheduling 9 conference games, and half of the ACC teams will play 2 OOC games with P5 teams I for one am hoping that the CFB playoff committee makes an issue of the teams which do not play at least 10 games with P5 teams. And recognize that programs like Stanford USC UCLA Texas even WVU are playing 11 games with P5 teams. (I know there are some others)

    I do not care how you get to at least 10 games with P5 teams, but that should be a minimum for playoff consideration.

    • crimson tsunami (@thomas_matakas)
      July 4, 2016 at 5:32 pm

      Ok. Which one of you guys wants to start scheduling the SEC west? …. (crickets)….

    • Tully
      July 5, 2016 at 7:17 pm

      The SEC West will not play 10 regular season games with P5 teams….Just refuses to do so….Louder crickets, Ole Miss and MSU are having to be dragged kicking and screaming just to play 9 such games…Both played only 8 in 2015.

      The sounds of the crickets is louder and louder…

    • crimson tsunami
      July 5, 2016 at 10:30 pm

      Lol! The cricket thing was smart-ass and directed at everyone Tully, sorry. On a serious note, you have been very direct on all these boards about this P5 issue. As is the SEC west is consistently in the top 10 SOS and top 25 rankings with 80% of its teams without the additional P5 game.

      I take exception to your final statement “10 P5 games minimum for playoff consideration”. A “cupcake” is just that whether its in conf. out of conf., or fcs. A teams SOS is what it is, and they are accountable for that now by the conf. they choose to stay affiliated with, and scheduling opportunities.

      On the other hand, I agree, and I really dont understand a team in a weak conferance, that refuses to schedule up, and complains about being left out based on W’s. The same criteria you propose can sometimes keep the better match-ups from happening, assuming that is your goal. We start to fall into this “selective scheduling” process. And how does all P5 conf. agree on what is P5 and not.

      I am a proponent of an 8 team playoff. The 5, P5 champs, and 3 WC. Remember when we couldn’t even get the 2 best teams in a bowl game together? This oughta be enough, and hopefully the spirit of the game stays intact, and this doesn’t turn into a blind numbers and revenues manipulation game.

  11. crimson tsunami
    July 5, 2016 at 12:01 am

    Gotta hand it too you guys. You finally found a mathematical way to sound superior with all this P5 stuff. Really? Why is the SEC 9-2 in 2015 bowl games, and 8 of the last 10 national titles? Alabama went 14-1, 12 P5 games. The BIG went 5-5 in bowl games with a couple of exemptions with 5-7 records! Both teams in thier championship game got humiliated! Heck they wouldnt have been .500 if Minn. hadnt held off C. Mich. 21-14. Guess BIG is an acronym for bowl invitation $$$ guaranteed. Banter on…. I’d rather talk about an 8 team playoff. This all sounds like posturing.

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