Easier Said Than Done

Looking at the nation's toughest schedules this fall


March 7, 2008

By Adam Caparell

CSTV.com

 

ADAM CAPARELL
Caparell is CSTV.com's football editor and national football writer.
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We're a shade under six months before the regular season begins and Georgia and USC are still two of the favorites to find their way to Miami for the BCS Championship Game. But who could stand in their way? CSTV.com takes a very early look at what the Bulldogs and Trojans, owners of two of the nine toughest schedules in the country, will face this fall.

 

Hard

 

Fresno State

It's not the WAC schedule that's going to present the biggest challenge Fresno State -- although that season finale should be a good one for the Bulldogs -- it's those first three games. Fresno State, off that nice win in the Humanitarian Bowl, will start things off with stern tests against BCS teams UCLA, Kansas State and Wisconsin, the first two coming on the road.

 

Consider It A Win: There are more than a few winnable conference games for Fresno, but Idaho at home should not present too many problems.

 

Circle It: The non-conference games are nice, but the WAC could very well be determined when the Bulldogs return to the blue turf.

 

Aug. 30 - at UCLA

Sept. 6 - at Kansas State

Sept. 13 - Wisconsin

Sept. 20 - at Toledo

Oct. 4 - Hawaii

Oct. 11 - Idaho

Oct. 25 - at Utah State

Nov. 1 - at Louisiana Tech

Nov. 7 - Nevada

Nov. 15 - New Mexico State

Nov. 21 - at San Jose State

Nov. 28 - at Boise State

 

 

Wisconsin

 You'd be hard-pressed to find a Big Ten team with the toughest schedule in the country because the league always plays an easy non-conference slate. But Wisconsin actually plays some respectable non-BCS schools this year and has a tough trip the third week of the season visiting Fresno State. And the Big Ten did not do Bret Bielema's crew any favors by placing Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State as the Badgers first three conference opponents.

 

Consider It A Win: Hosting Cal Poly is an unusual way to finish out the season, but one of the Great West's best should be easy pickings for the Badgers.

 

Circle It: Wisconsin played the Buckeyes tough last year until things just fell apart in the fourth quarter. Two of the conference's best teams battle early and winner probably has the inside track at winning the league.

 

Aug. 30 - Akron

Sept. 6 - Marshall

Sept. 13 - at Fresno State

Sept. 27 - at Michigan

Oct. 4 - Ohio State

Oct. 11 - Penn State

Oct. 18 - at Iowa

Oct. 25 - Illinois

Nov. 1 - at Michigan State

Nov. 8 - at Indiana

Nov. 15 - Minnesota

Nov. 22 - Cal Poly

 

Miami

It's a rebuilding year for Randy Shannon as he enters his second season as the Hurricanes head coach and he has to deal with a bear of a schedule. There are very few easy games for Miami, who will start a quarterback with no college experience and that has yet to be named to go along with a defense that will be missing two of its best players from 2007. It was already going to be a frustrating year for `Canes fans before this schedule was finalized.

 

Consider It A Win: Charleston Southern. After that, it won't be easy.

 

Circle It: They're not going to win it, but the Florida game the second week of the season will be a great learning experience for the Canes. They'll face one of the best offenses in the country in a hostile environment. Miami may take it on the chin, but it'll be worth it down the road.

 

Aug. 28 - Charleston Southern 

Sept. 6 - at Florida

Sept. 20 - at Texas A&M

Sept. 27 - North Carolina

Oct. 4 - Florida State

Oct. 11 - UCF  

Oct. 18 - at Duke

Oct. 25 - Wake Forest

Nov. 1 - at Virginia

Nov. 13 - Virginia Tech

Nov. 20 - at Georgia Tech

Nov. 29 - at North Carolina State

 

 

Harder

 

 

Alabama

Nick Saban and company start off the season with a primetime Saturday night matchup with Clemson, who could easily be a Top 10 team when the polls come out. Then there are trips to Arkansas and Georgia back-to-back along with trips to both Tennessee and LSU.

 

Consider it A Win: We can only imagine what the spread is going to look like for the Tulane game.

 

Circle It: There are a bunch you could point to, but we all know it's going to be an absolute circus surrounding the LSU game with Shy Guy Nick returning to the scene of his greatest accomplishment.

 

Aug. 30 - Clemson (Atlanta, Ga.)  

Sept. 6 - Tulane  

Sept. 13 - Western Kentucky

Sept. 20 - at Arkansas

Sept. 27 - at Georgia

Oct. 4 - Kentucky   

Oct. 18 - Ole Miss   

Oct. 25 - at Tennessee

Nov. 1 - Arkansas State   

Nov. 8 - at LSU

Nov. 15 - at Mississippi State  

Nov. 29 - Auburn

 

West Virginia

The Big East will once again be a distant sixth in the BCS conference rankings, but the Mountaineers, under new head coach Bill Stewart, are going to have their hands full with the likes of Pittsburgh and USF to end the season, along with matchups on the road with Connecticut and an early-season swing to ECU and the ever-improving Colorado.

 

Consider It A Win: Syracuse. The Mountaineers will have almost two weeks to prepare for Auburn and they'll tear through the Orange at home before taking some time off in anticipation of the Tigers.

 

Circle It: Clearly, it's the Auburn game. It's a Thursday night, primetime game, both should be highly-ranked and it'll be a fun battle between two unique spread offenses.

 

Aug. 30 - Villanova

Sept. 6 - at East Carolina

Sept. 18 - at Colorado

Sept. 27 - Marshall

Oct. 4 - Rutgers  

Oct .11 - Syracuse

Oct .23 - Auburn

Nov. 1 - at Connecticut

Nov. 8 - Cincinnati  

Nov. 22 - at Louisville

Nov. 28 - at Pittsburgh

Dec. 6 - USF

 

Colorado

That 2-10 season will be nothing but a distant memory for the Buffaloes when the 2008 campaign begins the last Saturday of August. And coming off the bowl appearance last December, things haven't looked this good at Colorado in some time. The only problem is, Dan Hawkins up-and-coming team faces a pretty brutal schedule having to meet both Missouri and Kansas on the road, playing Florida State at a "neutral" site and welcoming in West Virginia on a Thursday night. Buffaloes have a brutal stretch starting Sept. 18 that doesn't let up until the first weekend of November. But looking on the bright side, they do avoid Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

 

Consider It A Win: Not many easy ones on this one, but no way Hawkins club falls to an I-AA squad in Eastern Washington like it did a few years back to Montana State in 2006.

 

Circle It: Plenty to chose from, and avenging that embarrassing loss to Missouri last season would be a logical choice, but it'll be imperative that Colorado beat Kansas Oct. 11 because going 1-2 against West Virginia, Florida State and Texas could be a lot to ask for.

 

Aug. 30 - Colorado State (Denver)   

Sept. 6 - Eastern Washington   

Sept. 18 - West Virginia   

Sept. 27 - Florida State (Jacksonville, Fla.)

Oct. 4 - Texas  

Oct. 11 - at Kansas  

Oct. 18 - Kansas State   

Oct. 25 - at Missouri  

Nov. 1 - at Texas A&M   

Nov. 8 - Iowa State

Nov. 15 - Oklahoma State   

Nov. 28 - at Nebraska   

 

 

Hardest

 

 

UCLA

Rick Neuheisel will not have it easy during his first year as the Bruins head coach. He starts out with Fresno State, hosts Tennessee and then has to travel to BYU for a very difficult game against what should be a very good team. And then the Pac-10 schedule starts. Have fun with that.

 

Consider It A Win: Few guarantees on this one, but go with Washington State. The Cougars hung an embarrassing and surprising loss on the Bruins in Pullman last year.

 

Circle It: Talk of USC will always consume the Bruins, but with a road trip to Arizona State a couple of weeks before their season finale with the Trojans and having just played Washington in Seattle the week before, UCLA could be in big trouble against the Sun Devils.

 

Aug. 30 - Fresno State

Sept. 6 - Tennessee  

Sept. 13 - at BYU

Sept. 20 - Arizona

Oct. 4 - Washington State

Oct. 11 - at Oregon

Oct. 18 - Stanford  

Oct. 25 - at California

Nov. 8 - Oregon State

Nov. 15 - at Washington

Nov. 28 - at Arizona State

Dec. 6 - USC

 

USC

The Trojans always play a tough slate and this year is no different. Their non-conference schedule is almost always one of the toughest in the country and this year's features Virginia, Ohio State and, of course, Notre Dame. They luck out getting Arizona State and Cal at home this year, but if the Trojans find themselves in yet another BCS title game, they will have certainly deserved it going through this gauntlet.

 

Consider It A Win: There really aren't any easy ones, but Pete Carroll doesn't lose to Arizona.

 

Circle It: You have to go with Ohio State the second week of the season. The last matchup between the two came in 1990 so it's been awhile, and they're both going to be Top 5 teams.

 

Aug. 30 - at Virginia

Sept. 13 - Ohio State  

Sept. 25 - at Oregon State

Oct. 4 - Oregon

Oct. 11 - Arizona State

Oct 18 - at Washington State

Oct. 25 - at Arizona

Nov. 1 - Washington

Nov. 8 - California

Nov. 15 - at Stanford

Nov. 29 - Notre Dame

Dec. 6 - at UCLA

 

Georgia

Unquestionably one the top teams heading into next year faces the toughest schedule in the country -- bar none. Not only do the Bulldogs have to run through the gauntlet that is the SEC -- and more precisely the SEC East -- but they have to head all the way out West to take on Arizona State sandwiched between South Carolina and Alabama. If Georgia emerges from this schedule with just one loss -- or dare we say undefeated -- you're going to have a very hard time keeping them out of the national title game.

 

Consider It A Win: Georgia Southern. No chance of an Appalachian State here, even if the Eagles hail from the same conference as the Mountaineers.

 

Circle It: The annual showdown between the Gators and Bulldogs will be for the SEC East title and quite possibly an inside track toward the national title.

 

Aug. 30 - Georgia Southern 

Sept. 6 - Central Michigan

Sept. 13 - at South Carolina

Sept. 20 - at Arizona State 

Sept. 27 - Alabama  

Oct. 11 - Tennessee

Oct. 18 - Vanderbilt

Oct. 25 - at LSU 

Nov. 1 - Florida (Jacksonville, Fla.)

Nov. 8 - at Kentucky

Nov. 15 - at Auburn

Nov. 29 - Georgia Tech

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