May 26, 2006

Scheduling for a Championship

Sometimes you can just do everything to help yourself get to the title game. Today's focus is on those teams that have themselves positioned well for national or conference title run with their scheduling - (two per conference) :

USC Trojans - The Men of Troy don't play the easiest schedule, but they picked a good year to get everyone they need at home. In conference, California, Arizona State, and Oregon all venture to the Coliseum as well as Notre Dame and Nebraska. Their toughest road games are Arkansas and UCLA, who both took severe beatings from the Trojans in 2005.

California Golden Bears - The Bears venture to Knoxville on opening weekend and could springboard to big things if they get a win. USC in late November provides the only other road game vs. a winning team in 2005. Minnesota and Portland State round out the non-conference at home. Arizona State, Oregon, and UCLA all venture to Berkeley.

Auburn Tigers - The Plainsmen get LSU, Florida, and Georgia all coming to Jordan-Hare. Road games are against mid-level SEC schools looking for the upset: South Carolina, Mississippi State, and Mississippi. Then there is always the game at Alabama. Non-conference gets a small boost with Washington State, but features three cupcakes in Tulane, Arkansas State, and Buffalo.

South Carolina - Gamecocks only face Florida as their lone SEC road game versus a winning opponent last year. They travel to Clemson, but the idea is more SEC East Championship thinking here than national implications. The game with Clemson is basically an exhibition thinking along those lines. They get Auburn, Georgia, and Tennessee at home. Wofford, Florida Atlantic, and Middle Tennessee close out the non-conference slate.

Kansas State & Texas A&M - both have fallen on hard times, however their schedules for 2006 could feature a return to nine win seasons. K-State has gone back to their old scheduling habit - playing their first five of six at home with the road game being at Baylor. They lead off the year with Illinois State, Florida Atlantic, and Marshall. To their credit, they do play Louisville. Nebraska and Texas come to the Little Apple with trips to Missouri, Colorado, and Kansas in-conference. Oklahoma is not on the schedule.

For the Aggies they lead with the Citadel, Louisiana-Lafayette, Army in San Antonio, and Louisiana Tech. That is 4-0, folks. The conference slate sees Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Nebraska come for a visit to College Station with only a game in Austin as the lone road test against a winning Big XII team in 2005. (Okay, well at Kansas, but that is winnable.)

Ohio State - The Buckeyes' season will be determined on September 9th. They venture to Austin to take on Texas and if they win there, they will run the table, period. Penn State and Michigan both come to Columbus with road games only against Iowa and Northwestern as trouble spots. Outside of Texas, the Buckeyes play three freebies (Cincinnati, Northern Illinois, and Bowling Green).

Iowa - For me, the Big Ten will be decided on September 30th in Iowa City when Iowa hosts Ohio State. The Hawkeyes have a conducive schedule to capitalize if they can win that game. Road games against 2005 winners include Michigan and Minnesota. Northwestern and Wisconsin venture to Iowa City.

Pittsburgh - I don't have much faith in Wanny, however the Panthers could reasonably start the year 10-0 before facing West Virginia and Louisville both at home to close the year. They have tough games against Virginia and Michigan State at home and some trip-up games on the road at South Florida, Central Florida, and Connecticut. Granted, this is a team that lost to Ohio last year, too. Either Wanny had his first year jitters removed or he simply cannot coach himself out of a paper bag. 2006 will tell the tale.

Louisville - If the Cardinals can't get to a BCS game in 2006, they need to never think about it again. Home tilts include Miami and West Virginia and road games at Pittsburgh and Kansas State. Provided U of L doesn't pull a mental lapse like they did last year at South Florida, those four games should determine their fate.

Florida State - Eight home games including Clemson, Boston College, and Florida will help the Noles defend their ACC title. Their two road tests are Miami right off the bat on Labor Day and at North Carolina State on an ESPN Thursday game in early October. Troy, Rice, and Western Michigan round out the weak non-conference portion.

Miami, FL - Miami has home games against Virginia Tech and Boston College. Their road games include Louisville, Georgia Tech (who beat them last year in Miami), and Virginia. If Coker and his new posse of assistants can return the swagger to the Canes then a win in their all-important date with FSU would return them to the ACC title game if they hold serve at home.

Notre Dame - Said it once and I'll say it again, the Irish schedule sets up for a BCS run at least, a national championship at best. Home games against Michigan, Penn State, and UCLA are tempered with travels to Georgia Tech to start the season and USC at the end. No doubt the Irish will be ready for their trip to East Lansing. A 10-2 record gets the Irish into the BCS and this slate promises that finish.

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Heavenly time period: College football season until the championship game of March Madness.