Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Friday, September 5, 2008
Updated: September 9, 5:01 PM ET
Formidable: the BCS teams that don't avoid competition

By Thomas Neumann
Page 2

CUPCAKE SEASON 2008

Frightful: The 10 biggest BCS bullies

Formidable: The gutsiest BCS teams

Fearless: The 11 most dangerous non-BCS teams

Upsets: The 10 biggest surprise wins of the BCS era

SDSU seeks elusive signature win

Another almost for SDSU at Notre Dame

Stats: Cupcake data on every BCS school

Community: Discuss the BCS bullies

While a number of programs from BCS conferences seem unwilling to pick on someone their own size, others are indeed willing to schedule stiff competition year in and year out.

These are the schools that are willing to go toe-to-toe with programs of equal stature on a regular basis. They're willing to take risks as well as reap rewards.

"We're looking to schedule as hard as possible," said USC coach Pete Carroll. "We're not looking to stack up wins. That mentality is not something we need."

So while some schools prefer to savage teams from the Division I-AA ranks (Football Championship Subdivision) and make us wait until October each year to watch meaningful games, the schools on the following list usually give us reasons to get excited before Labor Day.

Here are the BCS schools that chose to play the highest percentage of their nonconference games against BCS opposition from the time the BCS was formed in 1998 through last season. Obviously, teams don't get to select their opponents in bowl games, so bowls are not factored into this study. The following data represent regular-season, nonconference games for the period of 1998-2007.



1. Florida State 70.3%

No. of nonconf. gms. Rec. vs. BCS Rec. vs. I-A non-BCS Rec. vs. I-AA Pct. of gms. vs. BCS
37 16-10 (.615) 9-1 (.900) 1-0 (1.000) .703

The Seminoles have begun playing softer nonconference schedules in recent seasons, including -- gasp! -- Division I-AA Citadel in 2005. Nevertheless, over the past decade, no other program has been willing to play the big boys more often out of conference. Of course, Florida State's annual matchup against Miami became conference fare when the Hurricanes joined the ACC in 2004. Notably, FSU is 5-5 in its past 10 meetings with rival Florida, but 0-4 since 2004. We wonder whether Bobby Bowden's crew, coming off back-to-back 7-6 seasons, will continue to scale back schedule difficulty in the coming years. The Seminoles will play more I-AA teams (two) in 2008 than they did in the previous 12 years combined (one).



2. USC 64.9%

No. of nonconf. gms. Rec. vs. BCS Rec. vs. I-A non-BCS Rec. vs. I-AA Pct. of gms. vs. BCS
37 18-6 (.750) 13-0 (1.000) 0-0 .649

Arguably, USC has played the most quality nonconference opponents in the nation over the past decade. The Trojans have played home and away during that span against Arkansas, Auburn, Colorado, Kansas State and Nebraska. USC also plays a home-and-home series against Ohio State this season and next. USC was rewarded with a No. 1 national ranking this week after traveling across the country and routing Virginia last weekend. The Trojans leaped over Georgia and Ohio State in the AP poll -- two teams that opened with I-AA opponents. USC has played in six consecutive BCS bowl games, winning five. It's reasonable to think the program's fearlessness in scheduling has played a role in that success.



3. Georgia Tech 57.1%

No. of nonconf. gms. Rec. vs. BCS Rec. vs. I-A non-BCS Rec. vs. I-AA Pct. of gms. vs. BCS
35 11-9 (.550) 10-1 (.909) 4-0 (1.000) .571

The Yellow Jackets get a difficult nonconference test every year from intrastate rival Georgia. Georgia Tech is 3-7 in its past 10 meetings with the Bulldogs -- 0-7 since Mark Richt took the coaching reins down in Athens. However, Tech played four I-AA opponents from 1998 to 2007, more than all but one team on this list. One of the most memorable games for the Yellow Jackets during this span came in a 33-3 win at Notre Dame last season. Tech flexed its defensive muscles so effectively that the Irish lured defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta to South Bend after the season.



4. UCLA 56.3%

No. of nonconf. gms. Rec. vs. BCS Rec. vs. I-A non-BCS Rec. vs. I-AA Pct. of gms. vs. BCS
32 10-8 (.556) 13-1 (.929) 0-0 .563

UCLA hasn't enjoyed the same success in recent years as its crosstown rival, but the team from Westwood shares USC's willingness to schedule tough opponents. The Bruins played an extraordinary nonconference game to cap the 1998 regular season, losing 49-45 at Miami in a game rescheduled from earlier in the season because of Hurricane Georges. UCLA saw a 20-game winning streak and its national championship hopes end as Miami's Edgerrin James ran for 299 yards and three scores. The Bruins' only loss to a non-BCS foe was a 44-6 blowout at Utah in 2007.



5. North Carolina 54.3%

No. of nonconf. gms. Rec. vs. BCS Rec. vs. I-A non-BCS Rec. vs. I-AA Pct. of gms. vs. BCS
35 5-14 (.263) 6-6 (.500) 3-1 (.750) .543

While we admire the Tar Heels' willingness to butt heads with the big kids of college football out of conference, we would totally understand if UNC added a few cupcakes to its diet. The Tar Heels haven't finished above .500 since 2001, and one of the reasons is their performance against BCS opponents in nonconference games. North Carolina lost to I-AA Furman in 1999.



6. Michigan State 52.8%

No. of nonconf. gms. Rec. vs. BCS Rec. vs. I-A non-BCS Rec. vs. I-AA Pct. of gms. vs. BCS
36 13-6 (.684) 14-3 (.824) 0-0 .528

Which Big Ten team plays the most BCS foes out of conference? It isn't Ohio State or Michigan. In addition to an annual date with Notre Dame, the Spartans have played home and away against Missouri, Oregon, Pittsburgh and Rutgers in the past decade and completed a home-and-home with Cal last weekend. MSU also has gone 7-3 over the past 10 seasons against the Fighting Irish and hasn't played any I-AA teams during that span.



7. Iowa 51.4%

No. of nonconf. gms. Rec. vs. BCS Rec. vs. I-A non-BCS Rec. vs. I-AA Pct. of gms. vs. BCS
35 6-12 (.333) 13-2 (.867) 2-0 (1.000) .514

Staying in the Big Ten, the Hawkeyes haven't fared nearly as well against a tough nonconference slate. While Michigan State has gone 13-6 against the big boys outside of Big Ten play, Iowa has struggled to a 6-12 mark -- including 3-7 against intrastate rival Iowa State. If not for a home-and-home sweep against struggling Syracuse in 2006 and '07, the Hawkeyes' ledger would be even worse. Both of Iowa's non-BCS losses came at the hands of Western Michigan.



8. Miami 51.2%

No. of nonconf. gms. Rec. vs. BCS Rec. vs. I-A non-BCS Rec. vs. I-AA Pct. of gms. vs. BCS
41 14-7 (.667) 14-1 (.933) 5-0 (1.000) .512

Although the Hurricanes have been entirely unimpressive the past two seasons, their body of work over the first decade of the BCS was among the nation's best. We'll focus on their 14-7 mark against BCS foes outside of conference play. Miami has locked horns with Colorado, Florida, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Washington during that span. However, the Hurricanes have played five games against I-AA opponents, the most on this list. At least they haven't lost any of them. Miami's lone defeat to a non-BCS team came against East Carolina in 1999.


      
9. Clemson , Duke ,  Penn State , Stanford , Syracuse , Virginia     50%

Team No. of nonconf. gms. Rec. vs. BCS Rec. vs. I-A non-BCS Rec. vs. I-AA Pct. of gms. vs. BCS
Clemson    34 10-7 (.588) 11-1 (.917) 5-0 (1.000) .500

Team No. of nonconf. gms. Rec. vs. BCS Rec. vs. I-A non-BCS Rec. vs. I-AA Pct. of gms. vs. BCS
Duke         34 2-15 (.118) 3-9 (.250) 4-1 (.800) .500

Team No. of nonconf. gms. Rec. vs. BCS Rec. vs. I-A non-BCS Rec. vs. I-AA Pct. of gms. vs. BCS
Penn State 36 10-8 (.556) 16-1 (.941) 1-0 (1.000) .500

Team No. of nonconf. gms. Rec. vs. BCS Rec. vs. I-A non-BCS Rec. vs. I-AA Pct. of gms. vs. BCS
Stanford     30 5-15 (.333) 8-6 (.571) 0-1 (.000) .500

Team No. of nonconf. gms. Rec. vs. BCS Rec. vs. I-A non-BCS Rec. vs. I-AA Pct. of gms. vs. BCS
Syracuse    46 5-18 (.217) 17-5 (.773) 1-0 (1.000) .500

Team No. of nonconf. gms. Rec. vs. BCS Rec. vs. I-A non-BCS Rec. vs. I-AA Pct. of gms. vs. BCS
Virginia      36 10-8 (.556) 11-5 (.688) 2-0 (1.000) .500

With Clemson, Duke and Virginia checking in here, that makes seven ACC teams that scheduled 50 percent or more of their nonconference games against BCS foes between 1998 and 2007. No other conference is even close. Duke and Syracuse have suffered some punishing results for their daunting scheduling. Of course, the Blue Devils also were shut out by I-AA Richmond in 2006. So pick your poison. Penn State and Stanford also check in here to give the Big Ten and Pac-10 three teams in the formidable camp.



Notable: Notre Dame 83.5%

No. of games Rec. vs. BCS Rec. vs. I-A non-BCS Rec. vs. I-AA Pct. of gms. vs. BCS
115 55-41 (.573) 16-3 (.842) 0-0 .835

The Fighting Irish are in an unusual position as the only independent BCS school. Because all their games are nonconference games, they don't truly fit the parameters of this study. Sometimes Notre Dame is criticized for what is perceived by some to be an easy schedule, but that's not exactly accurate. After all, how many programs would honestly be willing to face USC and Michigan every year? Based on a 12-game schedule, the Irish play an average of 10 games per year against BCS foes. Likewise, this year they play 10 BCS opponents and two non-BCS schools. Compared to the Big East, which plays only seven conference games, that equates to 60 percent of nonconference games against the BCS -- good enough for No. 3 in this study. Compared to the Pac-10, which plays nine conference games, the number drops to 33 percent, which would rank in the middle of the pack. For added perspective, consider that when we factor in conference games over the past decade, Florida State played 90.7 percent of its total games against BCS competition, while USC came in at 89.9 percent.


Note: Former Big East member Temple and current Big East members Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville and South Florida aren't tabulated in this study because they weren't BCS conference members during the entire span of 1998-2007. These schools are considered BCS opponents for the years they were Big East members: Temple (1998-2004), Connecticut (2004-07), Cincinnati (2005-07), Louisville (2005-07) and South Florida (2005-07). Additionally, Connecticut counts as a Division I-AA or provisional I-A member through the 2001 season and a non-BCS I-A member in 2002-03. South Florida was a Division I-AA or provisional I-A member through the 2000 season and a non-BCS I-A member from 2001 to '04. Other schools that moved up to the Division I-A classification during 1998-2007 are classified as I-AA until their first official I-A season.


Thomas Neumann is an editor for Page 2. You can contact him here.