The American Athletic Conference is making a big push to become the Power Six conference, and the schedule makers are starting to bring the best they have to offer to the table.
USF made headlines with the announcement of three-game series with the Alabama Crimson Tide that begins in 2023. It is a huge pull for the Bulls, who will welcome a handful of the nation’s best over the next 10 years. It is also great for the AAC as they attempt to make their case into the College Football Playoff discussion after consecutive undefeated UCF teams have been snubbed of the opportunity the last two seasons. The Knights have been held out of the playoff discussion in large part because the CFP committee has not been in favor of their rather weak schedule.
Speaking of UCF, they are not too thrilled with how USF has been scheduling opponents. The Knights openly said they do not want to schedule two-for-one deals, which is exactly what USF has done with Miami and Florida, and now Alabama. The reasoning for this is simple: UCF draws big crowds at Spectrum Stadium, an on-campus facility, while USF plays their home games in Raymond James Stadium, which they rent from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The reasoning makes sense for both universities when you take into account their financial situations.
None of that matters once the players take the field.
This is USF’s opportunity to not only steal some recruits from in-state rivals, but a shot to knock off some of the historically best in the nation. A win over any of these programs will instantly put them, and the AAC, in the playoff discussion. The Knights, on the other hand, have a long ways to go in their upcoming out-of-conference schedule with just three P5 opponents on their schedule after this season.
We got into a discussion on a recent episode of the Underdog Pawdcast that Tulsa, coming off back-to-back losing seasons, has a better upcoming schedule than UCF. That is kind of mind-boggling when you consider the Knights desire to play the best. So where do the Knights rank in the AAC in regards to future opponents? Here, we will rank each team’s upcoming schedule.
1. USF Bulls
The Bulls are way out-in-front when it comes to their upcoming opponents. They play 13 games against six teams that have won a national championship (34 total) over the next 10 years, which includes in-state foes Miami and Florida. The hard part will be pulling of an undefeated season with so many juggernauts upcoming, but if they are capable of doing so, there is no reason they should be left out the playoff.
The Coogs have never shied away from competition, and that is evident by what is ahead for the program. They do not care which conference you come from either. They finish a series with Oklahoma this season, but over the course of the next decade, will square off against Washington State, BYU, Boise State, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, Kansas. Utah and Colorado. Dana Holgorsen will has his hands full with his new group of student-athletes, but there is an opportunity to get Houston in the CFP debate.
3. Temple Owls
The days of Temple being the punching bag for opponents are long gone. They secured deals with heavyweights such as Miami, Oklahoma and Penn State, in addition to meetings with Rutgers, Boston College, Georgia Tech and Duke. Not too shabby for a program that has become a pit stop for many up-and-coming coaches looking to get a P5 gig.
Luke Fickell will get his 2019 season started with a home game against UCLA, before traveling to Ohio State in Week 2. They get Miami (Ohio) on a consistent basis, and Nebraska, Indiana, Notre Dame, Pitt and Boise State all down the road.
ECU is not scared to take on the teams around them. They will battle South Carolina, Virginia Tech, NC State and App State in the foreseeable future, as well as Boise State, BYU and West Virginia. It’s an impressive group of opponents for a program looking to get back to their winning ways before joining the AAC.
Who would not want to take a trip to New Orleans? Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Oklahoma and Kansas State are the biggest names in a future schedule that will also feature Duke, Northwestern, Army, Wake Forest and Iowa State.
Tulsa recently secured an eight-game series with nearby Oklahoma State that should generate solid revenue for them. They will play at Ohio State, Washington and Ole Miss, and have series upcoming against Toledo, Arkansas State and Northern Illinois, which are typically some of the best G5 teams in the country.
They might not be producing a winner on the field, but they are doing their best to bring in quality competition. They will see a steady presence of the Big Ten with series against Indiana, Illinois and Purdue, as well as matchups against Boston College and defending national champions Clemson.
For a team that has been as successful as Mike Norvell’s bunch over the last four seasons, the schedule makers have not found many marquee matchups. Yes, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Purdue and Missouri are all upcoming, but so are meetings with UT Martin, North Alabama and Nicholls.
10. UCF Knights
As we noted before, the Knights only have three out-of-conference games scheduled, all against members of the Atlantic Coast Conference. They will play North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Louisville, all of which aren’t the best the ACC has to offer. It makes sense what AD Danny White is asking for, but they are running the risk of having few high-quality opponents if they don’t start locking things up soon.
11. Navy Midshipmen
The Mids have a valid excuse for their lackluster OOC schedule. Air Force and Army are on their schedule every season in the battle for the Commander-In-Chief trophy. What separates Navy from the team below is they also have a scheduled series with Notre Dame over the next decade.
12. SMU Mustangs
Other than a series with North Texas that lasts until 2025, there is not much to brag about if you are SMU. They have an FCS opponent scheduled four of the next six seasons, and the only matchup against a P5 program is a road game at Maryland in 2022.