College football will be back in our lives in six weeks (but who’s counting?), so we went through the 2019 regular season schedules of every Power Five team and analyzed each school’s non-conference schedule, bye weeks, road games and cross-division games for this fall to see what stood out.
Some schools’ schedules set them up for division, conference or national title contention, while other teams have a difficult path to live up to their 2018 accomplishments or lofty preseason expectations.
Here’s a scheduling takeaway for every Power Five school, plus Notre Dame.
The Crimson Tide won’t play consecutive road games all season and has a bye week before what could be its toughest road game of the season — Week 7 at Texas A&M.
The Wildcats have a bye week before three of their 12 regular season games: Northern Arizona (Sept. 7), UCLA (Sept. 28) and at Oregon (Nov. 16).
The Sun Devils have a favorable final month of the regular season, hosting USC on Nov. 9, Oregon on Nov. 23 and Arizona on Nov. 30 with their only road game in that stretch coming on Nov. 16 at Oregon State. Plus, they don’t have to play Washington or Stanford in their cross-division games.
The Razorbacks play Alabama and LSU — the two SEC teams that finished the highest in the final AP Top 25 Poll last season — on the road, which is less than desirable, but they host Texas A&M, Auburn and Mississippi State. Their only other road game against a division opponent is Ole Miss, who went 1-7 in conference play last season to Arkansas’ 0-8.
Arkansas drew Kentucky and Missouri for its cross-division games, which means it won’t have to face Georgia or Florida — another scheduling win.
The Tigers will finish the regular season with home games against Georgia and Alabama in their final three games, which gives them the potential to make a late-season climb up the rankings and a run at the SEC West title like they did in 2017.
However, Auburn first has to make it through a five-game stretch in which it plays on the road four times against Texas A&M, Florida, Arkansas and LSU. The Tigers have a bye week between Florida and Arkansas.
The Bears will host the Big 12’s top four teams from last season — Oklahoma (Nov. 16), Texas (Nov. 23), Iowa State (Sept. 28) and West Virginia (Oct. 31). Baylor may not be ready for Big 12 Championship contention, but it couldn’t ask for a friendlier schedule.
The Eagles’ first three non-conference games are against Richmond, Kansas and on the road at Rutgers, which is important for Boston College’s season win total because its last five games are at Clemson, at Syracuse, home against Florida State, at Notre Dame and at Pittsburgh. Woof.
You could make the case that Cal drew just about the toughest slate of road games as possible in Pac-12 play: at Washington (Sept. 7), at Oregon (Oct. 5), at Utah (Oct. 26), at Stanford (Nov. 23) and at UCLA (Nov. 30).
The game that could potentially serve as Clemson’s most impressive win for its playoff resume comes in Week 2 in non-conference play when Texas A&M comes to town, but because of the Aggies’ own grueling schedule, a win for the Tigers could get devalued later in the season — somewhat unfairly, we should add — if the Aggies take on four or five losses.
The Buffaloes will have short weeks before two of their marquee matchups — at Oregon in Week 7 and home against USC in Week 9 — due to those games being played on a Friday. However, Colorado has a bye week before reigning Pac-12 champion Washington travels to Boulder in Week 13.
The Blue Devils open the season against an Alabama team whose last game was the worst loss of the Nick Saban era. We wish Duke well.
You could make the case that five of Florida’s six biggest games will be played in the Gators’ home state. We’re referring to games against Miami (FL) in Orlando, Tennessee, Auburn and Florida State in Gainesville, and Georgia in Jacksonville. A trip to LSU in Week 7 is the notable exception.
There’s a chance Florida State’s biggest conference game (Clemson), biggest non-conference game (Florida) and biggest cross-division game (Virginia, potentially) are all on the road.
The Bulldogs have two different stretches of at least five weeks between one road game to their next road game. Georgia opens the season at Vanderbilt and doesn’t travel again until it plays at Tennessee in Week 6. After that, Georgia doesn’t play a true road game until Week 12 at Auburn.
The Yellow Jackets open the season at Clemson and host Georgia in their regular season finale, which means Georgia Tech’s season will likely be defined by how it performs in the 10 games that are located in the middle of that playoff contender sandwich.
It might be fair to set an over/under win total of 1.5 for Illinois from Week 4 through the end of the season.
After opening the season with games against Akron, UConn and Eastern Michigan, the Fighting Illini play Nebraska, at Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, at Purdue, Rutgers (*cough*), at Michigan State, at Iowa and Northwestern.
The Hoosiers have made it a habit in the last half-decade or so of playing Ohio State and Michigan frustratingly close before their upset bid predictably unravels.
This season they host the Buckeyes in Week 3 in what will be Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields’ first road game as a starter, and they host the Wolverines in Week 12 in a potential trap game between Michigan’s games against Michigan State and Ohio State.
We’re not predicting upsets in either matchup, we’re just providing an informed opinion that you might want to be in front of your TV for some entertaining football on Sept. 14 and Nov. 23 — at least for the first halves.
The Hawkeyes play fellow Big Ten West contenders Northwestern, Wisconsin and Nebraska on the road and two of their cross-division games are at Michigan and against Penn State. Then there’s a trip to Iowa State in Week 3, so Iowa’s 2019 season is more likely to be one of the seven or eight-win variety rather than a breakthrough 11 or 12-win season like in 2009 and 2015.
The Cyclones could be favored in each of their first eight games, which potentially sets up a major showdown in Norman, Oklahoma with the Sooners in Week 10. The next week Iowa State hosts Texas, so early November is a critical stretch for the Cyclones.
The first four conference games of the Les Miles era at Kansas are West Virginia, at TCU, Oklahoma and at Texas. Welcome back, Les.
The Wildcats will end the regular season with 10 consecutive games against Power Five opponents, half of which are on the road — Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Texas and Texas Tech.
We’ll know by mid-October how real the Wildcats are in 2019. Kentucky started 7-1 last year, which put the ‘Cats in contention for the SEC East title. This fall, Kentucky faces Florida in Week 3, Mississippi State and South Carolina on the road in Week 4 and 5, respectively, followed by a trip to Georgia in Week 8.
You can argue the two biggest games of the Tigers’ season are on the road: at Texas in Week 2 and at Alabama in Week 10. LSU opened as the favorite in the former, and it’ll likely be an underdog in the latter. If the Tigers can win in Austin, that will set them up to earn a high ranking with their next stretch of games, including manageable opponents in Northwestern State, Vanderbilt and Utah State.
Louisville Head Coach Scott Satterfield’s first season with the Cardinals breaks down like this:
- September: season-opener against Notre Dame; Week 4 trip to Florida State
- October: games against four opponents that won at least seven games last season, including Clemson
- November: road games at Miami (FL), NC State and Kentucky; host Syracuse
Satterfield had tremendous success at Appalachian State, but he’ll quickly face a new level of competition with an ACC schedule and a non-conference slate that includes Notre Dame and Kentucky.
The Terrapins’ four games in November are as follows: vs. Michigan, at Ohio State, vs. Nebraska and at Michigan State. So even if Maryland stays afloat against Syracuse, Penn State, at Purdue and at Minnesota, its closing stretch is a gauntlet.
The Hurricanes better take advantage of September and October, when they play five consecutive games at home before finishing with four of their last five on the road.
The Wolverines have their share of challenging road games — at Wisconsin and Penn State — but you could make the case that their three biggest games of the season are at home: Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State.
In a seven-game stretch, Michigan State has road games at Northwestern, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan, plus a home game against Penn State. That’s as tough of a stretch as there is in the Big Ten.
The Gophers have a relatively favorable draw in their cross-division games against Big Ten East opponents. Minnesota will travel to Rutgers before hosting Maryland and Penn State in three consecutive weeks.
The Bulldogs only play four road games all season, but they come in a five-game stretch in the heart of Mississippi State’s season: at Auburn, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Arkansas. The three home games that come before, in the middle, and after that stretch aren’t gimmes, either — Kentucky in Week 4, LSU in Week 8 and Alabama in Week 11.
The majority of the Tigers’ divisional games are backloaded in consecutive weeks: at Vandy, at Kentucky, at Georgia, Florida and Tennessee in Weeks 8-12.
The Huskers’ conference home games set them up to potentially have a breakout season that many prognosticators have projected. In Week 5, Nebraska hosts Ohio State in what could be its biggest game of the season and a potential “College GameDay” location. The Huskers also host reigning Big Ten West champion Northwestern and division contenders Wisconsin and Iowa in November.
The Tar Heels’ first three games are against Power Five opponents (South Carolina, Miami (FL) and Wake Forest) and two of them are away from home (vs. South Carolina in Charlotte, at Wake Forest).
Appalachian State travels to Chapel Hill in Week 4, followed by Clemson, then North Carolina goes to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. That’s not the friendliest of starts for the (second) Mack Brown era at North Carolina.
While the Wolfpack only have four days in between a home game against Louisville in Week 12 and a road game at Georgia Tech in Week 13, NC State has a bye week before it hosts Syracuse, then eight days off before playing at Boston College, then another bye week before playing at Wake Forest.
That’s three weeks in a row of extended time off for recovery and scouting.
There’s a pretty good chance the Wildcats will be favored in each of their last five games — at Indiana, Purdue, UMass, Minnesota and at Illinois — but their first seven games will determine if Northwestern plays for the Big Ten Championship.
Northwestern plays on the road against Stanford, Wisconsin and Nebraska in its first five games, and it hosts Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa before November. Wildcat fans might take a 3-2 start in Big Ten play if you could guarantee them it before the start of the season.
The Fighting Irish could be in the driver’s seat to earn one of the four playoff spots at the end of October, or they could be essentially eliminated from the conversation at that point in the season.
That’s because Notre Dame plays at Georgia and at Michigan.
Those are potentially two of the best wins available in the regular season, so a sweep of those two games (and Notre Dame not taking any more than one loss elsewhere on its schedule) would leave the Fighting Irish somewhere near the top of most rankings.
You can divide Ohio State’s 2019 schedule into three groups of four games:
- The projected wins: FAU, Cincinnati, at Indiana, Miami (OH)
- The swing stretch: at Nebraska, Michigan State, at Northwestern, Wisconsin
- Finishing the job: Maryland, at Rutgers, Penn State, at Michigan
On paper, the Buckeyes should start 4-0 before a more difficult four-game stretch including two road games and two home games against respectable conference opponents. During the seven years of the Urban Meyer era, Ohio State went undefeated once, suffered just one loss on three occasions and lost two games in a season three times, and the Buckeyes never lost to Michigan.
If new Ohio State Coach Ryan Day is going to keep the status quo in Columbus, the Buckeyes will have to start at least 7-1 and win their regular season finale in Ann Arbor.
That’s a tall task in Year One for any coach.
The combined 2018 record of the five opponents Oklahoma will play on the road this fall was 25-37. Those teams are UCLA, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State. The four Big 12 schools that will host the Sooners went 11-25 in conference play last year.
Five of the Cowboys’ first eight games this fall will be on the road, including games at Texas and Iowa State.
Oklahoma State won’t play back-to-back home games until Nov. 16.
The Rebels better capitalize on their first four games because their next eight games are at Alabama, against Vandy, at Missouri, Texas A&M, at Auburn, New Mexico State, LSU and at Mississippi State. On paper, that feels like more losses than wins during that stretch.
One way to try to predict which teams are in position for a breakthrough season is by looking at the number of home games they play. This fall the Ducks play seven home games — a number many athletic directors try to hit for the sake of revenue and competitive advantage — and just four road games, along with their neutral-site opener against Auburn.
However, those four road games are at Stanford, Washington, USC and Arizona State. If Oregon is going to make a run at the College Football Playoff, it might need to win all four.
This is the second year in a row that Oregon State opens its season against another “OSU” school. Last year, the Beavers traveled to Ohio State for a 77-31 loss, and this fall, they’ll host Oklahoma State on Aug. 30.
If the Cowboys win, we’ll need an Ohio State-Oklahoma State matchup to decide which school is the “real” OSU.
If there’s a window of opportunity for a shift in power in the Big Ten after Urban Meyer’s retirement, Penn State could throw its hat in the ring. But the Nittany Lions will embark on a 2019 schedule that features 10 consecutive games against Power Five opponents to end the season and their only bye week in that stretch comes after Week 3.
Half of those 10 games are on the road, including trips to Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State, plus a home game against Michigan.
Since the reigning ACC Coastal champion Panthers don’t play Clemson in the regular season, the two games on Pittsburgh’s schedule that jump out are Week 3 at Penn State and Week 4 against UCF.
Pitt played both schools last season when both were ranked No. 13, and the Panthers lost both games by a combined score of 96-20. If they’re going to improve upon their .500 record from last season, they might need to win at least one of those games.
Even though Purdue pulled off one of the biggest upsets last season when it toppled No. 2 Ohio State 49-20, the Boilermakers went just 6-6 in the regular season. Jeff Brohm signed a new contract to remain in West Lafayette that made him one of the 20 highest-paid head coaches in the sport and now the question is whether Purdue can become a perennial Big Ten West contender.
The Boilermakers have favorable conference home games — Minnesota, Maryland, Illinois, Nebraska and Indiana — but they play 11 Power Five opponents this fall with non-conference games against Vandy and TCU. Their season-opener is a road game at Nevada.
The Scarlet Knights went 1-11 last season, so the only way they can have a worse season is by going winless. Rutgers has two different three-game stretches that are incredibly difficult for a program trying to find a way out of Big Ten East purgatory: at Iowa, Boston College, at Michigan; Ohio State, Michigan State, at Penn State.
The good news for the Gamecocks is that they get to play their toughest games at home this fall. The bad news is those games are against Alabama and Clemson. Throw in a home game against Florida and South Carolina could host three top-10 teams, not including road games at Georgia and Texas A&M, which makes the Gamecocks’ schedule one of the toughest in the country.
The Cardinal will host two of the Pac-12’s top contenders this fall in Washington and Oregon, but Stanford also has one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country with home games against Northwestern and Notre Dame, plus a trip to UCF.
Winning the ACC Atlantic requires one to go through Clemson, which means that Syracuse’s Week 3 matchup at home with the Tigers is an incredible opportunity if the Orange is going to build on its 10-3 campaign from last year.
In what will be a challenging stretch, the Horned Frogs travel to Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma between Oct. 5 and Nov. 23.
The Volunteers only play two road games in the first 10 weeks of the season — Week 4 at Florida and Week 8 at Alabama — but it’s those games, plus trips to Kentucky and Missouri, that could keep Tennessee from SEC East contention for at least a year.
The Longhorns only leave the state of Texas once in the first 11 weeks, when they travel to West Virginia in Week 6. Texas plays Rice in Houston and Oklahoma in Dallas, plus TCU on the road, so it’s not as if the Longhorns play all those games at home, but a home game with LSU and a bye week before their trip to play the Mountaineers sets up for a potentially opportunistic schedule.
There’s a strong case to be made that the Aggies have the toughest schedule in the country with road games at Clemson, Georgia and LSU, along with home games against Auburn, Alabama and Mississippi State.
Considering a two-loss team has never made the College Football Playoff, it appears highly unlikely Texas A&M is playoff-bound this season unless it can navigate its brutal schedule with no more than one loss.
The Red Raiders will play half of their games on the road next season, including trips to last season’s Big 12 Championship participants — Oklahoma and Texas. Texas Tech has lost between five and eight games in each of the last nine seasons and given its 2019 schedule, this fall will likely be more of the same.
The Bruins went 3-9 last season and with a non-conference schedule against opponents that went a combined 30-10 last season (Cincinnati, San Diego State and Oklahoma), UCLA has its work cut out for it before Pac-12 play even begins.
Speaking of tough non-conference schedules, two of USC’s three non-Pac-12 opponents this fall won 12 games last season — Fresno State and Notre Dame. The third, BYU, went 7-6 and will host the Trojans.
In a make-or-break season for USC Coach Clay Helton, the Trojans’ first six opponents of Fresno State, Stanford, at BYU, Utah, at Washington and at Notre Dame looks daunting.
The Utes don’t play Oregon or Stanford this fall, but they do take a trip to Seattle to play Washington in Week 10 in a rematch of last season’s Pac-12 Championship Game. That’s the biggest game on Utah’s schedule, and its other cross-division games against Cal and Oregon State are a favorable draw.
Does anybody have a tougher opening three-game slate than Vanderbilt, who has to play Georgia, at Purdue and LSU? Granted, two of those games are at home, but playing two top-10 teams, along with a talented Boilermakers squad, is a pretty rude awakening to a new season.
The Cavaliers play four road games in a five-week stretch in the heart of the season — at Notre Dame, at Miami (FL), at Louisville and at North Carolina — and while those opponents might get easier with each passing week, that will put Virginia to the test as it tries to challenge for the ACC Coastal.
The Hokies managed to avoid Clemson, Syracuse and NC State — the top three teams in the ACC Atlantic — in their cross-division games, which makes a trip to Notre Dame on Nov. 2 (after a bye week) the biggest game of the season.
The Demon Deacons’ final month of the season is their most challenging portion of their 2019 schedule: NC State, at Virginia Tech, at Clemson, Duke and at Syracuse. That stretch might feature four of their five toughest games all season.
The Huskies host Oregon and Utah — potentially their two toughest opponents this season — with a bye week in between.
The Cougars’ schedule could make it difficult for Washington State to contend for the Pac-12 North again this year given that it plays at Utah, Oregon and Washington. The Coogs also travel to Arizona State and Cal, and they’ll host Stanford.
The Mountaineers have a four-game stretch in which they play Texas, Iowa State, at Oklahoma and at Baylor, which might be as tough of a month as you’ll find in the Big 12 in 2019.
The Badgers received about as tough of a three-game, cross-divisional draw as is possible: Michigan, Michigan State and at Ohio State. Wisconsin finished three games behind Big Ten West champion Northwestern last season, and its 2019 schedule might keep it out of conference or division contention this year.