In determining which BCS member schools play the toughest schedules in 2005 and which ones play the easiest, SI kept one question in mind: Is a school scheduling competitive games or automatic wins? Because of conference obligations, schools can control whom and where they play for only three, occasionally four, spots on their slates. Here are SI's top five in each category, giving big props to teams who hit the road to play tough nonconference foes.
1. NOTRE DAME (AP RANK: NR) Nonconference games: Does not apply
The independent Fighting Irish (above) have a schedule that is in a class by itself. They have dates with five Top 25 teams: visits to Pitt, Michigan and Purdue, plus home games against USC and Tennessee. Notre Dame's "weak" opponents? BYU, Stanford (on the road) and Syracuse.
2. USC (1) at Hawaii, Arkansas, at Notre Dame, Fresno State
Two nonconference games on the road is a rarity this fall for a major conference school--and the home game against Fresno State (following a visit to Cal) will be no easy W.
3. TEXAS (2) Louisiana-Lafayette, at Ohio State, Rice
In a year when the Longhorns are a national championship contender, the Sept. 10 trip to Columbus is a big risk.
4. ARKANSAS (NR) Southwest Missouri State, at USC, Louisiana-Monroe
No team in the SEC has a tougher nonconference road game than the Hogs' Sept. 17 matchup against the Trojans.
5. GEORGIA TECH (NR) at Auburn, Connecticut, Georgia
If that triumvirate isn't daunting enough, the Yellow Jackets get no respite in their ACC itinerary, which features dates at Miami and Virginia Tech.
1. TEXAS TECH (21) Florida International, Sam Houston State (I-AA), Indiana State (I-AA)
With not one but two Division I-AA home games, plus a third against a team in its first year of I-A, the Red Raiders (above) easily earn this distinction.
2. PENN STATE (NR) South Florida, Cincinnati, Central Michigan
There's an easy explanation for the Nittany Lions' scheduling three cupcakes at home: Penn State has gone 0--5 in nonconference road games over the past five seasons.
3. WASHINGTON STATE (NR) Idaho, at Nevada, Grambling State (I-AA)
This easy slate should take some of the sting out of having to go on the road to play Pac-10 rivals Cal and USC.
4. ALABAMA (24) Middle Tennessee State, Southern Miss, Utah State
The Tide should roll early. Even their SEC schedule is home-loaded with Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee and LSU coming to Tuscaloosa.
5. OKLAHOMA STATE (NR) Montana State (I-AA), at Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State
The Cowboys look like bottom-feeders, picking on two of the lowest-rated Division I-A programs. New coach Mike Gundy breathes a sigh of relief.