The non-conference portion of the college football schedule is generally an intriguing time: while we can always get excited for playing conference foes - the stakes higher and history richer - the non-con games are a time to see teams, programs, and fanbases that we aren't as familiar with. In the case of UC-Davis last week, we were meeting a program for the first time, a mildly exciting venture even with an FCS program. But there are a great number of FBS teams that Oregon has never taken on on the field, and Rob Mullens and company should really be looking to build new connections across the country. But which programs should Oregon be seeking out to play? Here's one man's opinion, in reverse order. But first? Some fun facts:
- Oregon has played every Mountain West team. That's great, because they're all boring and I don't feel like talking about them.
- This ranking won't include teams Oregon has played, but has never beaten. So you'll have to wait your turn Ohio State, Boise State, Kansas, Fordham, and Harvard (Oregon is 0-14-1 against these schools, by the way.)
- Oregon has never played a team from the Mid-American Conference. Frankly, the lack of any exposure to MACtion is why we've never won a national title. We'll get to the most desirable MACandidates are.
- Oregon is 52-3-4 all-time against Idaho. That’s just silly.
On to the rankings!
THESE ARE NOT REAL SCHOOLS
I don't know how the four laziest Create-a-Teams I've ever heard ended up being listed with FBS schools, but it's an oversight that should be corrected immediately.
I SO DON'T CARE, GROUP OF FIVE TIER
I guess I'd rather play these teams than an FCS team. Maybe. Remember when UConn went to a BCS bowl? That's all I got on any of these teams. They aren’t even ranked, because I honestly can’t tell you one thing that distinguishes Eastern Michigan from Buffalo from Florida Atlantic.
I SO DON’T CARE, POWER FIVE TIER
41. North Carolina State
40. Iowa State
37. Boston College
Again, there’s just zero that’s compelling about any of these teams. For the record, Virginia was in this group until our home-and-home began.
CHIPPEWAS IS FUN TO SAY
36. Central Michigan
It is, try it like 40 times in a row, right now. Chippewas. Chippewas! Chippewas... Chippewas? ChippeWAS!
THEY'RE FROM LOUISIANA, SO THEY'RE SLIGHTLY MORE INTERESTING THAN THE REST
34. Louisiana Tech
Plus, at least half of these teams could score at least 14 points against Wisconsin.
GROUP OF FIVE TEAMS THAT COULD BE FUN TO PLAY
31. Georgia Southern
28. Bowling Green
27. UT-San Antonio
Don’t ask me why, but I have a strange affinity for UTSA. I think I may have taken them to a national championship in NCAA12 or 13 once. Roadrunners are also charming.
GROUP OF FIVE TEAMS THAT MIGHT BE A BAD IDEA TO PLAY
26. Middle Tennessee State
25. East Carolina
23. Northern Illinois
22. Western Kentucky
All these teams are generally good at football, and can beat you if you make dumb mistakes or can’t control the line of scrimmage. Oregon did both of those last week against UC-Davis. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.
GROUP OF FIVE TEAMS THAT ARE ALMOST DEFINITELY A BAD IDEA TO PLAY
19. Western Michigan
17. Appalachian State
These teams want to play you. They believe they can beat you. They won’t stop trying to beat you. And in the case of Western Michigan, their head coach will leave town by rowing a canoe up the Willamette, just to show you that you’re a trash human.
I MISS YOU SCOTT FROST, WHY DON’T YOU RETURN MY CALLS?
16. Central Florida
I’ll move on eventually, just not yet. I’m sorry you have to be a witness to my journey of healing.
MODERATELY INTRIGUING POWER FIVE TEAMS
Vanderbilt has the added benefit of being able to exact some revenge on Derek Mason for his time as Stanford’s defensive coordinator. Duke would be the more entertaining matchup, by far.
13. Georgia Tech
I get the sense that facing a triple option team can screw a team up. It’s just such different football, with different mentalities and preparations needed to be successful. Let’s just stay away from that Ramblin’ Wreck, please.
SOME LUSTER LOST
12. South Carolina
11. Virginia Tech
I’d have been much more interested last year, with Steve Spurrier and Frank Beamer still at the helm of their respective programs. I’d still like to play Virginia Tech because it’s an excuse to watch Michael Vick highlights and call it research, and it’d really bother Southern California fans if all our South Carolina previews referred to them as USC.
AND NOW, THE TOP TEN
I was gonna say, we haven’t beaten up a member of the Stoops family in a while. But there’s no way Mark Stoops is still at Kentucky in 2022 or whenever we’d play them. So thinking ahead, I’ll say this: we haven’t beaten up on a Steve Sarkisian team in a while.
The last time we played a Bret Bielema team, it worked out pretty well for us. It’s also a great game to schedule early in the year, because you get the benefit of playing Arkansas in September when they’re a trash heap, and the bonus of having that win on your resume in November, when Arkansas is a runaway ice-cream truck that can’t be stopped.
8. North Carolina
Because if we schedule it now, Oregon head coach Gene Chizik will get to face his old team.
7. Texas A&M
This is a matchup that would be on its way to us, if only Texas A&M wasn’t scurred. You can use switching conferences as an excuse for cancelling the series, but we know the truth. Ya scurred!
They play fun football, they’ve firmly established themselves as a perennial Top 25 team, and if their football fans are anything like their basketball fans it’ll make for excellent fan mingling and blog shenanigans. Love you, Card Chronicle!
5. Ole Miss
The Rebels are among the SEC’s best and most exciting programs, tailgating in the Grove is on every college football fan’s bucket list, and you just know Jeremiah Masoli will come up in mixed company and we’ll chuckle fondly about him.
This wouldn’t actually be a football game between Oregon and Maryland. This would be a fashion show between Nike and Under Armour. Both apparel giants would pull out all the stops to be declared the winner of “Who Wore it Best?” Someone’s uniform would glow in the dark. Someone else’s uniform would light up. We’ve all wondered what would have happened if Liberace played Elton John in football, and now we’d get to find out.
A year ago, Baylor might have been #1 on this list. They’ve been alternate-universe Oregon for some time now: the offense is pass-heavy but just as exciting, the hues in the uniforms are a little more muted, but just as gaudy. But the disgusting scandal that embroiled Baylor this past offseason is going to change things in Waco, and it remains to be seen whether the program can rebound from such an ugly series of bad decisions. I’m inclined to only drop the Bears to #3 for now, but I have extreme reservations.
The Tigers, fresh off taking Alabama to the limit in the national championship game back in January, are the new exciting team du jour in college football, a position Oregon knows quite well. Deshaun Watson is Mariota-esque in his skillset, ability, and electricity, and they’ve got a getafterit defense to match the offensive firepower. And that isn’t all the Tigers have going for them. Clemson looks to be primed for sustained runs at a title under Dabo Swinney; Eight-Ball and the Duck on the same field would be must-see viewing; and a team that wears both orange AND purple is a natural foil for Oregon. This is a home-and-home that needs to happen sooner rather than later.
It had to be Bama, didn’t it? It’s the game nearly all of college football has clamored for since Chip Kelly elevated Oregon to elite status. It’s a matchup of contrasts: strong vs. fast, traditional vs. innovative, Deep South vs. Pacific Northwest. The hypothetical between these two is fervent, fans from both sides imagining what would happen should these two teams meet. The Crimson Tide and the Ducks are two of the most consistently successful programs of the past 10 years, who have until now come tantalizingly close to settling the debate on the field. These two schools will play each other someday: the hype and the want is too strong for them to avoid each other forever. My fear is that when this game does come, it won’t be the game we’ve been waiting for. Maybe Oregon’s 2015 bobble is a trend back to the middle, rather than a blip among sustained success. Maybe by the time Oregon and Alabama meet, Nick Saban has moved on and the Tide look drastically different than the indestructible force they are now. Maybe one team has shifted its approach to mirror the other, and we miss the stylistic contrast that makes this matchup so intriguing. This game needs to happen, and needs to happen soon, or else WE WANT BAMA could become WHAT IF WE’D GOTTEN BAMA?