This season, there are just 23 instances in which a Big Six conference school goes on the road to take on a non-Big Six opponent.
On the one hand, you have to give the "big" schools some credit for playing a road game against a non-Big Six opponent. On the other hand, you have to scratch your head and wonder why in the world they're risking an embarrassing loss when they don't have to.
Simply, it's a case of nothing to gain and everything to lose.
Here are this season's 10 most intriguing such games, listed in reverse order of the "embarrassment quotient" should the Big Six school fall.
Opponent/date: at UCF/Sept. 29 Buzz: Missouri already will have played two SEC games before the Tigers embark on this trip to Orlando, Fla. The Tigers will be the first SEC team to play at UCF, which is 2-12 all-time against SEC opponents (the Knights won at Alabama in 2000 and beat Georgia in the Liberty Bowl after the 2010 season). UCF, which is leaving for the Big East after this season, should be one of the best teams in Conference USA this fall; a victory over Mizzou certainly would garner the Knights even more attention.
Opponent/date: Louisiana Tech in Shreveport, La./Aug. 30 Buzz: This technically is not a Louisiana Tech home game, but the school's Ruston campus is only about 65 miles from Shreveport. And this is a dangerous game for the Aggies, who will be playing their first game as a member of the SEC. A&M will have a new starting quarterback, a rebuilt receiving corps and a rebuilt defense – along with a new coaching staff. Louisiana Tech is coming off a WAC title and will be looking for its second consecutive win over an SEC school; the Bulldogs whipped Ole Miss by 20 last season.
Opponent/date: at Ball State/Sept. 22 Buzz: This is one of two nonconference road games against non-Big Six opponents for USF; the Bulls also have a dangerous game at Nevada on Sept. 8. This is USF's first trip to a MAC campus. MAC teams are hosting seven games against Big Six foes, and this is one of four against a Big East team. USF, which is used to fast starts, looks to be one of the favorites in a wide-open Big East race. But it will be hard to take the Bulls seriously as Big East contenders should they lose this.
Opponent/date: at Buffalo/Oct. 20 Buzz: Here's another one of those MAC-Big East matchups, with this one coming in the second half of the season. Buffalo is 1-27 all-time against Big Six opponents, with the win coming in 2002 at Rutgers (which was 1-11 that season); the Bulls have lost 23 in a row to Big Six foes since that victory.
Opponent/date: at Rice/Sept. 1 Buzz: The Bruins played at Houston to open last season and return to the city to play the Owls in this season's opener. But while there was no shame in losing to Houston, there will be if they fall to Rice. This will be the first game for new Bruins coach Jim Mora, and to say it would be an ignominious start if UCLA should lose would be an understatement. UCLA played host to rice in 2005 and '06, winning both by a combined 52 points.
Opponent/date: at Massachusetts/Sept. 8 Buzz: This will be UMass' second game as an FBS member; the Minutemen, who were a mediocre FCS program, open at Connecticut. Indiana won just once last season, and you can be sure second-year coach Kevin Wilson will be heavily criticized if his Hoosiers somehow find a way to lose to UMass. The Minutemen, by the way, will be playing their home games at Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots; the stadium is about 70 miles from UMass' campus in Amherst.
Opponent/date: at Troy/Sept. 15 Buzz: Mississippi State is the first SEC team to play at Troy, and the Bulldogs had better watch out. Only two Big Six teams have played at Troy – and both lost (Missouri in 2004, Oklahoma State in 2007). More history? Troy's first game against a SEC opponent came in 2001 – and the Trojans won at Mississippi State. Troy is 0-12 vs. SEC teams since. This is one of three games this season in which a Sun Belt teams plays host to a Big Six conference opponent. And this is the third season in a row Mississippi State is playing no Big Six opponents in nonconference action.
Opponent/date: at Louisiana-Monroe/Sept. 22 Buzz: The last time Baylor played a non-Big Six team in an out-of-state nonconference game was 2007, when the Bears won at Buffalo. (That was then-coach Guy Morriss' last season, by the way). This also is one of three games this season in which a Sun Belt team plays host to a Big Six conference opponent (the one not mentioned in this story is Louisville at FIU). Baylor isn't going to be as good as it was last season; still, a loss to ULM would be a big dent to the Bears' reputation. This is the third season in a row Baylor is playing no Big Six opponents in nonconference action.
Opponent/date: at Texas State/Sept. 8 Buzz: Texas Tech is known for its easy nonconference schedules; this will be the seventh season in a row in which the Red Raiders don't play another Big Six school in nonconference play. This is the first season in the FBS ranks for Texas State, which is coached by Dennis Franchione, and this will be the Bobcats' first home game as a FBS school. (Texas Tech's other nonconference games: FCS member Northwestern State and New Mexico, which has won a total of three games in the past three seasons.)
Opponent/date: at UTEP/Sept. 1 Buzz: This one should make you do a double-take: Oklahoma is playing at UTEP? This will be the first out-of-state nonconference game against a non-Big Six opponent for Oklahoma since it trounced Air Force 44-3 in 2001. This will be the third meeting between the schools; the others came in 2000 and 2002, and OU won both in Norman by a combined 123-14.