Today, the Big 12 announced that it will be requiring its teams to schedule at least one Power Five opponent in non-conference play. This, coming on the heels of last year's fiasco, where Baylor was penalized in the College Football Playoff standings for scheduling absolute garbage outside of the Big 12 (and did so again in 2015). As a reminder, the Big 12 already plays nine games in-conference, so that leaves three games left to take care of. The ACC and SEC both require a power conference team on non-conference schedules, but that's on top of an eight-game league slate.
Now, the Syracuse Orange are booked solid on the power conference front through 2022. They play LSU in 2017, Notre Dame in 2018 and 2022, Maryland in 2019, and Wisconsin in 2020 and 2021. But that's never stopped us before (cries), and outside of current confirmed power conference opponents, the Orange have 15 openings from 2017 through 2022 (just short of three per season). As future schedules fill up, that's going to leave slim pickings for SU. We all know where this is going...
Syracuse is totally going to schedule Baylor, aren't they?
Earlier this year, we drew the line from currently struggling Syracuse to previously struggling Baylor. And Syracuse Chancellor Kent Syverud went down to Waco, Tex. himself to see what the Bears do right. If that wasn't enough, we went and hired Dino Babers, a former offensive staffer at Baylor, and a disciple of the Art Briles spread -- effectively pioneering that system in the ACC. Baylor has Duke on the schedule for 2017 and 2018. But then they have power conference openings from 2019 through 2022.
So yeah, we're probably going to end up scheduling Baylor. If Babers works his magic and Syracuse is significantly on the mend, this won't be all that bad. If not, well... it's unlikely he's here, so who knows. But the one thing I know is that the goal of college football is always "don't lose." If we're already set on the power conference front, I'd hope we avoid doubling up any time soon. Especially when we're not playing the dregs of the other top leagues in these games. We're playing perennial conference title contenders, and Notre Dame (oh, and Maryland).
Removing panic from the above -- and really, I'll admit it's not that bad -- what's the order of likelihood SU schedules a Big 12 teams in the 2017-2022 range? Again, we'd prefer this doesn't happen. But it very well could, and plenty of Big 12 teams still have spots to fill as they look to set themselves up for bowl eligibility/Playoff contention in the future.
1. Baylor Bears: For the reasons stated above. Strong ties to Baylor now, which would probably remove the lack of sense this matchup otherwise presents for both parties (no recruiting gain for either, no history, increased travel).
2. Kansas Jayhawks: Perhaps it's a pipe dream, but could we just go ahead and do this one? Or is Kansas too busy counting the offers from every other power program looking to bludgeon them for extra credit? There's an extra draw for Syracuse with regards to a possible hoops matchup inclusion too. I don't think it happens, so maybe this ranking's a bit high. But it's not for lack of need. Kansas has P5 openings in 2017, and 2019-2022, with an empty spot in 2018 too on top of a date with Rutgers. This truly is the best-case scenario, FYI.
3. Texas Tech Red Raiders: Tech has Houston in 2018, 2021 and 2022, respectively, but the vaunted Cougars don't count toward the P5 total, so they'll still be searching elsewhere. This is another trip that provides no value for either party, but both could view it as an easier way to check a box (or at least TTU will -- Syracuse will just needlessly challenge itself.
4. Texas Longhorns: At first glance, the Horns look pretty set with P5 schools, then you remember that they typically test themselves a hell of a lot out of conference. That could mean 2019-2022 are very much in play, as are even less-scheduled years following that range. Texas can't be down forever. Let's avoid this.
5. Oklahoma State Cowboys: At first, you think we're out of the woods since there's only two empty spots from 2017-2021, but even then, they're likely placeholders for FCS squads. In 2022, though, things get dicey as they're completely empty.
6. Oklahoma Sooners: Lucky for us, OU gets out ahead of things and only has one P5 opening from now through 2022 (that's 2020). It's unlikely they add Syracuse on top of existing matchups with Nebraska and UCLA.
7. Kansas State Wildcats: Especially when Bill Snyder leaves, Kansas State becomes an intriguing option. But they're already booked up on P5 opponents through 2021, and were even smart enough to grab a few years with Vanderbilt too. KSU's never scheduled particularly tough, so don't expect this name to come up much.
8. TCU Horned Frogs: There's not a whole lot filled on TCU's future schedules, but what is means they're all set with power teams through 2024. Colorado, Stanford, California and Ohio State provide varying levels of competition for the Frogs and it's unlikely they're adding more on top of those unless something falls through.
9. Iowa State Cyclones: Not happening. They're booked further out than most schools at this point (through 2023), and are covered on the power conference front too by way of their annual date with Iowa.
10. West Virginia Mountaineers: That's a big no. Which sucks, because WVU is probably tops on most Syracuse fans' lists due to our rivalry trophy and lengthy history against one another. But the 'Neers have at least one (if not two) P5 schools every year through 2024 already and the other spot's going to an FCS or low-level FBS school. The dream dies.
In conclusion, yeah, as much as this rule may seem like it opens the floodgates for Syracuse to over-schedule, most Big 12 schools have already satisfied the requirement anyway, and with one less game to search for, many have entire schedules done for nearly a decade out. Of course, that still allows for SU to end up on Baylor's future slates. But in equal measure, Kansas is available too. So, half-win, I guess? Or a complete non-factor. You be the judge.