LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A columnist in Oklahoma took a zoom lens to the non-conference schedules of all 64 Power 5 football programs.
Barry Tramel writes for The Oklahoman. Tramel's bio says that he was born in Norman, and I found no evidence that he worked anywhere in the Bluegrass.
Guess what? There's still a Louisville/Kentucky angle to this story because there is a Louisville/Kentucky angle to every college football or college basketball story.
On Tramel's list of 64 teams, Stanford earned first place for the most difficult non-conference schedule. With games against Kansas State, Vanderbilt and Notre Dame, the Cardinal did not schedule a mid-major opponent (although we can wink together about the fierce challenge of playing Vandy.)
The Pac-12 and ACC have the nation's best non-conference football schedules. The Big 12, including OSU and OU, are far down the list. https://t.co/a5UZCO4yEb— Berry Tramel (@BerryTramel) June 28, 2021
Guess which program earned the Easiest Non-Conference Schedule on Tramel's list?
It was not Louisville.
It was Kentucky.
Ranked 64th, the Wildcats edged No. 63 Tennessee, No. 62 Syracuse, No. 61 Pittsburgh and No. 60 Texas A&M.
Next question: Is this a stick that Louisville fans can swing in the pre-season debate about the two programs?
Or is it better to say nothing, considering one reason Kentucky was recognized is the most difficult non-conference opponent on the Wildcats' schedule is … Louisville.
You can make that call.
While you're trying to decide, I'll share more details.
Louisville earned No. 16, ranking the Cardinals' schedule in the top quarter. Credit for playing Ole Miss in Atlanta as well as Kentucky, Central Florida and Eastern Kentucky at Cardinal Stadium.
Tramel put Indiana at No. 37. That's too low.
Here's why: Unlike the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern Conferences, Big Ten teams play only 3 non-league games. The Hoosiers get Cincinnati at home. Although the Bearcats are not a Power 5 program, they figure to be ranked as high as the Top 10 and no worse than the To 15 in the initial Associated Press rankings.
IU also plays Western Kentucky in Bowling Green and hosts Idaho, coached by former U of L offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, in Bloomington.
The Top 5 in difficulty? After Stanford, it was Georgia Tech, Georgia, Virginia and Florida State.
Jeff Brohm and Purdue registered at No. 10. The Boilermakers host Oregon State but visit UConn and Notre Dame.
But that Kentucky schedule?
It's a classic victory padder.
New Mexico State.
Honk if you can name which two members of the trio are actually FBS-level programs.
The answers are New Mexico State, an independent, and Louisiana-Monroe.
Louisiana-Monroe, which will visit Kroger Field for UK's opener on Sept. 4, went 0-10 last season, losing all but one game by 2 touchdowns or more.
The Warhawks are working on an 11-game losing streak.
They allowed an average of nearly 57 points in their final 3 games.
ESPN's Football Power Index ranks Louisiana-Monroe No. 121 (of 130) in its computer formula. Athlon puts the Warhawks at No. 127.
That's bad. But you can certainly argue that the Warhawks will be better than two other Kentucky opponents.
ESPN's FPI ranked New Mexico State as The Worst FBS Team at No. 130, projecting a 1-10 season for the Aggies. Athlon made it official, also ranking NMSU at 130.
New Mexico State moved its 2020 season to last winter because of the novel coronavirus -- and then only played twice.
The Aggies dominated Dixie State by a touchdown and lost to Tarleton, 43-17. No need to look it up. Tarleton State is an FCS program based in Texas.
In 2019, New Mexico State played three Power 5 opponents for paychecks, losing to Ole Miss, Alabama and Washington State by an average of 47 points.
In other words, take the over when New Mexico State visits UK Nov. 20.
Then there is Chattanooga, which is the actual FCS program in the trio. The mighty Mocs visit Lexington on Sept. 18 after opening with Austin Peay and North Alabama.
Chattanooga finished a split fall/winter 2020 schedule with a 3-2 record. In 2019, the Mocs lost to Tennessee, 45-0. In 2018, they lost to South Carolina, 49-9. In 2017, they lost to LSU, 45-10. In 2016, they lost to Alabama, 31-3.
I believe I see a trend -- and the reason Berry Tramel determined that Kentucky will play the easiest non-conference schedule among all Power 5 programs this season.
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