Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Sun Devils' future non-conference opponents

Originally Published 12/4/2009
Last Updated 9/4/2018 with the announcement of the Mississippi State series.

This post starts with a strong caveat: much of this information will probably change in the years ahead. With that said, fans are always interested in examining future schedules, so I wanted to keep an up-to-date summary of what we know. I will update this article over time as new announcements are made.

This topic became especially relevant prior to the 2010 season, where the scheduling of two FCS opponents kept the Devils out of a Bowl game. Fortunately, our future non-conference schedules are much stronger.

Remember that with the Pac-12 schedule, in odd-numbered years we have five conference home games, including divisional opponents USC, Colorado and AU. In even-numbered years, we play only four conference home games (including Utah and UCLA). It's going to be a lot harder to sell season tickets in those even-numbered years. The Pac-12 will no longer announce the conference schedule years in advance. They will now wait until the end of the prior year to set the schedule for the coming season. This allows the conference to ensure good games for the new Pac-12 Network based on each team's projected performance. However, we do know which Pac-12 teams ASU will play each season through 2018.

Let's review the out-of-conference schedule. As most fans know, the traditional philosophy behind the non-conference scheduling has been to have an "A", "B" and "C" level opponent. The additional requirement is to have at least two of the games at home, especially in even-numbered years when we only have four conference games at Sun Devil Stadium. However, from 2011-13 we saw more of an "A, A, C" model. DevilsDigest.com published a Q&A with Associate Athletic Director Mark Brand in February 2010 that explains the process in a lot of detail. I never understand fan criticism of our scheduling, because most neutral parties see our out-of-conference schedule as one of the best year-in, year-out.

Jeff Metcalfe's articles in the Republic from September 2009 and February 2010 do a great job of describing the problems finding non-conference opponents, and Doug Haller's article from September 2012 explains how the college football playoff impacted non-conference scheduling.

The "A" level opponent is from a Power Five conference. In recent seasons, Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin have been "A" level opponents. ASU was planning to play a home-and-home series with LSU in 2015 and 2016 but that series has been pushed back multiple times.

Ideally, we should play an "A" level opponent at home in even-numbered years to counter the lack of quality Pac-12 opponents. We have achieved that goal for 2012 through 2020 after striking out in 2010.

The "B" level opponent is from a FBS "Group of Five" conference such as the MWC or C-USA. In the past, these schools may have played twice at ASU in return for one game at their site, but is seems like we will have a harder time finding "B" level opponents in coming seasons. UTSA, San Diego State and UNLV are the next opponents in this category. Each of these series are home-and-home. The Fresno State game in 2023 will be the first single game series versus a Group of Five opponent since Louisiana-Monroe back in 2009.

The "C" level opponent is usually an FCS school, and is always going to be an opponent that does not require a return visit. We try to schedule NAU as often as possible for this slot, which is a nice way to keep the money in-state.

Coach Todd Graham has placed additional emphasis on recruiting in Texas, and games in Texas are of special value. After playing Notre Dame in Dallas in 2013 and Texas A&M in Houston in 2015, we have upcoming games in San Antonio (2016), Lubbock (2017) and San Marco (2024).

So let's review the current plans for future seasons. Click on links for announcements of specific games. Actual dates shown when known.

Year FBS Power 5 FBS Group of 5 FCS Pac-12 Misses

2019 @ Michigan State (9/14) Kent State (8/31) Sacramento State (9/7) TBD
2020 BYU (9/19) @ UNLV (9/12) NAU (9/5) TBD
2021 @ BYU (9/18) UNLV (9/11)-- TBD
Louisiana (9/4)
2022 @ Oklahoma State (9/10) Eastern Michigan (9/17) NAU (9/3) TBD
2023 Oklahoma State (9/9) Fresno State (9/16) Southern Utah (9/2) TBD
2024 Mississippi State (9/7) @ Texas State (9/14) -- TBD
Wyoming (8/31)
2025 @ Mississippi State (9/6) Texas State (9/13) NAU (8/30) TBD
2026 LSU (9/12) Bowling Green (9/5) -- TBD
Hawaii (9/19)
2027 TBD San Diego State (9/18) TBD TBD
2028 TBD @ San Diego State (9/9) NAU (9/2) TBD
2029 @ LSU (9/8) TBD TBD TBD