Not long ago, Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs stated that he's been calling everyone in an attempt to get a P5 team on the schedule in 2018 and 2019. While I'm sure he would prefer a home-and-home (home in 2018, road in 2019), he's also said he's open to neutral-site games, as well.
Why is Auburn in this situation? Well, for one thing the requirement to play a Power 5 team is fairly new. Auburn also originally had 2019 and 2020 on the schedule to play California. Prior to that, it was fairly obvious that Auburn would shoot for a neutral site game in 2018 and follow that with Cal as the home-and-home for 2019 and 2020. The neutral site, then home-and-home rotation was something I spoke about a while back in regards to scheduling patterns. Adjusting the Cal series to allow for Cal to play Ole Miss in 2018 and 2019 threw a wrench into that equation.
A thread on AuburnUndercover (which is behind the pay-wall) got me thinking about just who is available. UGA just announced a 2025/26 series against UCLA, and that sparked some to question whether Jacobs was really calling everyone. I decided to check UCLA's availability for 2018 and 2019 and saw that according to FBSchedules.com, UCLA already has one, P5 team on their schedule in Oklahoma, and another team (Cincinnati) who is in a conference that used to be an auto-qualifier (RIP Big East).
Before we get into this too heavily, there's something you have to remember about Auburn and scheduling as things stand right now in the SEC. The Tigers want to play at home in even years and on the road in odd years. That's due to the timing of having to go to Georgia and Alabama in even years, right now. One thing that also hurts us with most B1G schools is that Auburn does not want to play an away game against a tough OOC opponent late in the season. A B1G school would likely want the Tigers to come to their place in November (since Auburn would want them here in the heat of September), and Auburn is just not going to do that when they're preparing for that Georgia and Alabama finish on top of the other SEC games.
So, who could the Tigers play? They need a P5 team to satisfy an SEC requirement. I decided to go conference-by-conference and team-by-team and examine each team's out-of-conference match ups for 2018 and 2019 to see just who is still available for either a home-and-home or a neutral site game. I've got my analysis of who's available, first. Then if you're REALLY interested, you can look at the charts showing every P5 team and their current OOC games.
The pickings are slim for teams without a current major OOC game scheduled in either season. There are some good match-ups, though! I'm going to rank these in order of my desire to see them happen.
1) Oregon. Yep. The Ducks have an open spot for both seasons. If Jay Jacobs hasn't called them up, then I don't know what's wrong with him. It would be a tough game, but this is one I think everyone in both fan-bases and around the nation would love to see happen. Maybe he has called them up and there's an issue over scheduling like I mentioned, above.
2) Oklahoma State. I didn't realize this until I was researching this article (although I'm sure I knew it), but the Tigers and the Cowboys have never played. That's reason enough for this game to happen, right there. Both teams play in places that are hot in the early months, so there shouldn't be an issue over the game being in September. I don't see what the problem is!
3) Minnesota. Oh, look, another team Auburn has never played. This game almost happened in a bowl game last year, but the Tigers ended up playing Wisconsin for the third time in the 2000s. I want this one to happen, but it probably falls victim to the B1G scheduling issue.
4) Illinois. Apparently I get Illinois and Indiana mixed up a good bit, because I could have sworn Auburn played Illinois in a bowl game, but I guess I'm thinking of the old Peach Bowl game against the Hoosiers. Chalk this up as another game against someone Auburn's never played. It can continue the battle of orange and blue, too, since Illinois' colors come from Auburn (whose colors came from Virginia). This is one where I could almost see Auburn deciding to risk the cold. The Illini are not usually a troublesome team, so the Tigers might feel good about playing them in their place in November.
Possible Neutral Site or One-Off Home Games
All of the above are also candidates for neutral site games in either year. Given how TV wants to go for the big match-ups, I think the most likely combination would be Oregon and Oklahoma State. How about Oregon in Texas and Oklahoma State in Nashville? Any takers on that?
Outside of that, there are some teams with spots available in either 2018 or 2019. Here they are.
1) Texas Tech. Could we get the Red Raiders on the Plains for a one-off? Not likely. I also really don't see this being a viable neutral site game, either. It's not as flashy as TV wants.
2) Washington State. We've already had the Cougars come to Auburn for a one-off game in recent seasons. Would they be interested in doing it again? Possibly. That choice was made before Mike Leach was the coach of the Cougars, so I don't know how interested he would be in returning to Jordan-Hare. Like Texas Tech, this wouldn't make a flashy neutral site game.
There are a few more options, here. However, we're still looking at games that really don't sell themselves (at least currently) as big neutral site spectacles. There's no one like an Oregon, Texas, Michigan, etc, that really stands out. By the same token, it's hard to imagine any of these teams agreeing to come to Jordan-Hare for a one-off game.
1) North Carolina. The Chizik returns! Well, maybe. We're talking about a few years down the road, and the likelihood of Gene Chizik still being at North Carolina by that time is pretty slim.
2) Kansas. They said their phone was ringing off the hook once the SEC demanded its member schools play a P5 team every season. You want to answer that phone for us, Jayhawks?
3) Indiana. Meh. Maybe they'll want revenge for Stan White scoring a last second touchdown on them in that Peach Bowl?
4) Purdue. Also meh.
5) Oregon State. This one could be intriguing with former Utah State and Wisconsin coach Gary Anderson now in Corvallis. I doubt they would be willing to do a one-off, though.
6) Utah. This one could also be fun. I'm sure the Utes fans would love to play after the 2004 season when Auburn got all the press, but Utah was also undefeated. Also unlikely to be a one-off.
For A Date To Be Named Later
Now that I've talked about neutral sites and one-offs, there is always the possibility that Auburn offers someone a deal like we had with Kansas State. Auburn hosted KSU in 2007, but didn't return the favor and travel to Manhattan, KS until this past season. Could Auburn offer Texas Tech a home game in 2018 and a return trip in, say, 2023? How would we play 2019, then? Offer to travel for that season with the opponent coming to Jordan-Hare in 2024?
Are you starting to get really confused and frustrated, yet? Scheduling is annoying and can be very convoluted, but I've actually found while doing all this research that it can also be fun to come up with all of this.
Recently, the SEC has acknowledged that it will accept the Independents (BYU, Notre Dame, and Army) as "P5" teams for scheduling purposes. So, they add another little wrench into the deal. As Independents, they can schedule anyone and everyone who will take them. So, they fell outside of my little "already have a P5 opponent or not" criteria. I put them in a separate category for that very reason. Could Auburn schedule one of those teams?
Not likely. Since they're independent, those teams have most of their schedules already filled. None of them are completely filled, though. So, let's look at them, anyway.
1) Army. I'm confident Jeff Monken can get Army at least somewhat competitive again, but I still don't see Auburn scheduling them. It would only be a one-off game, and it would definitely hurt Auburn in the eyes of the Playoff Committee to have Army as their only "P5" team on the schedule in either year.
2) BYU. The Cougars have a mostly full slate for 2018, and that makes it unlikely for that season. Their early month games are all filled in both seasons. I'm going to chalk this one up as a "no," too. We'll come back to the BYU Conundrum in a bit, though.
3) Notre Dame. Ah, yes. The one every one wants to see. Auburn is the only team to own a modern era football national championship whom the Fighting Irish have never played. It could happen, too. The Fighting Irish already have a brutal slate in 2018 with their five ACC games (Syracuse, VT, Pitt, Florida State, Wake Forest), but they also have USC and Stanford on the schedule. The key for me is their wide open date on college football's opening weekend. Now that would be a neutral site game to get a lot of publicity. 2018 is the only viable choice, though. They have Georgia on their schedule for 2019 on top of their ACC schedule and USC & Stanford again.
The BYU Conundrum
As an independent, BYU schedules whomever will take them. I don't see Auburn scheduling them in particular, but they did raise a key question while I was developing this. Do I consider them a P5 team for purposes of finding likely candidates to play Auburn? Will one of those teams who have BYU scheduled also consider a game against Auburn during that season?
You could argue the same for Notre Dame, but I doubt many teams that will schedule Notre Dame will also want a game against Auburn. BYU isn't exactly a push-over, though. So, this is stretching it a bit to think these teams would consider playing both BYU and Auburn.
Here's what I came up with. The following is a list of P5 teams playing BYU.
Go ahead and erase California from there, since Auburn plays them in 2020 and 2021, and they're playing Ole Miss in 2018. Wisconsin is a no. Washington would be a ton of fun and I would love that to happen. However, I doubt Washington is going to want to travel to both BYU and Auburn in 2018. Arizona could be a potential neutral-site game, and we've already discussed Utah as a possible 2019 opponent. They're travelling to BYU, so it's unlikely they would travel to Auburn that year and create a home-and-home for 2018 and 2019.
Not much changes, here. We've already discussed Washington State as a 2018 match-up. Virginia is intriguing, but they're already going to Indiana in 2018, so we would have to offer them a "date to be named later" deal. The interesting part here would be that we would possibly be traveling to Virginia for this one if we did that.
Teams With Permanent OOC P5 Rivalry Games
For my final category, let's talk about these special teams. One (Clemson) we can toss out on general principle. The rest are iffy. Here they are in my desire to play them...
1) Georgia Tech. Yes, I know. A lot of you don't like them. You think we've played them a lot, recently. We've only played them twice since the rivalry ended (2003 and 2005), and we owe them. I want this game on the schedule.
2) Florida State. We owe them, but this isn't going to happen. We've already talked about that.
3) The Iowas. I'm lumping Iowa State and Iowa together on this one. One is Big 12, one is B1G, but the same issues apply when it comes to playing in the cold late in the season. I also have no particular affection for these games to happen.
Too Long, Didn't Read:
Scheduling is hard. It's really hard. The actual options available to Auburn are pretty extensive. It all depends on what Jay Jacobs wants to set up for the Tigers. The ideal is a home-and-home, but do we do a straight two-year series, or a "date to be named later" for both seasons. Then there's the possibility of a "date to be named later" game for only one of those seasons and a neutral site game for the other.
Out of everything I've listed above, my personal desire is still for the Oregon home-and-home. Baring that, a neutral site game with Notre Dame in 2018 and a neutral site game with Oregon in 2019.
Personally, I think if Auburn decides to go the "date to be named" route for only one game, it will be 2018. The Tigers will want that home game so they don't have three seasons in a row (2017, 2018, 2019) with only even home games. It will either be a neutral site game (so there's at least split revenue for two games) for both seasons, or a home game in 2018 and a neutral site game in 2019.
What I eventually decided - after my brain regained some sense of coherency from trying to decipher all of this - is that there more possible options out there for Auburn's P5 games in 2018 and 2019 than I can really even begin to fathom. I hope I've done a little bit to show you what some of those possibilities are, though.
And now, if you're really interested, here are the OOC P5 games for every P5 team for 2018 and 2019 by Conference. And so that you don't have to scroll all the way down first, here's the key for the parenthetical notes:
(1) - Denotes regular yearly OOC Rivalry Game
(2) - Notre Dame is a special case where it's KIND OF a conference game, but not completely. Notre Dame is required to play at least five ACC games per season and every team once every four years as a part of their membership in the ACC in all other sports.
(3) - Denotes full OOC schedule in both seasons
(4) - Denotes full OOC schedule in one of the two seasons
(5) - Army, BYU, and Notre Dame count as "Independent P5" teams.
(6) - Auburn already has them on the schedule in a few years.
* - I had to put that one in here because seriously... WTF, Baylor?
|Boston College Eagles||N/A||at Notre Dame (2)|
|Clemson Tigers||at Texas A&M||Texas A&M|
|South Carolina (1)||at South Carolina (1)|
|Florida State Seminoles||at Notre Dame (2)||at Florida (1)|
|Louisville Cardinals||Kentucky (1)||at Kentucky (1)|
|Notre Dame (2)|
|NC State Wolfpack (3)||West Virginia||at West Virginia|
|Syracuse Orange||at Notre Dame (2)||at Maryland|
|Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3)||Notre Dame (2)||N/A|
|Duke Blue Devils||at North Western||Notre Dame (2)|
|Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets||at Georgia (1)||Georgia (1)|
|Miami (FL) Hurricanes (2)||LSU||Rutgers|
|North Carolina Tar Heels||at California||N/A|
|Pittsburgh Panthers||Penn State||at Penn State|
|at Notre Dame (2)|
|Virginia Cavaliers||at Indiana||BYU|
|at Notre Dame (2)|
|Virginia Tech Hokies (3)||Notre Dame (2)||at Notre Dame (2)|
|Baylor Bears||Duke||Incarnate Word*|
|Iowa State Cyclones||at Iowa (1)||Iowa (1)|
|Kansas State Wildcats||CLANGA||at CLANGA|
|Army (5)||at UCLA|
|Oklahoma State Cowboys||N/A||N/A|
|TCU Horned Frogs||Ohio State||at Ohio State|
|Texas Longhorns||at Maryland||LSU|
|Texas Tech Red Raiders||N/A||at Arizona|
|West Virginia Mountaineers||at NC State||NC State|
|Michigan Wolverines||Arkansas||at Arkansas|
|Michigan State Spartans||at Arizona State||Arizona State|
|Ohio State Buckeyes||Oregon State||Cincinnati|
|Penn State Nittany Lions||at Pittsuburgh||Pittsburgh|
|Rutgers Scarlet Knights||at Kansas||at Miami|
|Illinois Fighting Illini||N/A||N/A|
|Iowa Hawkeyes||Iowa State (1)||at Iowa State (2)|
|Minnesota Golden Gophers||N/A||N/A|
|Nebraska Cornhuskers||Colorado||at Colorado|
|Notre Dame (5)||Army (5)|
|Wisconsin Badgers||BYU (5)||at BYU (5)|
|California Golden Bears (6)||North Carolina||at Ole Miss|
|Oregon State Beavers||at Ohio State||N/A|
|Stanford Cardinal||at Notre Dame (5)||Northwestern|
|Notre Dame (5)|
|Washington Huskies||BYU (5)||at BYU (5)|
|Washington State Cougars||N/A||BYU (5)|
|Arizona Wildcats||BYU (5)||Texas Tech|
|Arizona State Sun Devils||Michigan State||at Michigan State|
|Colorado Buffaloes||at Nebraska||Nebraska|
|UCLA Bruins||at Oklahoma||Oklahoma|
|USC Trojans||at Texas||at BYU (5)|
|Notre Dame (1)(5)||at Notre Dame (1)(5)|
|Utah Utes||BYU (5)||N/A|
|Army Black Knights||11 teams scheduled||9 teams scheduled|
|BYU Cougars||10 teams scheduled||8 teams scheduled|
|Notre Dame Fighting Irish||10 teams scheduled||10 teams scheduled|