After examining the MAC East in our first part of running through the upcoming season's non-conference opponents, it's time to round out the run-through with a peek at the MAC West.
Again, a note on the logic: Yes, I am using strictly 2011 performance as a measure of opponent difficulty - I think it's fair to assume that it's more likely that Michigan State stays a 10 win team than it is that Central Florida becomes one. Also, each team starts with a C+ and gains a grade (i.e. C+ to B-) each for a tough opponent (two if that tough opponent is a road game) or an extra road game, while losing one each for an overly easy opponent or an extra home game. And yes, I want you to disagree, because that's how discussion happens.
Home - South Florida
Road - Clemson, Indiana, Army
2011 Record - 19-31
B- No offense to the Cardinals, but they are a decent bet to travel to South Carolina and get trounced - though we'll give them some credit for taking on the challenge. Other than that, this is a pretty ho-hum slate. Indiana on the road is a small step up from Morgan State at home, and UCF and South Florida are both winnable but not guaranteed.
Home - Southeast Missouri State, Michigan State, Navy
Road - Iowa
2011 Record - 26-24
C+ This is impressive. No, not the strength of schedule; I don't know who the Chippewas know, but they got the best team on their schedule, a top 25 team, to come to their house to play. They also have a second Big Ten team, which nicely balances out their gimme opener against a bad FCS team - one that might be even worse if their team is punished.
Home - Illinois State, Army
Road - Michigan State, Purdue
2011 Record - 28-22
B I'll give the Eagles credit - they actually scheduled what appears to be a good FCS opponent, and they will face the Spartans on the road as, again, part of a pair of Big Ten teams. That gives them a leg up on several other teams - and I might have graded them higher if I felt confident in Purdue's ability to be more than mediocre.
Home - Iowa, Tennessee Martin, Kansas
Road - Army
2011 Record - 17-31
D+ The Huskies get a good home opener in Iowa, but this is otherwise lackluster at best. They add in an easy Kansas squad and an FCS team that is best known for copying Auburn's uniforms, then hit the road to play...there's that dang Army team again!
Home - Coastal Carolina, Cincinnati
Road - Arizona, Wyoming
2011 Record - 31-18
C+ The Rockets sure will travel this season - all the way to a mediocre team from a good conference and a good team from a bad conference. Add in a tough Bearcat squad and a cake FCS team, and we have a continuation of the trend.
Home - Connecticut, Eastern Illinois
Road - Illinois, Minnesota
2011 Record - 15-31
C The Broncos toughest test will be at Illinois, which is of debatable difficulty given Illinois' recent track record of mediocrity. The rest is equally unimpressive, including another bad FCS opponent early on at home.