With the new playoff system coming into place in a few years, athletic directors across the country are scrambling to get bigger, more competitive non-conference games scheduled. The goal now is to finish in the top four, and college football fans can expect to see more home and home series scheduled with formidable non-conference opponents, and less single game matchups featuring smaller programs. When the Big 12 dropped from twelve programs to ten, each school lost one non-conference contest. That means each non-conference game is that much more important in the eyes of the pollsters.
Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds, for the most part, has done a good job scheduling compelling games. Over the next ten years, Texas has scheduled home and home series' with Notre Dame, USC, Cal, Arkansas, Ohio State, and Maryland. He has managed to avoid a certain region of the country, however, and that region is the one most closely associated with college football. Below, I have listed seven schools that should be on Dodds' short list for Texas football in the coming decade. Five of them are in the southeast.
ACC -- North Carolina
Location- Chapel Hill, NC
All Time Record- 6-3
Hypothetical 2012 Result- Texas 42-28
I like this matchup for a variety of reasons, the main one being recruiting. In recent years, the Carolinas have become a hotspot for college recruiters. Christian LeMay (Georgia), Kris Frost (Auburn), Riley Ferguson (Tennessee), Will Grier (Florida), Matthias Farley (Notre Dame), Everett Golson (Notre Dame), and Prince Shembo (Notre Dame) all prove that the talent is there, and that it is willing to leave the state. Academically, UNC and Texas are very similar. Each school carries a distinguished reputation and is considered to be an original "Public Ivy." It would also be a homecoming for Mack Brown (assuming he is still coaching) who spent ten years in Chapel Hill before being hired away by Texas in 1998. Chapel Hill is arguably one of the prettiest campuses in the nation, but rarely sells out Kenan Stadium. Texas would have a serious presence.
Big Ten -- Wisconsin
Location- Madison, WI
All Time Record- 1-0
Hypothetical 2012 Result- Wisconsin 35-27
For the last three years, Wisconsin has played solid, consistent football with a top tier ground attack. The Badgers' Pro-Style offense, combined with consistent defensive play, has landed them in the Rose Bowl each of the past three seasons. Texas and Wisconsin have met only one, in 1939, though games between the two programs have been scheduled before. The Longhorns' were supposed to host Wisconsin in 2009, and then play in Madison in 2013. These games were cancelled by Wisconsin in the last minute to avoid conflicts with rescheduling a different opponent. Madison has often been described as the "Austin of the North." It too is situated on a lake and is a city that promotes it's healthy lifestyle. This game would provide Longhorn fans with an enjoyable weekend experience, as well as a competitive football matchup.
Big East -- SMU
Location- Dallas, Texas
All Time Record- 47-22-4
Hypothetical 2012 Result- Texas 49-21
I know that SMU is not officially a Big East football member yet, and I even considered excluding this category for the sole reason that the Big East will probably not exist by the time we would play this hypothetical non-conference game. However, I think SMU would be a good fit in a schedule for the future. SMU and Texas have a very storied history, but haven't played each other in seventeen years. Playing an away game in Dallas is much more similar to playing a neutral site opponent. This game would provide Texas alums in the area with another opportunity to watch the Longhorns, as well as an opportunity to showcase themselves (even more) to North Texas recruits.
SEC -- LSU
Location- Houston, TX
All Time Record- 9-7-1
Hypothetical 2012 Result- LSU 34-21
It seems like Texas and LSU battle every year for an East Texas recruit, but imagine a neutral site game between the two schools. This hypothetical matchup in Reliant Stadium would rival any big game in the country. For neighboring states and football powerhouses, these schools have only met seventeen times. This game would give the Houston alums something to be excited about, and would replace the annual slaughtering of Rice. The University of Texas' parent company, ESPN, would have a field day with this matchup, and any exposure is good exposure. I would imagine that the winner of this game could decide who would land that big time recruit, but just playing the game would be favorable for the Longhorns during recruiting.
PAC12 -- Oregon
Location- Eugene, Oregon
All Time Record- 4-1
Hypothetical 2012 Result- Oregon 56-30
As a football fan with an East Coast bias, I have very little desire to play any teams on the west coast. However, because we have already scheduled a multitude of west coast games and AD DeLoss Dodds has UC-Berkeley envy, I can only expect that we will get more of these PAC12 matchups. I think the most intriguing game would be against Oregon. Oregon has been explosive in recent years, and barring a Chip Kelly move, will be explosive for years to come. Their up-tempo spread offense would be a challenge for the Texas defense. It would provide them with an early look at serious speed that would prepare them for conference play. Eugene, Oregon would also be a very fun place to watch a football game. My fun fact about Eugene is that it is where they filmed Animal House. Did you like Animal House? Yeah? So you'll probably like this game, too.
Wild Card -- Clemson
Location- Clemson, SC
All Time Record- N/A
Hypothetical 2012 Result- Texas 20-17
Surprisingly, these two schools have never met. Possibly because the clash of two shades of orange in a stadium would be such a catastrophic eye sore that television executives forbid the two schools from meeting. They should meet, though. Clemson is known for their rich history of football excellence, and have competitive teams every year. Clemson offensive coordinator and possible future head coach is Chad Morris. Morris is the former head coach at Lake Travis who led his teams to consecutive state championships. He was responsible for developing Garrett Gilbert, arguably the biggest Longhorn disappointment of all time, into a five star recruit. This game would also provide Texas with exposure in the Carolinas, that, like I stated before, are a recruiting hot bed. Clemson as a city doesn't have much to offer, but it is next to one of the prettiest lakes in the country.
Wild Card -- Texas A&M
Location- College Station, TX
All Time Record- 76-34-5
Hypothetical 2012 Result- A&M 63-35
Clemson and South Carolina find a way to make it work. Florida and Florida State find a way to make it work. Georgia and Georgia Tech find a way to make it work. Texas and A&M need to find a way to make it work. Preferably before Manziel leaves, so we can beat him at least once, and prove that we are still the Alpha Dog in this state.
Non-conference games are incredibly important. They are a spectacle, where schools can show off their campus and traditions to those that wouldn't normally visit. They can also be used as a recruiting tool. The more games that Texas plays in the recruiting heaven that is the southeast, the better the chance that Texas will sign one or two big names that wouldn't have originally considered playing in Austin. Right now, Texas has a good schedule, but there is no reason it can't improve.