Schools from conferences with national championship aspirations that are in conferences without automatic BCS berths (such as Boise, TCU and Utah) have to play a rugged non-conference schedule to remain in the title conversation. But there are top-25 programs that embrace a tough non-conference a regular basis. Pittsburgh, for example, has Miami (Fla.), Notre Dame and Utah on this year’s schedule; FSU plays Florida and BYU in addition to Oklahoma.
While these high-caliber showdowns can benefit a school’s financial bottom line and national profile, UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, who opens Saturday at Kansas State and plays at Texas Sept. 25, thinks they are counterproductive if the only goal is to rise in the national polls: “Looked at from the standpoint of having your team as highly ranked as possible, there is no advantage to these games. You don’t need to play these games, and it doesn’t make any sense to do it.”