Just over four months from things kicking off for real. Spring ball is winding down, it's never too early to look forward to the upcoming season. So which of the Texas G-5 teams has the toughest out of conference schedule? Let's find out. The basis for the list is the venerable Bill Connelly's S&P ranking. His S&P rankings are based on recent history, returning production, and recruiting. More on all that here.
We've eliminated any FCS opponents from the average because they aren't ranked in the S&P and because you shouldn't schedule FCS programs. Ever. As far as the Texas Group of Five schools go, the out of conference schedules fall out like this from toughest to easiest.
Out of conference opponents: vs Stanford; @ Houston; @ Pitt; Army
Average S&P: 49
Rice runs a gauntlet out of conference schedule, four bowl teams, two on the road, one in Australia, and a Service Academy option team. David Bailiff needs a rebound in 2017 to keep his job, this schedule doesn't do him any favors.
Out of conference opponents: Houston; @ Baylor; Southern; @ Texas State
Average S&P: 68.6
The Roadrunners open with Houston then travel to Waco. That's a tough ask in successive weeks. The Houston game should be a bear trap for the Cougars and Major Applewhite. Expect the Dome to be rocking for the season opener.
Out of conference opponents: SFA; North Texas; @ TCU; Arkansas State
Average S&P: 70
The Mustangs plays three straight bowl teams after a visit from SFA. The North Texas game hasn't been a gimme by any stretch for the Mustangs, but they should be more talented than their neighbors to the North. The Iron Skillet will be a tough ask in Fort Worth and Arkansas State has been a consistent winner for five seasons now.
Out of conference opponents: Houston Baptist; @ Colorado; UTSA; @ Wyoming
Average S&P: 73.6
After HBU, the Bobcats face three straight bowl teams including 2016 PAC 12 South Champs Colorado in Boulder. Circle the UTSA game for Withers and crew to try and make a statement. At trip to Wyoming is never easy, especially the way Craig Bohl's rebuild is going.
Out of conference opponents: @ Oklahoma; Arizona; @ New Mexico State; @ Army
Average S&P: 74.75
The Miners get two tough ones right out of the box, traveling to Norman and getting Arizona at home. Can the Miners sneak up on Rich Rod and the rebounding Wildcats? A rivalry game with New Mexico State in Las Cruces and a trip to West Point round things out. UTEP will try to avenge their worst loss of 2016 when they take on Army.
Out of conference opponents: Lamar; @ SMU; @ Iowa; Army
Average S&P: 77
North Texas' 2017 starts with Southland foe Lamar before a trip to the Hilltop. North Texas travels to Big 10 country for a game against Iowa and will finish out non-conference play taking on Army for the third time in two seasons.
Out of conference opponents: @ UTSA; @ Arizona; Rice; Texas Tech
Average S&P: 86.25
The Cougars take to the road for two straight including a tough one at UTSA then a trip to an Arizona team that disappointed in 2016. Houston returns home for the Bayou Bucket vs. Rice and then a huge date with Kliff Kingsbury and Tech.