We may have a problem with the 2012 football schedule. USF needs at least one more game, and time's starting to run out to find it.
For the sake of our exercise, let's say the Big East somehow forces West Virginia to stay for another year, because this gets even messier if they're gone. It would still be an eight-team league with seven conference games. None of the new teams would join until 2013.
Now, USF has four non-conference games already lined up:
- September 1, Chattanooga (FCS)
- September 22, at Ball State
- September 29, Florida State
- November 24, at Miami
If the Big East stays intact, the Bulls will also have four Big East home games (Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Connecticut) and three road games (Louisville, Cincinnati, West Virginia), for a total of 11 games.
The problem comes when you try to fill that 12th game, which would have to be on either September 8 or September 15 unless you want to try and shuffle or postpone games to make room. It's going to be hard to fill one of those dates with a quality or even semi-quality opponent.
Let's work on this step by step. I'm using the schedules posted to FBSchedules.com for this exercise, which is updated regularly and should be up to date.
First, ignoring any other non-conference games on their schedules, which FBS teams (other than the ones USF is already playing) have an open date on September 8 or September 15?
September 8: Auburn+, Baylor+, Boise State+, Boston College+, Florida+, FAU, Georgia+, Hawaii+, UL-Lafayette, Miami University+, Mississippi State+, Nevada, North Carolina+, North Texas, Oklahoma, San Jose State+, Southern Miss, Temple+, Texas A&M, Troy+, Tulane+, UAB, UL-Monroe+, UNLV+, UT-San Antonio+, Virginia Tech+, Wake Forest+
September 15: Air Force+, Alabama+, Arkansas, Auburn+, Bowling Green+, Buffalo+, Central Michigan+, Duke+, East Carolina+, Florida+, Georgia Tech+, Kansas+, Middle Tennessee, Oklahoma, Oregon State+, Southern Miss, Stanford+, TCU, Tennessee+, Texas State+, Toledo, Tulane+, USC+, Virginia+, Wake Forest+
Now we have to eliminate all the schools with plus signs. They already have enough non-conference games (and in some cases too many games) to fill their schedule. So you're left with this, if you're not worried about possibly hitting the road:
September 8: FAU, UL-Lafayette, Nevada, North Texas, Oklahoma, Southern Miss, Texas A&M, UAB
September 15: Arkansas, Middle Tennessee, Oklahoma, Southern Miss, TCU, Toledo
But what if you want a seventh home game? It would be nice to have the extra revenue if you can make it happen. You can take Arkansas off the list straight away, because they don't play road games out of conference, pretty much ever. I'm guessing Texas A&M won't, either, after they join the SEC. Oklahoma has done it before, but that would be a real long shot. And then with the smaller schools, they already have payday games lined up and may not want to travel again. Let's take all the schools with only one game left to fill and no home games yet off the list, too.
Here's what we're left with.
September 8: UL-Lafayette, North Texas, Southern Miss, UAB
September 15: Southern Miss, TCU, Toledo
Three other thoughts:
1. USF could always schedule another FCS team if they just have to have seven home games. But that costs money, and then they would have to go 7-5 to be bowl-eligible. This should be a last resort. Still, you can't really blame anyone if it comes to that, because up until October, the Big East was going to have nine teams in it this season and the Bulls' schedule was finished.
2. if West Virginia is still in the Big East, nearly everyone in the Big XII needs another game because they would only have nine teams, and they all set up their non-conference schedules for a league with 10 teams and round-robin play. (Kansas State is the exception. They already have four non-conference games set up. More on that in a minute.) Maybe USF could play one of them in a rare midseason non-conference game to get to 12 games. Also, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma need games no matter what. The Sooners only have one non-conference game set up. Oklahoma State is busy on September 8 and 15, but still needs at least one game.
3. If West Virginia leaves for the Big XII, everyone in the Big East is hosed this year. John Marinatto probably has to try and beg and plead for Boise State or San Diego State to move in a year early, since the Mountain West has more than enough teams to sustain themselves in 2012. If that doesn't work, there are only seven Big East teams, and everyone needs at least two more games. At which point, in addition to whatever I have to do above, I probably wait for Kansas State to move their UCF game (because they would have 13 games scheduled at that point) and then call up Orlando and then offer to start our annual matchup a year early. They'd wet themselves (or worse) with joy, and it would solve everyone's problems.
Of course, the Happy Fun Times Site had a story a couple of months ago that said they could schedule Oklahoma if that happened, which would be a real thorn in USF's side. But I don't want to go down the rabbit hole that far.