Speculation Time! USF's Future Conference Schedules

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the divisions have been decided, what will USF's year-to-year conference schedule look like?

Last week, the American Athletic Conference announced its divisional breakdown for football. Navy will play in the West Division, leaving USF in a pretty sensible East Division: USF, UCF, Temple, Connecticut, East Carolina, and Cincinnati.

Now that this is settled, we can start to speculate about how USF's football schedules will play out in future years.

The first assumption I make is that the current home/away rotation will be maintained.

USF hosts divisional foes ECU, UConn, and Central Florida in 2014. I thus expect USF to play these teams away in 2015 and all odd-numbered years thereafter, and host these schools in even-numbered years. USF travels to Cincinnati in 2014, so I expect the Bulls to host Cincinnati in odd-numbered years.

If we apply this logic to all schools in the Eastern Division, the 2015 schedule looks like this:

Cincinnati hosts UConn, Temple
Connecticut hosts ECU, USF
East Carolina hosts USF, Temple
Temple hosts UConn, UCF
UCF hosts ECU, UConn, USF
USF hosts Cincinnati

This isn't all the divisional games, because not all East Division teams play each other in 2014. Our next step is to add those games to the rotation. This leads me to assumption #2, which is: games against divisional opponents will be split 2-3 home and away. I haven't looked at other conferences' history to see if this rule is always adhered to, but it seems basically fair - having 4 of the 5 more important divisional games at home would give a team an unfair advantage those years. Also, it would complicate crossover scheduling. So I assume that any team already hosting three divisional opponents in a year will not be given a fourth.

With that rule in place, let's fill in the missing games. USF only has one divisional home game in 2015, so they will host Temple that year. UCF already has three divisional home games in 2015, so their game with Cincinnati will be on the road. The remaining game is Cincinnati-East Carolina. Because Cincinnati now has three home games from adding UCF, this game will be at East Carolina.

The AAC East's schedule in odd-numbered years would be:

Cincinnati hosts UConn, Temple, UCF
Connecticut hosts ECU, USF
East Carolina hosts USF, Temple, Cincinnati
Temple hosts UConn, UCF
UCF hosts ECU, UConn, USF
USF hosts Cincinnati, Temple

In even-numbered years we reverse it:

Cincinnati hosts ECU, USF
Connecticut hosts Cincinnati, Temple, UCF
East Carolina hosts UConn, UCF
Temple hosts Cincinnati, ECU, USF
UCF hosts Cincinnati, Temple
USF hosts UConn, ECU, UCF

This falls out very nicely. In addition to preserving the existing home-away rotation of games, USF and UCF host the opposite teams, meaning every school in the division gets one trip to Florida every year. Similarly for big-market northeastern schools Temple and UConn; every school except Cincinnati visits one but not the other every year. And Cincinnati could be put on that schedule by flip-flopping the years they play Temple.

Now let's add the inter-divisional games. GoUSFBulls.com posted an article just today about the new divisional alignment, saying this:

Everyone plays everyone at home and on the road in a four-year span.

Which means there are no permanent crossover opponents. If there were, it wouldn't be possible to play all six opponents home-and-away in a four-year span. (Unless the league expands from 8 to 9 conference games, but I have seen no evidence of that.)

There's no way to tell which three opponents we might play first, and in what home-away order. I imagine the league would try to avoid repeating matchups from 2014 to 2015, or at least maintain the same home-away order. I also expect that East schools will not visit SMU and Houston in the same year, that West schools would not visit UCF and USF in the same year, and other attempts to evenly divide the more appealing road destinations. This all would eliminate a few permutations, but the crossover games below are just a guess.

With all that in mind, and adding in our non-conference games, here's what USF's schedules could look like for the first rotation:

2015
HOME: Florida A&M, Cincinnati, Temple, Navy, Memphis
AWAY: Maryland, Florida State, Connecticut, East Carolina, UCF, Tulsa
TBD: one OOC game (most likely a home game)

2016
HOME: Towson, Florida State, Connecticut, East Carolina, UCF, Tulsa
AWAY: Cincinnati, Temple, Navy, Memphis
TBD: two OOC games (both could be road games, or 1 home/1 road to play a 7-home game season)

2017
HOME: Stony Brook, Illinois, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Temple, Tulane, Houston
AWAY: Connecticut, East Carolina, UCF, SMU
TBD: one OOC game (most likely a road game)

2018
HOME: Elon, Connecticut, East Carolina, UCF, SMU
AWAY: Illinois, Cincinnati, Temple, Tulane, Houston
TBD: two OOC games (most likely one home and one road)

It would be folly to speculate beyond that. Who knows what college football will even look like in a few years? We'll have the new national championship. The major conferences have threatened autonomy. The NCAA will be dealing with the fallout of the O'Bannon and Keller rulings. It's likely that players will be paid in some form or another. We could have a college football player's union. The SEC ESPN Network will exist, and wield influence. There may be downstream impacts from all this, such as having to provide stipends to all athletes. Not to mention the usual machinations of TV contracts, bowl tie-ins, and other contributing factors to realignment.

But for now, this is the hand USF football has been dealt. We must play it as well as we can.

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