The non-conference portion of college football season makes up just 25 percent of the schedule, but it's a big topic every year. From locations, to the quality of opponents, there is a lot to debate.
WSU's recent trend has been to play one notable opponent and two lesser opponents in the non-conference. Last season that meant BYU, UNLV and Eastern Washington. This season it's Auburn, Southern Utah and Idaho. That's a decent strategy as you get a marquee game, but should also come out no worse than 2-1. Next season's non-conference schedule is slightly different with Rutgers, Nevada and Portland State on the schedule. Maybe not a high-profile opponent, but two good teams and a should-be win.
Some fans have voiced displeasure over the current scheduling procedure, preferring to instead add more "cupcake" games to the schedule while WSU continues its rebuilding project under Mike Leach. Others want marquee names to come to Pullman, even if it means WSU will have a tougher task leading up to Pac-12 play.
Personally, I like WSU's current scheduling model. While opening the season on the road against an SEC team may not be the ideal setup this season, it's also a great way to test a young team for conference play. That and WSU is still operating under the idea that one day they'll be able to win those games. Oregon fans may not have thought it was a great idea to play Michigan on the road in 2007, but then the Ducks won that game on their rise to prominence.
The Seattle game also comes into play here. Some like the idea of playing a Pac-12 opponent in Seattle while others hate it. You could put your highest-profile home non-conference game in Seattle to make it a marquee event, or you could schedule the lowest profile game to keep the marquee games in Pullman.
If you were athletic director who would you schedule and where would you play them?