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Who should WSU be adding to its non-conference schedule?

If the Pac-12 rolls back to eight conference games (or even if they don’t), who should WSU be playing outside of conference?

Washington State v Houston Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With the College Football Playoff set to expand to 12 teams (the Goldilocks number, fight me on that), changes are likely afoot in many conferences, including the Pac-12. Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News reports a couple seem to be on the table for the athletic directors and their new boss, George Kliavkoff: eliminating divisions and reducing conference games from 9 to 8.

As Jeff explained this morning, the practical effects of the first change make enough sense that you’re likely to see it implemented.

The second though ... is more complicated. Getting rid of a conference game eliminates six additional losses every year but it also means schools need to figure out another non-conference opponent on a yearly basis. Adding another FCS game is out of the question in all but the most dire of circumstances so what best suits the Washington State Cougars is home-and-home deals with schools that fit a similar profile.

Even if the Cougs don’t need to schedule a fourth game on a yearly basis, they still need to fill out parts of their future schedules. So, what schools should they add? Hell, what schools can they add? Some criteria before we jump in:

  1. The school needs to be a “peer” institution. We aren’t getting the Tennessee Volunteers to Pullman.
  2. The home-and-home actually needs to make logistical sense. The UNLV Rebels aren’t going to be on here just because you guys want to drink planes to Vegas dry again, admirable a goal though that may be.
  3. Try to give WSU as many home games as possible. This will be hard because of how the schedule currently shakes out (thanks Bill) ... but it’s doable-ish.
  4. No Seattle games. Period. End of discussion. I SAID THAT’S IT.

And here’s how WSU’s non-conference schedule currently stacks up:

WSU Future Schedules

Year Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Pac-12 Home Games Total Home Games
Year Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Pac-12 Home Games Total Home Games
2022 vs. Idaho at Wisconsin (9/10) vs. Colorado State (9/17) 5 7
2023 at Colorado State (9/2) vs. Wisconsin (9/9) vs. Northern Colorado 4 6
2024 vs. Portland State (8/31) at San Diego State (9/7) Open 5 --
2025 vs. Idaho (8/30) vs. San Diego State (9/6) Open 4 --
2026 Open at Kansas State (9/12) vs. Fresno State (9/19) 5 --
2027 Open vs. Kansas (9/11) at Fresno State (9/18) 4 --
2028 Open at Kansas (9/9) Open 5 --
2029 Open vs. Kansas State (9/8) Open 4 --
2030 at Mississippi State (8/31) at Boise State Open 5 --
2031 vs. Mississippi State (8/30) vs. Boise State Open 4 --

Note: we are using when looking at other teams to schedule. It’s also a fun website to waste half an hour on!

East Carolina Pirates

When and Where: 2025 in Pullman, 2026 in Greenville

From a peer institution standpoint, hard to hit the nail more on the head in the American Athletic Conference than the East Carolina Pirates. A bunch of middling bowl games, occasionally punching up with the big boys, and some terrifying years scraping the bottom of the barrel. This admittedly would’ve been better with Mike Leach from a pirate schtick stand point but it still makes a good deal of sense for both schools. WSU needs another home game in 2025 and ECU would be able to stack their schedule in 2026 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. It would be a no-FCS team schedule in 2026 for WSU assuming the Pac-12 is still at a nine-game conference schedule and only six home games but again, it’s going to be hard to hit seven every year without buy games.

Plus, my in-laws live like 45 minutes away so free place to stay!

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

When and Where: 2024 in Conway, 2025 in Pullman

Strike while the iron is hot as hell, I say. The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers experienced a meteoric rise in 2020 thanks to a dynamic offense and playing arguably the most memorable game of the season, a short-notice defeat of the BYU Cougars. Their schedule is still wide open beyond 2022 and I’m definitely getting a “not really going anywhere” vibe from them (that’s a real advanced stat, you can look it up). This is also just an interesting enough opponent to drive some ticket sales in Pullman under the auspices of never seeing this team here again.

Myrtle Beach in September? Sign me right up.

Pittsburgh Panthers

When and Where: 2024 in Pullman, 2025 in Pittsburgh

Wanna find a way to play a Power Five opponent? You’ve got to make it one barely anyone can remember is in the Power Five! The Pittsburgh Panthers fit that bill absolutely perfectly. Again, it doesn’t scream marquee game but we are looking for peer institutions here and Pitt is pretty much right on the nose football wise. Their 2024 and 2025 schedules already have some pretty big names on them (most notably the Notre Dame Fighting Irish) but they might be willing to take on an opponent like Wazzu they think they stand a better shot against.

The same weekend as a Bucs game so I can finally see that ballpark would be perfect.

Nevada Wolf Pack

When and Where: 2024 in Pullman, 2025 in Reno and 2028 in Pullman

Yes, yes, we are going back to this well again but I’m proposing a 2-for-1 here because of the relative ease of getting to and from, keeping the costs down (and also more on than in a second). The Nevada Wolf Pack are in the Mountain West and have a very empty future schedule so they need to get it filled. They know that, every once in a while at least, they’ve got a chance to jump and bite WSU (***COUGH*** 2014 ***COUGH***) so they’d likely be motivated to schedule this series. Plus, in terms of buy games, it’s about as cheap as it gets for WSU considering the other close, out-of-conference team wouldn’t even consider it.

Drinks at The Peppermill Lounge on me!

Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors

When and Where: 2027 in Pullman, 2028 in Honolulu

Yes, yes, I know what I said in criteria two. But this actually makes sense! Hawai’i has open dates before this but it’s loaded with Pac-12 teams so assuming they don’t want to keep dipping their toes in that water, we’d need to plan it out a bit. Scheduling them at home in 2027 does eliminate an FCS team but traveling to them in 2028 allows WSU to add another home game and potentially have eight games at Martin Stadium (see what I did with Nevada!) so that would make up for the game you’re lacking the year prior AND you could afford to kick that extra team some money.

Do I need to sell you on Hawai’i?

Vanderbilt Commodores

When and Where: 2025 in Nashville, 2028 in Pullman

In the nearer than 2030 future, this is about the only way the Cougs are going to be able to punch their way into the SEC. The Vanderbilt Commodores need one more 2025 opponent and have the exact open date the Cougs need. Although it would give WSU only six home games in 2025, it would guarantee seven in 2028 as things stand right now. Plus, if you’re looking for a more WSU school in the SEC ... you’re going to have a hard time finding it.

That’s all from me. Keeping in mind my criteria above, who would you like to see on the schedule?

(I tried to make UNLV work, guys. I promise I did.)