Even diehard Clemson fans may have a tough time getting fired up for the Tigers' home date with Akron
Quality non-conference games add a little extra spice to the college football season. You have some fun historic rivalries and clashes between Top-25 opponents that serve as a barometer for which teams will rise to the top in a given season. For every good non-conference contest, though, many more shameful stinkers exist that are definitely not must-see-TV.
Guarantee games where a lower-end FBS or FCS opponent shows up to get a hefty paycheck and a sound thrashing sprout like weeds every season. You also have classic pillow fights between two terrible FBS opponents, desperate for a win any way they can get it. Whatever the case, these are the types of college football games you wish your favorite team would not schedule.
Here is a look at the most shameful games on the schedule for the 2020 college football season. Don't say you haven't been warned.
10. Virginia at Old Dominion, Oct. 24
The Cavaliers went to the other end of the scale to balance out September clashes with Georgia and Clemson. Virginia will also feast on a trio of non-conference cupcakes in VMI, UConn, and Old Dominion. A late-October road contest against the Monarchs ranks as the biggest head-scratcher. Old Dominion gave Virginia a scare last season, falling 28-17 on its way to a 1-11 record. The two programs are trending in polar opposite directions, so it could get real ugly in the rematch this fall.
9. Western Illinois at Oklahoma State, Sept. 19
Playing the Cowboys could be a real pain in the neck for the Leathernecks. Western Illinois won one game in 2019 after making the FCS Playoffs in 2017. The last time the Leathernecks beat an FBS team was also in 2017 when they drilled Coastal Carolina. But Oklahoma State is much more challenging than the Chanticleers. The Cowboys have averaged 58.3 points in their past three wins against FCS opponents and haven't lost to a team outside the FBS ranks since 1943.
8. Eastern Illinois at Kentucky, Oct. 10
Not too long ago, Eastern Illinois was a regular FCS playoff participant. Times have changed for the Panthers. They are coming off back-to-back losing seasons after bottoming out at 1-11 last season. Kentucky has enjoyed four straight winning seasons and has not lost to an opponent outside the FBS ranks since 1945. Eastern Illinois isn't likely to be the FCS opponent to finally put the Wildcats in the loss column.
7. Texas Southern at New Mexico State, Nov. 14
Life is tough as an FBS independent for teams like New Mexico State. Wins are difficult to obtain most seasons. That shouldn't be as big of a problem for the Aggies in 2020. New Mexico State has one of the nation's weakest schedules with games against the likes of UTEP, New Mexico, UMass, Akron, and Texas State on the schedule this fall. The worst of the lot is a mid-November clash with Texas Southern. The Tigers went 0-11 last season, finishing with the worst record among FCS teams while allowing 45.6 points per contest.
6. South Alabama at Florida, Sept. 19
Florida is the rare team where the annual FCS opponent will likely offer a better challenge than the regional Sun Belt foe. The Gators open with a decent Big Sky opponent in Eastern Washington and then face the Jaguars two weeks later. South Alabama finished last in the Sun Belt during a 2-10 season — the team's fewest victories since their first FBS season in 2012. South Alabama has never won more than six games in a season since moving up from the FCS ranks.
5. East Tennessee State at Georgia, Sept. 12
The Bulldogs follow a Labor Day showdown with yawner against a Buccaneers squad that scratched out only three wins on the heels of an FCS playoff appearance two years ago. East Tennessee State got shut out by a terrible Vanderbilt team in its 2019 season finale. That should give you an accurate idea of how things will go against the defending SEC East champs. The Buccaneers have scored 10 total points over their last three games against FBS opponents.
4. UTEP at Texas, Sept. 19
Texas is back to thrashing inferior in-state opponents. The Longhorns lassoed the Miners into playing five games between now and 2031. UTEP is not up to the task of making this a competitive game. The Miners are 2-34 over the last three seasons and have not beaten an FBS non-conference opponent since 2016. Texas has averaged 49 points per game in its last three wins over UTEP and has never even come close to losing to the Miners on the football field. This is not really a step above choking down a stale FCS cupcake.
3. UMass at UConn, Sept. 3
A football game between UMass and UConn makes sense on multiple levels. Both teams are FBS independents, with the Huskies moving to the Big East in all other sports this season. They are also geographic rivals who both recruit similar athletes. In terms of football games, though, this pillow fight of the millennium could be pure torture to watch. UMass and UConn have consistently ranked among the worst FBS programs over the last five years. Neither team met an offense that didn't obliterate their defense last season. The Minutemen ranked dead last in the FBS in both scoring defense (52.7 ppg) and total defense (561.2 ypg) a year ago. The Huskies (40.5 ppg and 466.8 ypg) did not fare much better.
2. Missouri State at Oklahoma, Sept. 5
The schedule shows Oklahoma has one bye week in September, but the Sooners essentially gave themselves a second bye week with this pathetic season-opener. Missouri State went 1-10 last season and has won just 13 total games over the previous five seasons. Oklahoma has averaged 65.0 points per game in its last four contests against FCS opponents. The Bears might eventually get better under new head coach Bobby Petrino, but the Sooners can practically name the final score in this one before it even starts.
1. Akron at Clemson, Sept. 19
Clemson wins multiple national championships like an SEC team. The ACC heavyweight also excels at scheduling virtual bye weeks like an SEC team. Two years removed from their most recent national title, the Tigers decided to test themselves by bringing Akron to Death Valley. This is the same Akron who went 0-12 last season while finishing dead last nationally in scoring offense (10.5 ppg) and total offense (243.2 ypg). The Zips will likely not live up to their nickname in this sad contest, but Clemson is acting closer to a paper tiger than a real tiger by scheduling it in the first place.
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.