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Gone are the days of only teams like UNLV, Texas-San Antonio and NAU occupying Arizona’s non-conference football schedule. The Wildcats’ football program is set for a departure from the philosophy instituted by Mike Stoops after the Wildcats were lambasted by LSU 45-3 a decade ago.
The change stems from the relatively new College Football Playoff, which includes the top four teams nationally who are selected in part by their strength of non-conference scheduling.
The latest development: Arizona and traditional ACC power Virginia Tech announced today that they will play a home-and-home in 2029 and 2030, with the first game played at Arizona Stadium. This scheduling follows a series of tough non-conference games against Power 5 opponents negotiated by athletic director Greg Byrne in recent years. Here is the updated list with Virginia Tech added:
— Texas Tech in 2019 (Arizona Stadium) and 2020
— Mississippi State in 2022 (Arizona Stadium) and 2023
— Kansas State in 2024 and 2025 (Arizona Stadium)
— Virginia Tech in 2029 (Arizona Stadium) and 2030
— Nebraska in 2028 and 2031 (Arizona Stadium)
Worthy of note: Arizona hosts upstart power Houston next season with a return trip to Houston in 2018. The Cougars finished 13-1 last year and have been rumored as a possible expansion school for the Big 12.
Also, Arizona has a lengthy series ahead with regional rival BYU, which traditionally fields strong teams that are ranked. BYU, which plays the Wildcats in this year’s season-opener Sept. 3 in Glendale, has five games scheduled against Arizona through 2027.
This year’s slate does not have Power 5 non-conference opponent although Byrne has mentioned that he considers BYU of that caliber. The other non-conference opponents are Grambling State and Hawaii.
From 2019 to 2031, the only seasons in which Arizona does not play a Power 5 opponent are 2021, 2026 and 2027. The Wildcats are slated to play BYU in those three years, so Byrne may not add a Power 5 opponent in those years. His tough non-conference scheduling appears to be set through the next 15 years.
He can annually fill the two other slots yearly with a mid-level opponent and perhaps an FCS team such as NAU.
Arizona has never played Virginia Tech in football. In fact, the Wildcats have never played a team from Virginia. Their trip to Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., in 2030 will be the first venture into that state.
Arizona holds a 5-0 edge against teams from the ACC with the last win over Boston College in the 2013 AdvoCare V100 Bowl (now known again as the Independence Bowl). The only time the Wildcats have traveled to play an ACC school was in 1994 when they played Georgia Tech in Atlanta and emerged victorious 19-14.
Here is a YouTube video of that game in its entirety:
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.