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Ranking the Pac-12 non-conference schedules: Stanford faces the toughest slate

Stanford is a rare team that faces off against three quality non-conference opponents in 2015.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

1. Stanford (at Northwestern, UCF, Notre Dame)

In a day and age when teams are hiding when they leave the conference, Stanford doesn't seem to have gotten the memo. Northwestern and UCF are not juggernauts, but outstanding second and third games at this point in college football. On top of that, the Cardinal have just as tough of a marquee game as anyone else, hosting Notre Dame in November.

2. Oregon (Eastern Washington, at Michigan State, Georgia State)

This one is pretty much a one hitter, but one hell of a one hitter as the Ducks play the conference's far and away toughest non-conference game when they travel to East Lansing in September. Outside of that is pretty pedestrian, but Eastern Washington has been a handful for any Pac-12 team they have played recently and it will be an incredibly interesting match-up with their former starting quarterback Vernon Adams likely under center for the Ducks.

3. USC (Arkansas State, Idaho, at Notre Dame)

The Trojans might have the second-toughest stand alone non-conference game as they head to South Ben to take on Notre Dame. Arkansas State is generally one of the best teams in the Sun Belt, but that is not saying much, this one is all about that trip to South Bend.

4. Cal (Grambling State, San Diego State, at Texas)

The Bears have a major road trip to Austin to take on a talented, but beatable Longhorn team as their marquee match-up. I always like San Diego State as a solid secondary game in this day and age of college football.

5. Utah (Michigan, Utah State, at Fresno State)

What I love about Utah's schedule is that it is solid across the board. A top notch premiere game against Michigan, a very strong secondary game at Fresno State and a softest game that is a rivalry game... outside of Stanford, this is the deepest Pac-12 non-conference schedule.

6. Arizona State (Texas A&M, Cal Poly, New Mexico)

This is a pure one hitter as the Sun Devils open up with a Texas A&M team that should be improved and in the Top 25 in Houston, but there isn't much else challenging after that.

7. Oregon State (Weber State, at Michigan, San Jose State)

The Beavers have a great premiere game, traveling to the big house, but everything else is pretty predictable after that. San Jose State was a better secondary game when Mike MacIntyre was there, but is quickly becoming an automatic win for Pac-12 teams.

8. Washington (at Boise State, Utah State, Sacramento State)

I know that Boise State is a perennial Top 25 team, but I still don't know how I feel about them being a marquee non-conference match-up, however, this one is about as big as it gets for the Huskies with the intrigue of Chris Petersen returning. Utah State is a fine secondary game, though the Aggies regressing a bit makes it a less impressive match-up than it was a couple of years ago.

9. UCLA (Virginia, at UNLV, BYU)

A weird one here that has a couple of games that don't really qualify as true A or Bs for, both at home with a very poor secondary game strangely being played on the road. BYU could possibly be a marquee game, but I don't expect the Cougars to be that good this year and Virginia is a solid secondary game so there is nothing to dislike about this slate, but nothing to love either.

10. Colorado (at Hawaii, UMass, Colorado State, Nicholls State)

There is a solid gap between the first nine in this one as the Buffs only really truly challenging game is taking on bitter rival Colorado State in Denver.

11. Washington State (Portland State, at Rutgers, Wyoming)

The Cougars have a marquee game at Rutgers that is a solid showcase for them, but lagging behind many of the other teams' big games. Wyoming is a solid secondary game for them.

12. Arizona (UTSA, at Nevada, Northern Arizona)

For whatever the reason the Wildcats have dug in on scheduling their non-conference slate so they have a great chance at going 3-0. However, a trip to Reno can be tricky, as Washington State found out last year.