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Ranking the Pac-12 2016 non-conference schedules: USC faces toughest non-conference slate

Ranking the Pac-12 2016 non-conference schedules from easiest to hardest.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Non-conference slates don't really make or break teams' seasons, but especially with the College Football Playoff, they play a small role in the overall success of a season and teams still seem to have different takes on them. Some take it as a chance to build their Playoff resume, some see  it  as a way to chalk up half of the wins they need  for bowl eligibility.

Here is how they stack up in 2016:

12. Washington (Rutgers, Idaho & Portland State) - Pretty sad for a team that less than 10 years ago had a non-conference slate that was BYU, Notre Dame and Oklahoma or LSU and Notre Dame in the same year is trotting out this non-conference schedule. The Rutgers game probably looked a lot better when they scheduled it I am sure, but still their toughest game might actually be Portland State and they never leave home.

11. Arizona (BYU, Grambling State & Hawaii) - The Wildcats have been been known lately for having ultra soft non-conference slates, but at least they have BYU on the schedule this year. They still don't have to leave home or play a major conference foe, but it is a step in a tougher direction.

10. Arizona State (Northern Arizona, Texas Tech, at UTSA) -The Sun Devils get a nice Big 12 matchup at home against Texas Tech that is a challenge they should be able to win, but is far from an easy game. The road trip to UTSA could be tricky, but maybe not if the Roadrunners stay terrible.

9. Utah (Southern Utah, BYU, & at San Jose State) - The Utes reignite The Holy War at home against BYU and play a strange Mountain West road game at San Jose State which can sometimes be tricky.

8. Washington State (Eastern Washington, at Boise State & Idaho) - This one is all about a road trip to Boise where the Cougars were actually the last non-conference team to beat Boise State in Bronco Stadium all the way back in 2001 so not an easy place to play. Also watch out for Eastern Washington who has damn near beaten every Pac-12 team in the Northwest now and is severely overdue for that upset.

7. Cal (Hawaii, at San Diego State & Texas) - A nice little balanced slate here in my opinion. Hosting Texas at home is a really fun huge game that they can still win. A secondary road trip at San Diego State isn't bad and Hawaii is a strong "worst" game on the slate.

6. Oregon (UCDavis, Virginia & at Nebraska) - That at Nebraska game isn't quite a doozy but looks tougher after they roughed up UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl and is a very nice challenge for a Duck team who will be breaking in another new starter at quarterback. Virginia is a very, very nice secondary game.

5. Oregon State (at Minnesota, Idaho State & Boise State) - The Beavers quietly have a very tough non-conference. Opening at Minnesota is an underrated tough game and playing Boise State is never easy, even if they aren't at their best.

4. Colorado (Colorado State, Idaho State & at Michigan) - The Buffs aren't making getting to a bowl game easy. They open with their usual Denver rivalry game against Colorado State which almost always seems to be a coin flip. Traveling to a very strong and building Michigan team might be the toughest game on anyone's non-conference slate.

3. Stanford (Kansas State, at Notre Dame & Rice) - Having to go to South Bend is the big challenge here, but  opening with Kansas State in Palo Alto isn't soft, especially considering they will be breaking in a new quarterback.

2. UCLA (at Texas A&M, UNLV & at BYU) - Major respect for the Bruins here as they spend two-thirds of their slate legitimately on the road and play at two very tough places in College Station and Provo. You rarely see teams go out with non-conference slates like this anymore.

1. USC (Alabama, Utah State, Notre Dame) - You simply don't see non-conference slates like this anymore. The Trojans open against Alabama in the Jerry Dome and close with Notre Dame in The Coliseum. Utah State is about as hard of an easiest game as you could ever find too.