08/13/09 — OPINION - Several teams face up-hill battles

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OPINION - Several teams face up-hill battles

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on August 13, 2009 1:46 PM

Being successful requires accepting and overcoming every challenge that comes your way, not just the ones that seem feasible.

A handful of college football teams have taken that philosophy to heart this season by piecing together schedules that present one stern test after another.

The following is a list of some of the nation's toughest schedules:

* South Carolina: The Gamecocks open the season at N.C. State on a Thursday night before traveling to SEC foe Georgia. Two weeks later, South Carolina hosts Ole Miss, an SEC team on the rise, on a Thursday night.

Also highlighting the schedule are trips to Alabama and Tennessee, and home dates with Clemson and Florida to close out the regular season. With just seven scholarship seniors and six assistant coaches to replace, Steve Spurrier could be hard pressed to improve upon last season's 7-6 finish.

* Florida State: Florida State opens with its annual rivalry game against Miami on Labor Day before a difficult trip to BYU two weeks later. ACC games at Boston College, North Carolina, Clemson and Wake Forest should give Bobby Bowden ample opportunities to find out plenty about his football team.

The Seminoles conclude the regular season with a trip to The Swamp to face Tim Tebow and the Gators.

* Oklahoma: The Sooners begin their season in the Dallas Cowboys' neat 80,000-seat stadium against a BYU squad that returns 12 starters from a team that went 10-3 in 2008.

Two weeks later, Oklahoma plays host to pass-happy Tulsa before traveling to Miami. The Sooners return to the Cowboys' stadium in mid-October to face rival Texas.

The month of November brings with it trips to Nebraska and Texas Tech along with home contests against Texas A&M and Oklahoma State.

* Mississippi State: First-year head coach Dan Mullen will hit the ground running with visits to Auburn and Vanderbilt before a home meeting with LSU during three straight weeks in September.

Entertaining Georgia Tech and Florida in October won't be easy, and neither will playing host to Alabama and Ole Miss in November.

* Minnesota: Minnesota welcomes option-oriented Air Force along with California to the newly-opened TCF Bank Stadium in back-to-back weeks in September.

The Gophers travel to Big Ten favorites Penn State and Ohio State in consecutive weeks in mid-October. They follow that up with home games against Michigan State and Illinois.

A trip to much-improved Iowa could be a painful end to a long season. Minnesota is 1-7 versus the Hawkeyes since 2001.

* Arkansas: The Hogs start SEC play at home against Georgia before visiting Alabama the following week. October begins with a showdown against former Southwestern Athletic Conference foe Texas A&M in Arlington.

Arkansas plays host to Auburn before traveling to Florida and Ole Miss in consecutive weeks to close out October. As if a regular-season finale at LSU wasn't difficult enough, it's an 8 p.m. kickoff and the Tigers have won 21 of their last 22 night games.