LOS ANGELES -- You can never be sure how a schedule is going to turn out because they usually are made years in advance, but catching the right or wrong breaks in a given season can mean the difference in a coach raising a trophy or a goodbye toast.
Marquis de Sade awards for cruelty:
--San Jose State. No wonder Dick Tomey retired. Have you seen this gantlet? The Spartans, with first-year Coach Mike MacIntyre, open at Alabama and Wisconsin in successive weeks and then, after a home respite against Southern Utah, visit Utah on Sept. 25. Toss in a Western Conference game against Boise State on Oct. 16 and that pits San Jose State against four bowl-winning schools that finished a combined 48-6 last year. Oh, Alabama is the defending national champion and Boise State returns 21 starters off a 14-0 squad that finished fourth in the final Associate Press poll.
Upset pick of the year: UC Davis over San Jose State on Oct. 2. Reason: The Spartans might not have any players left.
--Colorado. Dan Hawkins, meet your schedule-maker. Hawkins somehow earned another year in Boulder only to face this: Colorado State (in Denver), at California, Georgia, at Missouri, at Oklahoma, at Nebraska.
--Brigham Young. That Sept. 4 home opener against Washington doesn't look so easy now with the Huskies returning quarterback Jake Locker. After that, BYU plays at Air Force and at Florida State.
--Florida International. On your mark, get set ... we're 0-and-4? The Golden Panthers open at home against Rutgers, followed by road games against Texas A&M, Maryland and Pittsburgh.
--Oregon State. As if the Pac-10 wasn't tough enough, the Beavers have decided to play out of conference road games against two non-BCS schools that should begin the year in the top 10. Oregon State opens against Texas Christian in Arlington and travels to Boise State on Sept. 25.
--Tennessee. Volunteer fans can always blame these likely losses on Lane Kiffin: Oregon, Florida, at Louisiana State, at Georgia, Alabama, at South Carolina.... Sheesh.
Then there's the flip side: Schools with schedules built for a national title run.
--Nebraska. The Cornhuskers' last year in the Big 12 opens at home against Western Kentucky and Idaho, followed by a definite tester at Washington and then back home for South Dakota State. Nebraska gets Texas in Lincoln and misses Oklahoma on the regular-season schedule.
--Oregon. The Ducks open with New Mexico, go to bad news Tennessee and return home for Portland State before opening the Pac-10 season at Arizona State.
--Ohio State. Eight home games with Miami, Penn State and Michigan all coming to Columbus. The make-or-breaks will be at Wisconsin and at Iowa.
--Iowa. The only tough nonconference game is at Arizona, with Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State all coming to Iowa City.
--Boise State. Nonconference wins against Virginia Tech and Oregon State could give the Broncos the credibility clout they need to overcome their much weaker conference schedule.
--Florida. The Gators never leave the state for nonconference games and should be 4-0 after Miami (Ohio), South Florida, at Tennessee and Kentucky. The decider: at Alabama on Oct. 2.
--Virginia Tech. A Labor Day victory against Boise State sets the Hokies up for a title run because they should own the rest of their nonconference schedule (James Madison, East Carolina, Central Michigan) and the Atlantic Coast Conference.