2010′s Toughest Schedules
Today’s Blog will start an in-depth look at who plays the toughest schedule this year and also some of the flaws in the other methods in determining schedule strength.
At the beginning of the season, the NCAA usually releases a rating of each team’s schedule based on their opponents’ win/loss record from the previous season, This is a good method but it does have its obvious flaws.
The first flaw is basing the ratings on opponents records from the previous season. Let’s look at a couple of examples. At the start of 2007 I had Illinois rated as one of the top teams in the Big Ten and they went on to knock off #1 Ohio St and play in the ROSE Bowl. My ratings had them as an above avg opponent at the start of the year and they finished the regular season #13 (AP). Using 2006’s record as the criteria for determining the strength of an opponent’s schedule, however, you would count them as a 2-10 team! In 2008, I had teams like Ole Miss and Minnesota on my Most Improved Teams List meaning I thought they were bowl caliber but using the previous year’s record you would have counted them as 3-9 and 1-11 teams (both made bowls, Ole Miss finished #14). On the flip side of the coin, Notre Dame was in an obvious rebuilding year in ’07 yet was still counted as a 10-3 team if you based strength of schedule on 2006’s record and they were far from a January bowl team in 2007 at just 3-9!
The second flaw is basing it on pure overall records. If a team plays an FCS (IAA) school that was 11-1 in 2007, that counts as a MUCH tougher game in the NCAA ratings than facing a team like Alabama who was 7-6 in ‘07 but #1 at the end of ‘08 regular season!
In the April 14 Blog, I posted 2010’s Opponent Winning % and talked about a few examples which show that this method is not very accurate.
Now here are my 2010 toughest schedules, which take two major factors into account. The first is my 9 sets of Power Ratings. This ensures that an FCS team is rated much lower than Oklahoma and USC, two Top 10 teams that were just 8-5 and 9-4 last year.
The second factor is the amount of home and away games played. As an example, this year some teams will have as many as 8 home games, while others play as many as 8 on the road.
|3||UCLA||43||San Jose St||83||Utah|
|6||Oregon St||46||New Mexico||86||Toledo|
|7||Washington||47||Virginia Tech||87||Boise St|
|8||Miami, Fl||48||Wake Forest||88||New Mexico St|
|11||Florida St||51||Kansas St||91||Nevada|
|12||Vanderbilt||52||Memphis||92||San Diego St|
|16||Penn St||56||East Carolina||96||Southern Miss|
|17||Notre Dame||57||Maryland||97||E Michigan|
|18||Florida||58||Michigan St||98||Florida Atlantic|
|24||North Carolina||64||Boston College||104||C Michigan|
|25||UNLV||65||Utah St||105||Kent St|
|30||Oklahoma St||70||West Virginia||110||Buffalo|
|32||California||72||Air Force||112||Ball St|
|33||Arkansas||73||Louisiana Tech||113||W Michigan|
|39||Syracuse||79||Bowling Green||119||N Illinois|
|40||Arizona||80||Miami, Oh||120||Middle Tenn|
Now let’s pick out some teams to show you the differences between my method and the NCAA’s and you can decide which one you think is more accurate.
According to 2009’s opponent records, Miami, Ohio plays the 38th toughest schedule while USC takes on an easy #87 schedule. The Trojans schedule consists of long non-conf trips to Minnesota and Hawaii and USC must play nine games in the very competitive wide open Pac-10 this year. Meanwhile Miami, Ohio plays in a much weaker conference and while the RedHawks face a decent non-conf slate that includes road games at Florida, Missouri and Cincinnati, new USC HC Kiffin would love to face a schedule that, outside the Florida opener, would see the Trojans favored in the other 11 and would give them a much easier path to the National Title game. For the record I have USC’s schedule ranked #45 while Miami, Ohio is #80.
Based on 2009’s opponent records, Louisville plays the 31st toughest schedule while Oregon takes on an easy #104 slate. The Ducks “cupcake” schedule has them facing all 9 Pac-10 foes which could have as many as 9 bowl eligible teams this year. While Autzen Stadium is one of the toughest venues to play in, the Ducks have just 4 Pac-10 home games this year and their road schedule includes games at Cal, USC and Oregon St and an early non-conf road game at Tennessee. Meanwhile, Louisville plays a Kentucky team in the opener who has just 11 returning starters and an SEC high 27 letterman lost. The Cardinals also play FCS Eastern Kentucky, Arkansas St and Memphis in non-conf play. While Oregon plays more conference away games than home (5-4), Louisville has more home games (4-3) in the unbalanced Big East conference schedule this year. Do you think Oregon HC Chip Kelly would rather play Louisville’s schedule? For the record I have Oregon’s schedule ranked #55 and Louisville’s #66
According to the NCAA method Missouri faces a “cupcake” #97 schedule this year while Louisiana Tech plays the 50th toughest schedule. This year’s Missouri squad is much more experienced and stronger than the ’09 version but they do have a killer Big 12 schedule and only have three Big 12 home games with one of them coming vs Oklahoma who the Tigers are just 1-20 against the last 21 meetings! Meanwhile Louisiana Tech plays in the WAC which will have just one team ranked in the preseason Top 25. If the Tigers played Tech’s schedule they would be favored in 10 games and they would have their eyes on a possible BCS bowl bid, which they were robbed out of in 2007. For the record I have Missouri’s schedule ranked #54 and Louisiana Tech’s #73.
Boston College has won at least eight games in every season since 2001 but have not reached a BCS Bowl yet. This year the NCAA rates the Eagles schedule as one of the easiest schedules in the country at #102 and you have to think that this could be the year the Eagles break thru. However, Boston College plays in the highly competitive ACC with difficult home games against Virginia Tech and Clemson and also has to go on the road to Florida St. Not to mention they get a much improved Notre Dame team in non-conf play. The Eagles would probably take a split in those games hope to sweep everyone else just to get to 10-2. Tulane meanwhile plays the #54 schedule which features Army and SE Louisiana in non-conf games along with their CUSA schedule which has only one possible Top 25 team. If the Eagles were to switch schedules with the Green Wave, fans in Boston might be celebrating a National Title in addition to the recent success of their favorite pro teams. If the Eagles played this schedule, they would be favored by double digits in at least 10 games and the only huge obstacle would be a road trip to Houston where it would be interesting to see their great set of linebackers fare against the high-powered Cougar offense.
According to the NCAA, Purdue plays the easiest schedule (#106) of all BCS teams. Meanwhile Toledo plays the #58 schedule. While both teams do play each other this season I have to think Purdue would not mind switching conference schedules as they have to go on the road to Ohio St and Michigan St with a home game against Top 25 Wisconsin while the Rockets play in the MAC and avoid its best team (Temple). For the record I have Purdue’s schedule ranked #74 with Toledo’s #86.
Tomorrow I will dwell on further about the toughest schedules and feature my teams that I feel play much easier/tougher schedules and how that could effect their record this year.
Also tomorrow is the day Phil Steele’s 2010 College Football Preview officially hits the newsstands nationwide! Make sure you pick up a copy at your local Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million or Borders bookstores as well as any Target, K-Mart or one of the larger grocery chains. Wal-Mart will also be displaying the magazine in all their stores this year. The cost is just $8.95 in the stores but they tend to fly off the shelves. If you’re having trouble finding a copy visit the store or call 1-866-918-7711 and order your copy thru the office (plus shipping).
Don’t forget that I will be holding a live one-hour “chat session” and answer all of your questions tomorrow on Facebook. During the “live chat” post your questions as you normally do on the Fan Page (in the “what’s on your mind” box) and I will answer them as quickly as possible. It looks like the 1:30-2:30 pm est time slot is the most popular right now. If that does not work for you log on to the Homepage and vote for a different spot. Get your friends to vote too, and make sure they become a fan on Facebook to participate in the chat!
Only 87 DAYS LEFT UNTIL THE FIRST COLLEGE FOOTBALL GAME!!!