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2010′s Toughest Schedules

Who Faced the Toughest Schedule in 2010?

What makes my Toughest Opponents Faced rankings far superior to the NCAA method is that ours takes into account 9 sets of power ratings, combines them and factors in every team’s schedule this year. I did this not only for the bowl teams, but for all the NCAA teams & found out which teams played the toughest schedules this year.

2010′s Toughest Schedules
*Bowl Teams are in Bold

1 Oregon St 41 Texas Tech 81 Marshall
2 Washington St 42 San Jose St 82 Navy
3 Washington 43 Georgia 83 Air Force
4 UCLA 44 Cincinnati 84 Tulane
5 South Carolina 45 Kansas 85 Utah
6 USC 46 Texas 86 UAB
7 Colorado 47 Kansas St 87 Louisiana
8 Iowa St 48 Georgia Tech 88 Wisconsin
9 Arizona St 49 New Mexico 89 Idaho
10 Stanford 50 Nebraska 90 Bowling Green
11 Vanderbilt 51 Wyoming 91 WKU
12 Auburn 52 Penn St 92 Toledo
13 California 53 Oregon 93 Florida Atlantic
14 Florida St 54 Boston College 94 Houston
15 Miami, Fl 55 Maryland 95 Boise St
16 Mississippi St 56 Memphis 96 ULM
17 Florida 57 Kentucky 97 Nevada
18 Oklahoma 58 East Carolina 98 Miami, Oh
19 Minnesota 59 Colorado St 99 Tulsa
20 Duke 60 Indiana 100 Arkansas St
21 Arizona 61 BYU 101 San Diego St
22 Texas A&M 62 Northwestern 102 FIU
23 UNLV 63 USF 103 Temple
24 North Carolina 64 Virginia Tech 104 Akron
25 Notre Dame 65 Iowa 105 TCU
26 LSU 66 Utah St 106 Kent St
27 Michigan 67 Virginia 107 C Michigan
28 Pittsburgh 68 Michigan St 108 Buffalo
29 Arkansas 69 SMU 109 North Texas
30 Tennessee 70 New Mexico St 110 Hawaii
31 Baylor 71 Ohio St 111 Southern Miss
32 Alabama 72 Rice 112 Army
33 Illinois 73 Syracuse 113 Troy
34 Wake Forest 74 West Virginia 114 UCF
35 Oklahoma St 75 Rutgers 115 Ball St
36 Mississippi 76 Louisiana Tech 116 Ohio
37 Clemson 77 Louisville 117 UTEP
38 Missouri 78 Connecticut 118 W Michigan
39 NC State 79 E Michigan 119 N Illinois
40 Purdue 80 Fresno St 120 Middle Tennessee

According to my ratings Oregon St faced the toughest schedule. The Beavers played 7 bowl teams not counting (Arizona St 6-6 and USC 8-5) and faced 3 probably the toughest non-conference schedule of any team with TCU, Boise St and Louisville. According to the NCAA, Notre Dame finished with the nation’s toughest schedule as their opponents went 89-42 (67.9%) but they did face 5 non-BCS teams which naturally was more than any other BCS team.  Middle Tennessee faced the easiest schedule this year and the also NCAA had them ranked #120 so it was much deserved. However, that is where the similarities between the NCAA and my rankings ended. Iowa ranked #34 in the NCAA rankings with an opp W/L % of 57.3%  playing 7 gms vs teams with winning records but played my #65 toughest schedule including games against 2-9 Eastern Illinois, 4-8 Ball St and 3-9 Minnesota. Per the NCAA, Kentucky faced the #103 toughest schedule with an opp W/L % of 45.9% facing 4 teams with winning records but took on my #57 schedule facing 6-6 Louisville, 6-6 Georgia, 4-8 Mississippi and 6-6 Tennessee that were all better than their records indicate.

Of the 70 bowl teams, Washington faced the toughest schedule, playing 8 teams with 6-6 records or above and the PAC-10 has a whole had the top 4 toughest schedules and 7 in the top 10 which goes to show their strength in playing 9 conference games and usually scheduling difficult games in non-conference play. Wisconsin had the easiest schedule for BCS teams coming in at #88. Despite playing in the Big Ten, the Badgers faced just five bowl teams and their non-conference schedule consisted of Austin Peay (FBS), UNLV, San Jose St and Arizona St.

When looking at the bowl match-ups, one of my considerations in picking who will win the game is taking a look at the schedule strength each opponent has faced and I look for the biggest discrepancies between the two teams.

Here are the Top 10 differences between schedule strength for the 2008 bowl games. (Schedule Strength)

1. St. Petersburg Bowl: USF (58) vs Memphis (117) Schedule Difference: 59 Final: USF 41-14 Win
2. Papajohns.com Bowl: NC St (16) vs Rutgers (66) Schedule Difference: 50 Final: Rutgers 29-28 Loss
3. Insight Bowl: Kansas (18) vs Minnesota (65) Schedule Difference: 47 Final: Kansas 42-21 Win
4. Outback Bowl: South Carolina (10) vs Iowa (51) Schedule Difference: 41 Final: Iowa 31-17 Loss
5. Rose Bowl: USC (24) vs Penn St (64) Schedule Difference: 40 Final: USC 38-24 Win
6. International Bowl: Connecticut (48) vs Buffalo (87) Schedule Difference: 39 Final: UConn 38-20 Win
7. Music City Bowl: Vanderbilt (14) vs Boston College (52) Schedule Difference: 38 Final: Vandy 16-14 Win
7. Alamo Bowl: Missouri (32) vs Northwestern (70) Schedule Difference: 38 Final: Missouri 30-23 OT Win
7. Eagle Bank Bowl: Wake Forest (43) vs Navy (81) Schedule Difference: 38 Final: Wake Forest 29-19 Win
10. Sugar Bowl: Alabama (40) vs Utah (76) Schedule Difference: 36 Final: Utah 31-17 Loss

As expected the team that played the tougher schedule went 7-3. The largest difference was the St. Petersburg Bowl which saw USF dominate Memphis 41-14. NC St who had faced the #16 schedule played well despite the 29-28 loss to Rutgers who had the #66 ranked schedule. Kansas who had a much tougher schedule than Minnesota won convincingly 42-21. The Rose Bowl had USC with the largest difference in schedule strength among BCS matchups crush Penn St 38-24 after racing out to a 31-7 halftime lead. Vanderbilt who played a much tougher schedule than Boston College got the upset. Despite the large difference in schedule strength, Alabama lost to Utah 31-17 as the Tide did not give their best effort after having their national title hopes evaporate in the loss to Florida in the SEC championship games.

Here are the Top 10 differences between schedule strength for the 2009 bowl games. (Schedule Strength)

1. Eagle Bank Bowl: UCLA (17) vs Temple (115) Schedule Difference: 97 Final: UCLA 30-21 Win
2. Outback Bowl: Auburn (8) vs Northwestern (100) Schedule Difference: 92 Final: Auburn 38-35 OT Win
3. Insight Bowl: Minnesota (11) vs Iowa St (73) Schedule Difference: 62 Final: Iowa St 14-13 Loss
4. Poinsettia Bowl: California (30) vs Utah (90) Schedule Difference: 60 Final: Utah 37-27 Loss
5. Liberty Bowl: Arkansas (6) vs East Carolina (61) Schedule Difference: 55 Final: Arkansas 20-17 OT Win
5. Rose Bowl: Oregon (9) vs Ohio St (64) Schedule Difference: 55 Final: Ohio St 26-17 Loss
7. Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon St (36) vs BYU (87) Schedule Difference: 51 Final: BYU 44-20 Loss
8. International Bowl: USF (68) vs N Illinois (117) Schedule Difference: 49 Final: USF 27-3 Win
9. Emerald Bowl: USC (17) vs Boston College (65) Schedule Difference: 48 Final: USC 24-13 Win
9. Little Ceasar’s Pizza Bowl: Marshall (66) vs Ohio (114) Schedule Difference: 48 Final: Marshall 21-17 Win

As expected the team that played the tougher schedule went 6-4. The largest difference was the Eagle Bank Bowl which saw UCLA win 30-21 and next in line was Auburn beating Northwestern 38-35.

Here are the Top 10 differences between schedule strength for the 2010 bowl games. (Schedule Strength)

1. Liberty Bowl: Georgia (43) vs UCF (114) Schedule Difference: 71
2. Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma (18) vs Connecticut (78) Schedule Difference: 60
3. New Mexico Bowl: BYU (61) vs UTEP (117) Schedule Difference: 56
4. Orange Bowl: Stanford (10) vs Virginia Tech (64) Schedule Difference: 54
5. Holiday Bowl: Washington (3) vs Nebraska (50) Schedule Difference: 47
6. Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Boston College (54) vs Nevada (97) Schedule Difference: 43
6. Armed Forces Bowl: SMU (69) vs Army (112) Schedule Difference: 43
8. Sugar Bowl: Arkansas (29) vs Ohio St (71) Schedule Difference: 42
9. BCs National Championship: Auburn (12) vs Oregon (53) Schedule Difference: 41
10. Humanitarian Bowl: Fresno St (80) vs Northern Illinois (119) Schedule Difference: 39

This year we will again have a “Bowl Confidence Contest” and I hope there will be many more participants! Like the last couple of years I will update two categories after each bowl game. The first category is total points. If you picked a team and they won their bowl you receive the points that you risked. Sometimes the early leaders are the ones that risked the most on the early bowls and they fall by the wayside as the contest goes on. Sometimes the early leaders in this category will remain at the top through it all it all. I will also keep track of those that have the best win percentage of their points. The morning after each bowl game I will list the current leaders in two categories on the website. Like last year we will have great prizes with 1st place getting $250 and a set of 2011 magazines!! 2nd place receives $100 and a set of magazines and 3rd place $50 and a set of magazines!!

You can enter the contest by simply clicking here. To enter, just go to the sign up page and log in your information. Then after that go to your picksheet page and simply pick who you think will win each of the 35 bowl games. You then award your confidence points to each. The team you think will definitely win their game would get 35 points and the team who you picked at the bottom which was very tough for you to call would get 1 point. For each team that wins their bowl game that you picked correctly, you get the confidence points you assigned to them. Those with the highest points are the winners. The first bowl game takes place on December 18th at 2:00 PM EST and Good Luck!!
One Bowl Entry Per Person Please!! For more contest rules click here and if you have any questions or concerns please email brandon@philsteele.com.

Also make sure to check PhilSteele.com everyday for complete information and coverage on all the bowl matchups. Later this week on the homepage click on the Bowl Matchups link, where you will find all 35 bowl games. Click on the bowl logo for each game to get all the information you need to become an expert! Start doing your homework now and get your 35 bowl predictions done.

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  • Hurricane

    That is a bunch of non sense. The Pac -10 is the most overated conference period. The have 1 great team, 1 good team and the rest are not even ranked, but you give them the toughest schedule???please….SEC and B10 are both way ahead of the PAC-10 .

  • SEC Schedules Toughest

    Mr Steele, you sir are a complete moron. It is evident by this absolute idiocy you have come up with. When you have Duke having played a harder schedule than Arkansas, LSU and Alabama, you have lost all credibility. I would suggest you go down to the local Burger King for a job, but if this is your mentality, you may not be qualified. Worst blog post in the history of the internetS!

  • Jmternes

    Yeah duke had it real tough this year. North Carolina, elon, and wake forest will really put a toll on a team. Compared to arkansas’ schedule with auburn, alabama, lsu, Texas A&m, south carolina, miss st, etc

  • Roarkphillip

    Arkansas 29th toughest schedule? You are a serious columnist? You seriously need to retire and recheck your information before printing…

  • Shanehogwild

    Phil Steele ,are you kidding me ? So this basically says that by the rankings that if Duke (acc) was undefeated at the end of the season you would put them in the national championship over a undefeated Arkansas which is in the toughest comferance which has won half of the bcs championships. Your formula stinks.

  • No sense!!

    Oregon Fan Here

    How can the enitre Pac 10 be in the top 21 and then oregon be ranked 53 after playing all of them. Either oregon should be ranked better or some of the Pac 10 should be ranked lower. Makes zero sense!!

  • Cdlewey

    OMFG U stoopid. SEC is cleerly the touffest conference hands down. Me is SEC homer who is obviosly smarter than you because you disagree with my preconceptions about the tuffness of any single SEC team’s schedule. Me ignore fact that almost every SEC team schedules four cupcakes every year in their out of conference schedule


    it’s on their you idiot