Our very good friend, Bruce Feldman over at CBS Sports just released his Top
10 Toughest Schedules in 2012 List. He uses a unique point system to determine the toughness of opponents. For example, 1 for a “cupcake;” 2 for a decent team; 3 for a top 40 caliber opponent; 4 for a top 20ish opponent; 5 for a Top 5 heavyweight. He also bumps up the point total for road opponents. We have a profound respect for Feldman, since his days over at ESPN, but I don’t know if I agree with most of this list. Nonetheless, I will provide my take on each program.
1. Notre Dame (Points: 42): The Irish have a cupcakeless schedule, unless you count the Navy game in Ireland. Oklahoma begins a 2-year series against ND, so the Irish will play two road games against preseason favorites USC and Oklahoma. The Michigan game at home will be delightful and a true test of what Brian Kelly’s squad is made of and don’t discount the Purdue game which will be after the Irish play overseas.
2. Washington (Points: 41.5): Bye bye Chris Polk. The Huskies will have to likely face three of the top four teams in the preseason polls in LSU, Oregon, and USC. Washington has the toughest schedule in the Pac-12, and missing UCLA and Arizona State doesn’t help. I feel for Steve Sarkisian.
3. Oregon State (Points 40.5): They’ve been horrendous the last two seasons and it wont’ get any better this year.
4. Michigan (Points: 39.5): Michigan does not belong on this list. Period. Michigan State and Iowa have owned Michigan of late, but they’ll play in Ann Harbor this year and the Spartans don’t have Kirk Cousins anymore. Playing Alabama at Cowboys Stadium will result in a romping, but the Notre Dame game at South Bend is a winnable game because…well…Notre Dame just isn’t very good.
5. Kansas (Points: 39.5): Did Charlie Weis see the schedule before he became the new head coach? Weis is used to a tough slate from his days in South Bend, but his first one at Kansas may take the cake. There are six road games, with five of those against teams that won 10 games in 2011. The Jayhawks should open with two wins, but they’ll be hard-pressed to find a third the rest of the season. Sorry Charlie.
6. Ole Miss (Points: 39.5): Poor Hugh Freeze. Don’t you feel bad for this dude after seeing what he’ll be facing come this fall? Four preseason Top 10 teams on the road are on the slate. All four SEC home games are all against 2011 bowl teams, and if that’s not bad enough, they’ll play Texas in non-conference play. Fortunately, Rebel fans have The Grove. They won’t have much else going for them next season.
7. Auburn (Points: 39.25): The Tigers will face five teams likely to be in the preseason Top 10, although only one of those is a true road game. The season opener in Atlanta against Clemson could be a springboard to success or a sign of dark days ahead. Other than Alabama, there can’t be any slip-ups on the road.
8. Iowa State (Points: 39): I don’t know if there will be many post-game locker room celebrations like last year for Paul Rhoads. The Cyclones’ schedule is arguably one of the nation’s toughest.
9. Cal (Points: 37.5): Oregon and Stanford are home games, but neither are winnable for the Golden Bears. They’ll probably get spanked again by USC (away) and they play at Ohio State for the non-conference game. Traveling to Pullman will be anything but a walk in the park. Our very close friend Mike Leach will have his air attack in full effect next season and the Golden Bears better be prepared for it.
10. South Carolina (Points: 37.5): Going to both Death Valleys isn’t pretty, but the Gamecocks get their biggest SEC East games in Columbia. Normally the trip to Vanderbilt is a walk in the park, but James Franklin has the Commodores on the rise and the game will have an electric atmosphere as the Thursday night season opener.
A team not on this list that should be: Texas A&M. Welcome to the SEC, Aggies. The SEC West will again be the toughest division in college football, and the Aggies are stuck with four division road games, with potentially another one at a neutral site. Both crossover games are at home, but Missouri has won in College Station in each of the past two seasons. Going to SMU in non-conference play won’t be a breeze either.
Give us your thoughts on who belongs or doesn’t belong on this list!