Phil Steele has published his 2011 college football strength of schedule rankings. Colorado has the toughest schedule in 2011, while Ohio has the easiest.
In 2010, the Iowa State Cyclones had the toughest schedule. They finished the season 5-7 overall and 3-5 in the Big 12. The easiest schedule in 2010? The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, and they finished 6-7 overall and 5-3 in the Sun Belt.
Listed below are Phil Steele’s 10 toughest schedules for 2011:
Colorado(2010 ranking: 20) – The Colorado Buffaloes have the toughest schedule in 2011 according to Steele. The Buffaloes open the season at Hawaii followed by a “non-conference game” at home against California. Next is a matchup in Denver against in-state rival Colorado State, followed by a trip to Ohio State. Nine straight Pac-12 games follow: Washington State, at Stanford, at Washington, Oregon, at Arizona State, USC, Arizona, at UCLA and at Utah.
Iowa State (2010 ranking: 1) – The Iowa State Cyclones had the toughest ranked schedule in 2010. This year they come in second. They open the season with Northern Iowa and Iowa at home followed by a trip to face Connecticut. Nine Big 12 games are next: Texas, at Baylor, at Missouri, Texas A&M, at Texas Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma State, at Oklahoma and at Kansas State.
Baylor (2010 ranking: 41) – The Bears open the season at home against TCU. They also have a non-conference game at home against Rice before nine straight Big 12 games: at Kansas State, Iowa State, at Texas A&M, at Oklahoma State, Missouri, at Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech (at Arlington, TX) and Texas.
Oregon State (2010 ranking: 6) – The Beavers open the season at home against Sacramento State, but then travel to face Wisconsin and later host BYU. Pac-12 games include UCLA, at Arizona State, Arizona, at Utah, Stanford, at California and at Oregon.
LSU (2010 ranking: 10) – The Tigers open the 2011 season with a huge non-conference game in Arlington, Texas against the Oregon Ducks. The Tigers also travel to face West Virginia the fourth week of the season. SEC games include at Mississippi State, Florida, at Tennessee, Auburn, at Alabama, at Ole Miss and home vs. Arkansas.
Boston College (2010 ranking: 64) – The Eagles open 2010 with a non-conference game at home against Northwestern before traveling to face UCF. Late in the season, BC travels to South Bend to take on Notre Dame. ACC contests include at Clemson, at Virginia Tech, at Maryland, Florida State, NC State and at Miami (FL).
USC (2010 ranking: 45) – The Trojans open the 2011 season with a non-conference game at home against Minnesota. USC also hosts Syracuse and later plays at Notre Dame. Pac-12 games include Utah, at Arizona State, Arizona, at California, Stanford, at Colorado, at Oregon and home vs. UCLA.
Washington (2010 ranking: 7) – After opening against FCS team Eastern Washington, the Huskies host Hawaii and then travel to Nebraska. Their Pac-12 slate includes California, at Utah, Colorado, at Stanford, Arizona, Oregon, at USC, at Oregon State and vs. Washington State.
Auburn (2010 ranking: 19) – The 2010 National Champions open the 2011 season at home against Utah State. Auburn travels to face Clemson and hosts Florida Atlantic and Samford. SEC games include Mississippi State, at South Carolina, at Arkansas, Florida, at LSU, Ole Miss, at Georgia and home against Alabama.
Miami (FL) (2010 ranking: 8) – The Hurricanes open the 2011 season with an ACC game at Maryland on Labor Day. Non-conference games for Miami include Ohio State, Kansas State and at USF. Other ACC games include at Virginia Tech, at North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia, at Florida State and home vs. Boston College.
A Pac-12 school owns the toughest schedule, and the recently expanded conference also has the most teams in the Top Ten with four. The ACC, Big 12 and SEC each have two schools.
The rest of the Top 25 in Phil Steele’s toughest schedule rankings are: