Phil Steele has published his 2012 college football strength of schedule rankings. Notre Dame has the toughest schedule in 2012, while UTSA has the easiest.
How does Steele arrive at his preseason schedule ratings? Steele combines his “9 sets of Power Ratings” with the amount of home and away games. This differs from the NCAA method which is strictly based on the opponent winning percentage from the previous year.
In 2011, the Colorado Buffaloes had the toughest schedule according to Steele’s rankings. They finished the season 3-10 overall and 2-7 in the Pac-12. The easiest preseason schedule in 2011? The Ohio Bobcats, who finished 10-4 overall and 6-2 in the MAC.
Phil Steele’s 10 toughest schedules for 2012
- Notre Dame (2011 ranking: 14) – Notre Dame tops Phil Steele’s list and it’s hard to argue with him. The Irish open the 2012 season against Navy in Dublin, Ireland and also face another independent in BYU. The rest of the schedule is all BCS conference teams: Purdue, Michigan, Miami-FL (at Chicago), Stanford, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, at Michigan State, at Oklahoma, at Boston College, at USC.
- Ole Miss (2011 ranking: 13) – Ole Miss has an easy first two weeks (vs. Central Arkansas and UTEP), but then the Rebels host Texas and travel to Tulane. Eight straight SEC games follow: at Alabama, vs. Texas A&M, vs. Auburn, at Arkansas, at Georgia, vs. Vanderbilt, at LSU, and vs. Mississippi State.
- Iowa State (2011 ranking: 2) – The Cyclones had the 2nd toughest schedule in 2011 and face a tough slate again in 2012. A big road game at in-state rival Iowa looms on the non-conference slate. Their Big 12 slate includes home games against Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma, and West Virginia and road games at TCU, Texas, and Oklahoma.
- Michigan (2011 ranking: 17) – The Wolverines open the 2012 season with a huge game against defending national champion Alabama at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Michigan then hosts Air Force and UMass before traveling to Notre Dame. B1G home games include Iowa, Michigan State, Illinois, and Northwestern. Conference road game include Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue, and Minnesota.
- Florida (2011 ranking: 23) – After warming up with a home game against Bowling Green, the Gators hit the road to face SEC newcomer Texas A&M followed by Tennessee in Knoxville. Florida also hosts LSU, Missouri, South Carolina, and Kentucky, travels to Vanderbilt, and faces Georgia in Jacksonville. UF caps off the regular-season with a trip to Tallahassee to take on Florida State.
- Washington (2011 ranking: 8) – The Huskies open the 2012 season at home vs. San Diego State before traveling to LSU. A home game against Portland State (only UW’s 3rd against an FCS team since 1971) rounds out their non-conference slate. Three straight tough Pac-12 games follow: vs. Stanford, at Oregon, and vs. USC. The Huskies also host Oregon State and Utah and travel to Arizona, California, Colorado, and Washington State.
- Baylor (2011 ranking: 3) – The Bears open the 2012 season at home vs. SMU and Sam Houston State before traveling to ULM. Baylor then opens Big 12 play at new member West Virginia before returning home to host TCU, also a new Big 12 member. The Bears also host Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Kansas and travel to Oklahoma, Texas, and Iowa State.
- Texas A&M (2011 ranking: 22) – The Aggies open the 2012 season against Louisiana Tech in Shreveport and later travel to face SMU. TAMU plays their first SEC game at home against Florida and later hosts Arkansas, LSU, and Missouri. SEC road games include Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss.
- Miami (FL) (2011 ranking: 10) – The Hurricanes open the season at Boston College and kick off a tough non-conference slate the following week at Kansas State. In other non-ACC games, the Canes play Notre Dame at Soldier Field in Chicago and also host USF and Bethune-Cookman. ACC games include home contests against Florida State, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and NC State and road games at Georgia Tech, Virginia, and Duke.
- Kentucky (2011 ranking: 57) – UK opens at in-state rival Louisville before hosting Kent State, Western Kentucky, and later Samford in non-conference games. The Wildcats kick off SEC play at Florida and then host South Carolina and Mississippi State. The rest of their SEC slate is at Arkansas, vs. Georgia, at Missouri, vs. Vanderbilt, and at Tennessee.
An Independent school owns the toughest schedule, but the SEC has the most teams in the Top Ten with four. The Big 12 has two schools in the Top Ten, while the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 each have one.
The rest of the Top 50 of Phil Steele’s toughest schedule rankings are listed below. What do you think of Phil Steele’s rankings?
(11) Kansas, (12) Stanford, (13) South Carolina, (14) Arizona, (15) California, (16) TCU, (17) Auburn, (18) Arkansas, (19) Missouri, (20) Oklahoma, (21) Michigan State, (22) Oklahoma State, (23) Ohio State, (24) Oregon State, (25) Nebraska
(26) UCLA, (27) Arizona State, (28) Alabama, (29) LSU, (30) USC, (31) West Virginia, (32) Colorado, (33) Maryland, (34) Kansas State, (35) Duke, (36) Texas, (37) Penn State, (38) Mississippi State, (39) Wake Forest, (40) Syracuse, (41) Boston College, (42) Minnesota, (43) Washington State, (44) Virginia Tech, (45) UTEP, (46) Tennessee, (47) Vanderbilt, (48) Georgia Tech, (49) Clemson, (50) Texas Tech