Phil Steele has published his 2013 college football strength of schedule rankings. The Florida Gators have the toughest schedule in 2013, while the Old Dominion Monarchs have the easiest.
It should be noted that Old Dominion is classified as an FCS team for scheduling purposes in 2013, but FBS for statistics. If you don’t count ODU, then Georgia State has the easiest schedule in his rankings.
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 2012, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish had the toughest schedule according to Steele’s rankings. They finished the season 12-1, losing only to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game.
The easiest preseason schedule in 2012? The UTSA Roadrunners, who finished 8-4 overall and 3-3 in the WAC.
Phil Steele’s 10 toughest schedules for 2013
1. Florida (2012 ranking: 5) – Florida tops Phil Steele’s list and it’s hard to argue with him, although I ranked them 5th in my column for USA TODAY Sports. For the first time in 10 years, the Gators travel to face the Miami Hurricanes. Arkansas and Vanderbilt visit while games against LSU, Georgia (at Jacksonville) and South Carolina are on the road. A visit from arch-rival Florida State ends the season.
2. Oklahoma (2012 ranking: 20) – OU’s non-conference slate is highlighted by a visit from Tulsa and a trip to Notre Dame. In Big 12 play, the Sooners get Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas (at the Cotton Bowl) on the road and TCU, Texas Tech, and West Virginia at home.
3. California (2012 ranking: 31) – Cal faces two Big Ten and possible Top 25 teams on their non-conference slate — Northwestern and Ohio State. The Golden Bears host Pac-12 foes Arizona, Oregon State, and USC and travel to Oregon, Stanford, and UCLA.
4. Purdue (2012 ranking: 49) – Purdue has one of the tougher non-conference schedules, which includes a trip to Cincinnati and visits from Notre Dame and Northern Illinois. The Boilermakers get Nebraska and Ohio State at home, but play at Michigan State, Penn State, and Wisconsin.
5. Arkansas (2012 ranking: 18) – The Razorbacks open at home vs. a tough UL Lafayette squad and later travel to Rutgers. In the SEC, the Hogs have a brutal four-game stretch vs. Texas A&M, at Florida, vs. South Carolina, and at Alabama. Arkansas also plays at Ole Miss and LSU.
6. Iowa State (2012 ranking: 3) – The Cyclones host in-state rival Iowa and later travel to Tulsa. Big 12 home games include Texas, Oklahoma State, TCU and Kansas. The Cyclones travel to Texas Tech, Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.
7. Colorado (2012 ranking: 32) – The Buffaloes have a light non-conference schedule, which kicks off with their annual battle against Colorado State in Denver. Colorado has a tough Pac-12 slate, which features home games vs. Oregon, Arizona, California, and USC and road games vs. Oregon State, Arizona State, UCLA, Washington, and Utah.
8. Stanford (2012 ranking: 12) – The Cardinal open the season against a good San Jose State squad followed by a trip to Army. Stanford hosts Pac-12 games against Arizona State, Washington, UCLA, Oregon, and California and visits Washington State, Utah, Oregon State, and USC. A visit from Notre Dame looms in the regular-season finale.
9. Kentucky (2012 ranking: 10) – Kentucky’s schedule, which was first in my rankings, begins with Western Kentucky in Nashville. Two weeks later, the Wildcats host bitter rival Louisville. Their SEC slate is even tougher with likely preseason Top 10 teams Alabama and Florida at home and Georgia and South Carolina on the road.
10. Kansas (2012 ranking: 11) – The biggest challenge on Kansas’ 2013 non-conference schedule is Louisiana Tech. In conference play, the Jayhawks host Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Baylor, West Virginia, and Kansas State and travel to TCU, Texas, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State.
An SEC school owns the toughest schedule according to Steele. The SEC also has three teams in his Top 10, which is tied with the Big 12 and Pac-12. The Big Ten is the only other conference with a team in the Top 10 (Purdue).
The rest of Phil Steele’s toughest schedule rankings are listed below. What do you think of his rankings?
(11) Missouri, (12) Utah, (13) Notre Dame, (14) South Carolina, (15) Texas, (16) LSU, (17) TCU, (18) Auburn, (19) Tennessee, (20) Illinois, (21) UCLA, (22) Baylor, (23) Georgia, (24) Pittsburgh, (25) Kansas State
(26) Washington State, (27) Virginia, (28) Texas A&M, (29) Michigan, (30) Texas Tech, (31) Arizona State, (32) Oklahoma State, (33) Mississippi State, (34) Ole Miss, (35) USC, (36) Boston College, (37) Oregon State, (38) Indiana, (39) Vanderbilt, (40) Alabama, (41) Georgia Tech, (42) North Carolina, (43) Iowa, (44) West Virginia, (45) Northwestern, (46) Syracuse, (47) USF, (48) Wake Forest, (49) BYU, (50) Washington
(51) Penn State, (52) Arizona, (53) Minnesota, (54) SMU, (55) Clemson, (56) Nevada, (57) NC State, (58) Oregon, (59) Virginia Tech, (60) Miami, FL, (61) Michigan State, (62) Maryland, (63) Connecticut, (64) Florida State, (65) Temple, (66) Nebraska, (67) Ohio State, (68) Memphis, (69) Wisconsin, (70) Idaho, (71) Akron, (72) Colorado State, (73) Tulsa, (74) Buffalo, (75) San Diego State
(76) Hawaii, (77) Duke, (78) UTSA, (79) Kent State, (80) Toledo, (81) San Jose State, (82) UMass, (83) Eastern Michigan, (84) Miami, OH, (85) Rutgers, (86) Houston, (87) North Texas, (88) UCF, (89) Southern Miss, (90) Central Michigan, (91) Boise State, (92) Wyoming, (93) Utah State, (94) Tulane, (95) UAB, (96) East Carolina, (97) Western Michigan, (98) Louisville, (99) Navy, (100) New Mexico
(101) Cincinnati, (102) FIU, (103) UTEP, (104) Florida Atlantic, (105) Air Force, (106) UNLV, (107) Fresno State, (108) Troy, (109) ULM, (110) South Alabama, (111) Marshall, (112) Arkansas State, (113) New Mexico State, (114) Rice, (115) Bowling Green, (116) Ball State, (117) Army, (118) Western Kentucky, (119) Middle Tennessee, (120) Louisiana Tech, (121) UL Lafayette, (122) Ohio, (123) Texas State, (124) Northern Illinois, (125) Georgia State, (126) Old Dominion