Though teams can control certain aspects of their schedules, they can’t control how well an opponent played last season.
For instance, who knew in January of 2013 when Penn State scheduled a home-and home with UCF that the Knights would transform from a 5-7 squad in 2011 to their 12-1 form in 2013?
Programs which draw a higher percentage of winning teams from the previous season hold a double-edged sword. On one hand they have a more difficult road to bowl eligibility or a title than their counterparts, while on the flip side they have the upper hand in the ongoing argument of strength of schedule.
Following are the nine programs which play the most winning FBS opponents from a year ago. It’s a hidden scheduling twist that makes one team’s 8-4 finish way different than another’s 8-4 campaign.
Nine Winning Opponents
The Tar Heels will only face two opponents this season that didn’t manage to break the .500 mark a year ago, Virginia (2-10) and NC State (3-9). Their other nine FBS foes combined for a 79-38 (68%) record in 2013. Throwing out its game with FCS Liberty, North Carolina will play 82% of its games this season against winning teams.
The Utes’ bid for their first winning season since 2011 will be made more difficult by facing nine winning teams from last season. The only losing squads on Utah’s schedule are Washington State (6-7) and Colorado (4-8). The other FBS teams combined for 85-35 (71%) record last season.
Indiana’s only 2014 opponents that finished under .500 in 2013 are Rutgers (6-7) and Purdue (1-11). Its other nine FBS foes—including Missouri (12-2), Michigan State (13-1) and Ohio State (12-2)—combined for an 85-35 (71%) record last season.
Rutgers’ move from the American Atlantic to the Big Ten in 2014 includes a schedule with only two losing teams from a year ago—Washington State (6-7) and Indiana (5-7). It’s remaining nine FBS opponents combined for an 80-38 (68%) record in 2013.
Another team looking to improve in 2014, Tennessee’s only losing foes this season are Florida (4-8) and Kentucky (2-10). To put this into perspective, the Vols have only dropped one game—in 29 tries—to the Wildcats since 1985, but haven’t knocked off the Gators since 2004. The balance of Tennessee’s nine FBS opponents combined for an 87-32 (73%) record last season.
Ten Winning Opponents
Of the Hurricanes’ 11 FBS opponents in 2014, only one—Virginia (2-10)—didn’t break .500 last season. That’s 91 percent of the FBS games coming against winning teams. Miami’s other 10 FBS foes hooked up for a 91-41 (69%) record last season.
The Cavaliers will try to improve on their 6-18 record from 2012-2013 by playing 10 winning FBS opponents in 2014. Virginia’s only foe with a losing record this season is 4-8 Kent State. The balance of its FBS slate went 92-40 (70%) last season, including UCLA (10-3), Louisville (12-1) and Florida State (14-0).
Just slightly better off than Virginia, Arkansas has posted a 7-17 record since 2012. The Razorbacks’ sole losing foe in 2014 is 2-10 UAB. The other ten FBS opponents—including Auburn (12-2), Northern Illinois (12-2), Alabama (11-2), LSU (10-3) and Missouri (12-2)—combined for 97-36 (73%) record last season.
Though lots can be said about the freedom Notre Dame has as an independent scheduler, what can’t be denied is its propensity to book quality opponents. The Irish actually have two losing teams from last season on this year’s slate—Purdue (1-11) and Northwestern (5-7)—but since they don’t schedule FCS opponents they still play 10 winning FBS teams this season. Those 10 foes combined for a 97-38 (72%) record in 2013. Included in the roll call are Stanford (11-3), Florida State (14-0), Arizona State (10-4), Louisville (12-1) and USC (10-4).