Phil Steele has published his 2014 college football strength of schedule rankings. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have the toughest schedule in 2014 per Steele, while the Georgia Southern Eagles have the easiest.
How does Steele arrive at his preseason toughest 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.
The Pac-12 leads Phil Steele’s rankings with eight teams in his Top 25 toughest schedules. They are followed by the SEC (6), Big 12 (5), ACC (3), Big Ten (2) and Notre Dame.
Phil Steele’s 10 toughest schedules for 2014
1. Notre Dame (2013 ranking: 17th) – Notre Dame tops Phil Steele’s list in 2014. Notre Dame will play four ACC schools this season, including Florida State in Tallahassee, Syracuse in East Rutherford, NJ, and Louisville and North Carolina in South Bend. The Irish also host Michigan and Stanford, face Purdue in Indianapolis, and travel to Arizona State and USC.
2. Tennessee (2013 ranking: 6th) – The Volunteers again have one of the toughest schedules in the nation, and it begins with their non-conference slate. Tennessee hosts Utah State and Arkansas State, no pushovers, and then travels to Oklahoma. In the SEC, Tennessee hosts Alabama, Florida, and Missouri and travels to Georgia, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt.
3. Arkansas (2013 ranking: 12th) – Arkansas’ 2014 schedule kicks off at Auburn, which is rare for the SEC. The Hogs later host Alabama, Georgia (at Little Rock), LSU, and Ole Miss, face Texas A&M in Arlington, and play at Missouri.
4. West Virginia (2013 ranking: 35th) – The Mountaineers open the season vs. Alabama in Atlanta and two weeks later travel to Maryland. Big 12 play opens with a visit from Oklahoma. The Sooners also host Baylor, Kansas State, and TCU and travel to Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech.
5. Auburn (2013 ranking: 32nd) – Auburn opens with Arkansas and San Jose State and then travels to face Kansas State on a Thursday night. The Tigers also host Louisiana Tech, LSU, South Carolina, and Texas A&M and play at Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama.
6. Iowa State (2013 ranking: 9th) – The Cyclones open with a tough North Dakota State squad followed by Kansas State and a trip to rival Iowa. Big 12 home games include Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and West Virginia. Iowa State travels to Oklahoma State, Texas, and TCU.
7. Virginia (2013 ranking: 26th) – UCLA visits Charlottesville to open the season, and two weeks later Louisville comes to town. Virginia then plays at BYU, and later, Georgia Tech, Florida State, and Virginia Tech. UVA hosts Pittsburgh, North Carolina, and Miami (FL).
8. Utah (2013 ranking: 13th) – After opening vs. FCS Idaho State, Utah hosts Fresno State and then plays at Michigan. In Pac-12 play, the Utes host USC, Oregon, and Arizona and travel to UCLA, Arizona State, and Stanford.
9. California (2013 ranking: 3rd) – Cal opens the 2014 season on the road at Northwestern and closes it vs. BYU. Their Pac-12 slate includes home games vs. Washington, UCLA, Oregon, and Stanford and road games at Washington State, Oregon State, and USC.
10. Texas (2013 ranking: 28th) – The Charlie Strong era kicks off with a visit from a good North Texas team followed by BYU and UCLA (at Arlington, TX). Big 12 opponents include Baylor, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and TCU at home and Kansas State, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State on the road.
The rest of Phil Steele’s toughest schedule rankings for 2014 are listed below.
(11) UCLA, (12) Texas A&M, (13) Oklahoma State, (14) Miami, FL, (15) Kentucky, (16) Stanford, (17) USC, (18) Washington State, (19) Rutgers, (20) Ole Miss, (21) Syracuse, (22) Minnesota, (23) Kansas, (24) Colorado, (25) Arizona State
(26) Indiana, (27) North Carolina, (28) Boston College, (29) Arizona, (30) South Carolina, (31) Missouri, (32) Florida, (33) LSU, (34) Clemson, (35) Georgia, (36) Ohio State, (37) Wake Forest, (38) Illinois, (39) Maryland, (40) TCU, (41) SMU, (42) Georgia Tech, (43) Purdue, (44) Kansas State, (45) Northwestern, (46) Florida State, (47) Oregon State, (48) Oregon, (49) Oklahoma, (50) Michigan State
(51) Nebraska, (52) Washington, (53) Michigan, (54) Penn State, (55) Texas Tech, (56) Mississippi State, (57) Baylor, (58) Vanderbilt, (59) Wyoming, (60) Virginia Tech, (61) Alabama, (62) Tulane, (63) NC State, (64) Pittsburgh, (65) Boise State, (66) San Jose State, (67) Hawaii, (68) Louisville, (69) Temple, (70) Iowa, (71) USF, (72) Wisconsin, (73) BYU, (74) Florida Atlantic, (75) Nevada
(76) Tulsa, (77) East Carolina, (78) Southern Miss, (79) Duke, (80) UNLV, (81) Fresno State, (82) New Mexico, (83) Rice, (84) UConn, (85) Eastern Michigan, (86) UCF, (87) Miami, OH, (88) Kent State, (89) Memphis, (90) FIU, (91) Western Kentucky, (92) UTSA, (93) Louisiana Tech, (94) San Diego State, (95) Cincinnati, (96) Toledo, (97) UTEP, (98) South Alabama, (99) Ohio, (100) UMass
(101) Akron, (102) Air Force, (103) Army, (104) UAB, (105) Western Michigan, (106) Utah State, (107) Bowling Green, (108) Navy, (109) Houston, (110) ULM, (111) Central Michigan, (112) Old Dominion, (113) Colorado State, (114) Idaho, (115) UL Lafayette, (116) Georgia State, (117) Ball State, (118) Middle Tennessee, (119) New Mexico State, (120) North Texas, (121) Northern Illinois, (122) Appalachian State, (123) Buffalo, (124) Arkansas State, (125) Marshall, (126) Troy, (127) Texas State, (128) Georgia Southern