Now that we know which teams are in the AP preseason Top 10, which of these elite teams will have the easiest road to perfection and the College Football Playoff?
The following rankings—unique to FB Schedules—are based on a combination of home vs. away games, opponent’s 2013 combined win/loss records, power-five, non-conference opponents and the number of teams ranked in the preseason AP Top 25 each team will face.
Though not an exact science by any stretch of the imagination, these easiest-to-toughest rankings give an intriguing view into how schedule strength skews the playing field, even among top-tier teams.
Preseason AP Rank: No. 2
What kills the Crimson Tide in schedule comparison is that they play only five winning teams in 2014: Ole Miss (8-5), Texas A&M (9-4), LSU (10-3), Mississippi State (7-6) and Auburn (12-2).
The only other AP Top 10 team that hits this low is Oklahoma. Pushing Alabama even further down the line is the opponent’s combined winning percentage—47.3—the lowest in the Top 10.
The cherry on the top of the Crimson Tide’s schedule is that they only play four true road games: Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU. Florida State is the only other Top 10 team with this advantage in 2014.
Preseason AP Rank: No. 4
Like Alabama, Oklahoma will face only five teams in 2014 that went over .500 in 2013: Texas (8-5), Kansas State (8-5), Baylor (11-2), Texas Tech (8-5) and Oklahoma State (10-3).
What gives the Sooners the edge over the Crimson Tide is an opponent’s combined winning percentage of 47.7—only a whisper better—and five true road games as opposed to four.
Where Alabama does have the advantage is in preseason AP ranked teams—the Tide will play four, Oklahoma will play two. Both have only one preseason Top Ten team on their slate.
Preseason AP Rank: No. 10
Baylor will face six winning teams from last season in 2014 (Buffalo, Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas State), improving its opponent’s winning percentage to 52.
Other than that the Bears’ slate is similar to fellow-Big 12 member Oklahoma: five true road games, two Top 25 opponents and one foe ranked in the AP Top Ten.
What prevents Baylor’s rank from being higher is its distinction of being the only team in the preseason Top 10 that won’t face a power-five opponent outside of conference play. Here’s the Bears’ non-Big 12 lineup: SMU, FCS Northwestern State and Buffalo.
T7. Florida State
Preseason AP Rank: No. 1
Like Alabama, Florida State will travel only four times this season for true road games: NC State, Syracuse, Louisville and Miami (Fla.). Of course they also have Oklahoma State in Arlington, Texas in the opener, but that’s classified as a neutral game.
The Seminoles face seven winning teams from last season and overall their 12 opponents in 2014 combined for an 83-68 record last season, or 55%.
What prevents the ‘Noles from moving further up the charts is that they face only two teams ranked in the preseason AP Top 25 (No. 16 Clemson and No. 17 Notre Dame) and none from the Top 10.
On the plus side for Florida State is their status as the only Top 10 team with three power-five teams scheduled out of conference play: Oklahoma State, Notre Dame and Florida.
T7. Michigan State
Preseason AP Rank: No. 8
Like Florida State, Michigan State is scheduled to face seven winning teams in 2014. Even though the combined winning percentage is slightly lower—at 53.9—the Spartans play five true-road games and three preseason ranked teams.
Of Michigan State’s three ranked opponents two are in the top five: No. 3 Oregon and No. 5 Ohio State. The Spartans also face No. 22 Nebraska.
Preseason AP Rank: No. 3
Like Baylor, Oregon will play six teams that went over .500 last season, but unlike the Bears those teams combined for a 54.9% finish last season and four are ranked in the preseason AP poll.
On tap for the Ducks this season are No. 8 Michigan State, No. 7 UCLA, No. 25 Washington and No. 11 Stanford.
T5. Ohio State
Preseason AP Rank: No. 5
Ohio State is one of only three preseason Top Ten teams to play eight winning opponents from last season and in total the Buckeye’s 2014 slate combined for a 56.9% finish last season.
Even though that number is third among Top Ten squads, Ohio State’s rating is thwarted with only one preseason ranked team on their slate. The Buckeye’s sole ranked foe in 2014—at this early date—is No. 8 Michigan State, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 8 in East Lansing.
Preseason AP Rank: No. 7
Despite the fact that UCLA plays only seven winning teams in 2014 (the other top four teams on our list play eight or nine) and its combined winning percentage is 53.2 (seventh among Top Ten teams), it earns its No. 3 rank fair and square.
First up, the Bruins have a whopping five preseason AP ranked teams on their schedule this season: No. 19 Arizona State, No. 3 Oregon, No. 25 Washington, No. 15 USC and No. 11 Stanford.
If that weren’t enough, UCLA is one of only two Top Ten teams to play more than one power-five program out of conference this season. The Bruins travel to Virginia in the opener and then face Texas in Arlington in Week 3.
The game with the Longhorns is technically counted as a neutral game, but if you change its status to an away game—which arguably it is—that gives UCLA six road games, the most of any team on our list.
Preseason AP Rank: No. 9
South Carolina’s 2014 schedule is overwhelming: Eight winning opponents from last season, a combined winning percentage of 61.9% (the highest among the Top 10) and five ranked opponents with one hailing from the Top 10.
The Gamecocks have No. 21 Texas A&M (in the opener), No. 12 Georgia, No. 24 Missouri, No. 6 Auburn and No. 16 Clemson in 2014.
Preseason AP Rank: No. 6
If Auburn makes a return trip to the national championship game this season, it will have earned every bit of it.
The Tigers face a whopping nine winning teams from last season, the most among the preseason AP Top Ten teams. The only sub-.500 squads Auburn plays in 2014 are Arkansas (3-9), San Jose State (6-6) and Louisiana Tech (4-8).
Overall, the 12 opponents combined for a 60.8% finish in 2014, second among Top Ten teams and No. 16 in the FBS ranks.
Next up, Auburn has a jaw-dropping seven preseason AP ranked teams on its schedule. In other words, 58% of its schedule is made up of Top 25 teams.
Here’s the line-up: No. 20 Kansas State, No. 13 LSU, No. 9 South Carolina, No. 18 Ole Miss, No. 21 Texas A&M, No. 12 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama.