Strength of Schedule: 2014 Mid-Season Review

By Kevin Kelley -

Most FBS teams have played six games already, which means we’ve reached the mid-point of the 2014 college football season. Let’s review the strength of schedule rankings (SOS) as they stand now.

There are several sources for strength of schedule, including five computer components and the NCAA itself. Note that these rankings are for strength of schedule to date and will differ from preseason rankings.

For comparison purposes, we will use Phil Steele’s preseason strength of schedule rankings. Click the title to view the complete rankings for each source:

Preseason Strength of Schedule Rankings

Phil Steele

  1. Notre Dame
  2. Tennessee
  3. Arkansas
  4. West Virginia
  5. Auburn
  1. Iowa State
  2. Virginia
  3. Utah
  4. California
  5. Texas

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, currently 6-0 and ranked 5th in the AP Poll, topped Phil Steele’s preseason list. Notre Dame beat Stanford when the Cardinal were ranked 14th. The Irish play at #2 Florida State this weekend and later visit #17 Arizona State and #22 USC.

Mid-Season Strength of Schedule Rankings

NCAA (vs. FBS, games played only)

  1. Iowa State
  2. TCU
  3. Auburn
  4. Mississippi State
  5. Syracuse
  1. Tennessee
  2. Miami (FL)
  3. USC
  4. Clemson
  5. LSU

This NCAA ranking is based solely on the winning percentage of past opponents. Iowa State’s past opponent’s (Kansas State, Iowa, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Toledo) have a combined 16 wins and four losses. Mississippi State’s opponents have a 20-7 record.

Conference breakdown: SEC (4), ACC (3), Big 12 (2), Pac-12 (1), Big Ten (0).

NCAA (vs. FBS, games played and future games)

  1. Auburn
  2. Arkansas
  3. LSU
  4. Mississippi State
  5. Washington State
  1. Stanford
  2. Tennessee
  3. Alabama
  4. Texas A&M
  5. Ole Miss

This NCAA ranking is based solely on the winning percentage of past opponents and future opposition. Auburn’s opponents have 41 wins and 13 losses. Mississippi State’s opponents have 38 wins and 17 losses. As you can see, Iowa State’s schedule becomes less difficult as the season progresses.

Conference breakdown: SEC (8), Pac-12 (2), ACC (0), Big Ten (0)

Anderson & Hester

  1. South Carolina
  2. Florida
  3. USC
  4. Auburn
  5. UCLA
  1. SMU
  2. Alabama
  3. Texas
  4. Texas A&M
  5. Tennessee

Anderson & Hester’s strength of schedule rankings are led by the SEC with six teams. The Pac-12 follows with two. South Carolina has played the toughest schedule according to this computer index.

Conference breakdown: SEC (6), Pac-12 (2), AAC (1), Big 12 (1)

Colley Matrix

  1. SMU
  2. South Carolina
  3. Auburn
  4. FCS Group 8
  5. USC
  1. Florida
  2. Syracuse
  3. Mississippi State
  4. UCLA
  5. Iowa State

SMU tops the strength of schedule rankings in the Colley Matrix and was 6th in Anderson & Hester. SMU is followed by South Carolina and Auburn, who are ranked near the top in most indexes. See Colley’s site for an explanation of FCS Groupings.

Conference breakdown: SEC (4), Pac-12 (2), AAC (1), ACC (1), Big 12 (1)

Jeff Sagarin

  1. SMU
  2. Florida
  3. Auburn
  4. Iowa State
  5. UCLA
  1. Tennessee
  2. South Carolina
  3. Arkansas
  4. Texas
  5. USC

Jeff Sagarin also has the Georgia Bulldogs ranked first. Ole Miss comes in second and is actually ranked in the Top 5 of each computer ranking. Ole Miss (3-3, 1-3 SEC) has faced Vanderbilt, SE Missouri State, Texas, No. 1 Alabama, No. 24 Auburn, and No. 7 Texas A&M.

Conference breakdown: SEC (5), Pac-12 (2), AAC (1), Big 12 (2)

Kenneth Massey

  1. Auburn
  2. South Carolina
  3. Iowa State
  4. UCLA
  5. SMU
  1. USC
  2. Georgia
  3. Texas
  4. Florida
  5. Clemson

Auburn tops the strength of schedule rankings in the Colley Matrix, followed by South Carolina and Iowa State. Auburn schedule has been in the top four of each index.

Conference breakdown: SEC (4), Big 12 (2), Pac-12 (2), AAC (1), ACC (1)

Billingsley Rankings

  1. Arkansas
  2. Texas A&M
  3. USC
  4. Miami (FL)
  5. Texas
  1. North Carolina
  2. LSU
  3. Mississippi State
  4. Clemson
  5. SMU

Billingsley is the only computer ranking that ranks Arkansas first or even in the Top 5. This index also ranks Miami 4th and North Carolina 6th. Billingsley is the only index that has Auburn outside the Top 10 (18th).

Conference breakdown: SEC (4), ACC (3), AAC (1), Big 12 (1), Pac-12 (1)

Looking at each of the rankings, Auburn has played arguably the toughest schedule. The Tigers are first in two rankings (NCAA – games played and future games and Kenneth Massey). Auburn’s 2014 schedule was ranked 5th in Phil Steele’s preseason rankings.

SEC teams also have played the toughest schedules so far according to the rankings. They are listed first in four of the computer rankings and have the most teams in each Top 10.

According to the Sagarin ratings, here are the top 10 divisions in schedule strength: (1) SEC West, (2) Big 12, (3) Pac-12 South, (4) SEC East, (5) Pac-12 North, (6) Big Ten East, (7) ACC Coastal, (8) ACC Atlantic, (9) Big Ten West, (10) FBS Independents

  1. Chris kerns
    October 23, 2014 at 3:51 am

    I think the West Virginia Mountaineers have played the hardest schedule so far this season so far and still have most of the season against ranked opponent’s and also has played 3 top 5 opponent’s already this season.

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