College football selects its champions in a funny way. Unlike the professional ranks, in which every team gets a crack at nearly everyone else before a long playoffs season is used to determine a winner, the huge number of programs in college (120 and counting alone in the top half of Division I) makes it impossible to pit every one against every other.
Because of that, post season decision makers forced to rely upon the performance of teams against the teams they actually play, which is not always a fair way of going about it.
In an effort to look into the crystal ball and figure out which teams should be entering league play with perfect records, CBS Sports put together a formula to determine which programs have the easiest out of conference schedules in the nation. The site has given each team’s games a projected worth on a scale of 1-5 (with one being the weakest) and then ads one-quarter of a point if the game is being played on a neutral site and half a point if it’s on the road.
Does your favorite team have a cakewalk outside of its conference slate?
9. (tie) Vanderbilt Commodores — Yes, the SEC schedule is annually the most formidable in the nation. However, conference foes LSU scheduled TCU and Georgia faces Clemson to open the year. Vandy instead went with FCS school Austin Peay, as well as UAB, Massachusetts and Wake Forest.
9. (tie) Ohio State Buckeyes — Urban Meyer did not lose a game in his first year at Ohio State, and should not lose an out of conference game in 2013. After opening the year with Buffalo it hosts San Diego State. The Buckeyes then travel to take on a California squad that finished 3-9 a year ago and is breaking in a new coach. It rounds out its out-of-conference slate against FCS opponent Florida A&M.
9. (tie) North Carolina State Wolfpack — A year ago, a season opener against Louisiana Tech would have seemed like a tall task, especially for a team undergoing a coaching change. However, the Bulldogs are breaking in a new coach in Skip Holtz themselves and only return six starters from 2012, the fewest in the country. After that is FCS team Richmond in Week 2 followed by Central Michigan. The Pack rounds up the season with in-state rival East Carolina.
9. (tie) Cincinnati Bearcats — Yes, the team opens against two Big Ten teams, but they are Purdue (coaching change) and Illinois (2-10). First-year coach Tommy Tuberville will also have a chance to rack up a couple more wins against FCS Northwestern State (4-7), and the MAC’s Miami (Ohio) a 4-8 team.
8. Alabama Crimson Tide — Alabama starts off the season with a perennially strong Virginia Tech program coming off a disappointing year in a neutral-site season opener. Alabama then plays Colorado State (four wins in its past 20), Georgia State (1-10) and Chattanooga of the FCS.
7. Louisville Cardinals — If this were a gauge of the easiest schedules overall, the Cards would likely be at the top. In addition to a weak conference slate, the Cardinals face an Ohio squad only returning 11 starters along with FCS team Eastern Kentucky and then Kentucky, a team usually near the bottom of the SEC standings.
3. (tie) Minnesota Golden Gophers — The Gophers scheduled teams like UNLV (2-11 last season), New Mexico State (1-11) and Western Illinois (3-8 in FCS). Minnesota’s one other out-of-conference game is against a San Jose State team that was excellent a year ago and boasts Heisman contender Nick Fales under center. However, a coaching regime in transition weakens the Spartans’ preseason strength.
3. (tie) Kansas State Wildcats — When Louisiana-Lafayette is a team’s toughest opponent, its season could be a cakewalk. Aside from a respectable Ragin’ Cajuns squad, the Wildcats host North Dakota State (FCS) and Massachusetts.
3. (tie) Baylor Bears — New signal-caller Bryce Petty will get to work his way into Art Briles’ wide-open offense against FCS opponent Wofford and then a poor Buffalo squad. There is only one more out-of-conference opponent on the Bears’ roster in a decent Louisiana-Monroe squad, but the first two matchups are just too easy to make up for it in terms of schedule strength.
3. (tie) Auburn Tigers — First-year coach Gus Malzahn does not have to leave The Plains once for an out-of-conference opponent. Unfortunately, fans won’t be treated to much of a show with Washington State (12 wins in the last five seasons combined), Arkansas State (on its fourth head coach in four years), FCS program Western Carolina (1-10) and FAU (4-20 in the last two years) all coming to town.
2. West Virginia Mountaineers — A team that lost much of its offensive talent from last season should enjoy seeing William & Mary (2-9 in 2012), Georgia State (1-10) and Maryland, which is 6-18 under current head coach Randy Edsall.
1. Arizona Wildcats, Index: 1.33: Coach Rich Rodriguez’s team is breaks in a new quarterback with an out-of-conference slate comprised of FCS opponent Northern Arizona, Texas-San Antonio and then 2-11 UNLV on the road.