ESPN college football insider Brian Fremeau ranked the 10 toughest strength of schedules for the 2014 season.
Fremeau views Utah’s road as the most daunting. A few of the bigger games for the Utes are: Michigan, UCLA, USC, Oregon and Stanford.
The second toughest schedule belongs to Auburn. LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama headline the Tigers’ slate.
Florida checks in with the third strongest schedule. The Gators have to face Alabama, LSU, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida State.
Five of the top 10 toughest schedules belong to the SEC, four reside in the Pac-12, and the remaining belongs to Notre Dame.
Looking back at preseason predictions is always one of the more fun topics during the offseason. Take these strength of schedule metrics, for example. These were compiled over a month before the 204 season would even begin. What that means is that the only information we had to go on was spring and fall camps, and evaluations from the prior season. In other words, 100% speculation. It’s all guesstimation, but boy howdy does it offer good debate fodder.
Before we dive into the before and after aspect of this post, let’s first look at the teams’ final records for the season.
- Utah (9-4)
- Auburn (8-5)
- Florida (7-5)
- Texas A&M (8-5)
- Tennessee (7-6)
- Stanford (8-5)
- Arkansas (7-6)
- Washington State (3-9)
- California (5-7)
- Notre Dame (8-5)
Now, judging by the abundance of losses, you’d think that the prognosticators hit the nail right on the head. Also, the SEC and Pac-12 were by far the strongest conferences on the year. Beyond that, Notre Dame always has a difficult Independent road.
However, when diving deeper into the after-the-fact rankings, there is a noticeable shift in the strength of schedule. Only one squad moved up (Auburn), and only two remained in the top-10 (Auburn and Arkansas). All the others stayed int eh upper-echelon of FBS teams, though there was some slippage.
- Utah – 22
- Auburn – 1
- Florida – 21
- Texas A&M – 12
- Tennessee – 24
- Stanford – 15
- Arkansas – 4
- Washington State – 33
- California – 31
- Notre Dame – 32
Now, some of these aren’t too surprising. Florida and Tennessee played in a milquetoast SEC East, so naturally they would get docked. The same goes for the Pac-12 North, which, for the first time in quite some years, was the lesser of the conference’s two divisions. Notre Dame, meanwhile, was docked for playing all mid-to-lower performing teams, except FSU.
Now, let’s take a look at the final top-10 standing for strength of schedule.
- Ole Miss
- Ohio State
- Mississippi State
First off, wow. The SEC West had a mighty six of the 10 slots. The only school from that division not included is Texas A&M, who fell juuuust a bit outside at No. 12. Even crazier is that the state of Alabama, specifically the Iron Bowl, held the top two slots.
Despite the Southeastern Conference’s strong showing, the final list is better distributed than preseason. In the July rankings, only the SEC, Pac-12 and one Independent were shown. In the final, there are representatives from the Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC. Of the Power Five conferences, only the ACC is not present. Also, it’s surprising that despite having the toughest schedules, these were mostly the top teams in America. They played the top competition, but also rose to the challenge.
Are you a fan of preseason rankings, or not so much? Sound off in the comments below!