TOUGHEST REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULES FROM 2018
In the toughest schedule article every year in the magazine, I list what type of regular season schedule the team played the prior year and then what type of schedule that same team faces this year. This is on pages 26 and 27 in the magazine.
The “Going Up” Box highlights the teams that play a much weaker regular season schedule than they did the previous year. The premise is that with an easier schedule a team has a great shot at improving their record. Last year the “Going Up” Box featured 14 teams and 11 of them managed to improve their records. Even more impressive is that the Top Ten teams in the box, ALL managed to improve their records, a perfect 10 for 10. The most impressive team of the group was Florida which went from 4-7 to finishing No. 7 in the country at 10-3. Two other teams of note were Syracuse and Georgia Southern which went from 2 and 4 wins respectively to double digit wins with Syracuse ending up No. 15 and Georgia Southern No. 36 in the final AP poll.
The “Going Down” Box highlights the teams that play a much tougher schedule than they did the previous season. Last year there were also 14 teams in this box and once again 11 of those teams had a weaker record than they did in 2017. The team that made the biggest drop was Florida Atlantic which went from 11-3 in 2017 to just 5-7 in 2018 despite entering the season No. 30 in the AP Poll. I will delve into these further in tomorrow’s blog when I provide the final ranking for 2018’s regular season schedules.
In yesterday’s blog I pointed out that Alabama faced the second toughest schedule overall as they took on Georgia in the SEC Title game, Oklahoma in the first round of the playoff and then Clemson in the title game. They ended up facing 10 bowl teams and five that finished the season ranked. They only faced six foes during the regular season that finished with a winning record and that number jumped 150% to nine and they went from facing just one top ten team up to four that finished in the top 8!
The NCAA method for toughest schedule relies on win/loss records of opponents but as I point out in the article on pages 27-28 that is not the best method. There were seven Group of Five teams that finished with either 11 or 12 wins. Texas, Florida and Michigan all had just 10 wins last year and would have been favored over all those Group of Five teams and in some instances by significant margins. My toughest foe rankings take into account many different factors. I have nine sets of power ratings and I plug those into the schedule and get a consensus strength of schedule based on my final power ratings for each team. While I include the win/loss percentage of opponents faced I take out the record of the team. Notre Dame and Alabama won all their games during the regular season and their foes picked up 12 of their losses because they lost to them. I only count the opponents records in all other game taking out the teams’ records. Five teams went 1-11 but their opponents only won 11 of those games because they were playing those weak foes. I also took into account the number of ranked teams each team faced during the entire season including the bowl. Two other factors were the number of teams with a winning record and number of bowl teams faced.
Utah State had a tremendous year going from 6-7 in 2017 to 11-2 in 2018. The level of competition faced has a little to do with that as they went from facing the No 96th toughest schedule to facing the #127 slate last year. Of the teams that faced the five toughest schedules last year, four of the teams did not make it to a bowl game. Florida State had their 36 year bowl streak snapped with a losing season of 5-7. Louisville and UCLA also were bowl teams in 2017 that suffered losing seasons in 2018 facing a tough schedule.
The four playoff teams all faced manageable schedules and in their league play had the benefit of not having to face themselves. Oklahoma took on the #37 schedule, Clemson faced the #40 slate, Notre Dame #49 and Alabama #50.
If you look at the teams that faced the top 29 schedules this past season, on ONE managed to finish in the top 10 at the end of the year. LSU was that team. Georgia faced the #30 regular season schedule and Texas took on the #31 toughest slate and both finished in the top 10.
The Power Five team that took on the weakest regular season schedule was Virginia which took on the #79 slate. The Group of Five team that took on the toughest schedule was actually San Jose St which faced 10 bowl teams, 4 ranked teams and their opponents were 89-54 after deducting their wins and losses versus San Jose. The Spartans came in #39 on my toughest schedule list and not surprisingly versus that tough late went just 1-11
Here are my final rankings for toughest regular season schedule in 2018. I will have the Going Up and Going Down boxes on page 27 and 28 of this years’ magazine and it will be interesting to see which teams schedule got a lot easier or tougher for the 2019 season.