Re-Ranking the Toughest Schedules in College Football After the First Month
Before the season began, everybody was spending time breaking down the college football schedules and seeing who had the easiest path to success. Hours were spent on breaking down teams, depth charts, coaching changes and which road games were played where.
It seemed like everybody had given Notre Dame the toughest schedule in 2012, but after the first month of games, head coach Brian Kelly seems to have things under control.
In fact, many of schedules that appeared to be tough are less troubling, while some schedules everyone looked over have increased in difficultly.
This is because injuries happen, teams perform better than expected and the teams many thought were great aren't all that.
With a month of games out of the way, here are some of the toughest schedules in college football.
10. Kansas State
Tough Games Played: vs. Miami, at Oklahoma
Tough Games Remaining: At West Virginia, vs. Oklahoma State, at TCU, vs. Texas
Kansas State has done it again, as the Wildcats are proving that last season’s 10-win season was no fluke. Although with wins over Miami and Oklahoma, things are just getting started for Bill Snyder's football team.
The Wildcats will have three tough Big 12 road games, with trips to Morgantown, a road game against TCU and having to travel to Waco to play an offensive juggernaut in Baylor.
On top of those road games, Kansas State will also play explosive offensive teams in Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, as well as a highly ranked Texas Longhorns club.
Did I forget to mention that those six games are the final six of the season for the Wildcats?
The Big 12 is getting better and the Wildcats will soon be tested more than ever.
Tough Games Played: At LSU, vs. Stanford
Tough Games Remaining: At Oregon, vs. USC, vs. Oregon State
Washington was considered to have one of the tougher schedules in the country even before the season started. With games against LSU and Stanford now in the books, the Huskies still have a difficult road ahead.
Not only will Keith Price and company play Oregon and USC in consecutive weeks, traveling to Tucson won't be easy with coach Rich Rodriguez turning that program around.
Washington also plays a feisty Oregon State team later this month that will determine if either one of these programs is serious Pac-12 contenders.
Due to teams such as Utah and California not living up to expectations, the schedule isn't as brutal as it first looked, but it still won't be easy for an overall conference that is much better than expected.
Tough Games Played: vs. TCU
Tough Games Remaining: At Kansas State, at Oklahoma, vs. Texas, at West Virginia
I guess because Kansas got Charlie Weis as a head coach, the schedule makers believed that the Jayhawks would be a better football team in 2012. After a 1-4 start and an offense that ranks 109th in scoring, things aren't looking good for the team in Lawrence.
Speaking of the schedule, the Jayhawks play road games against Kansas State, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas Tech and West Virginia.
I also can't forget about teams such as Texas and Oklahoma State that will come to town and continue their long traditions of beating this program.
It is fair to say that it will take longer than a year or two to turn the Jayhawks into a contender in the Big 12.
Tough Games Played: At Ohio State, at USC
Tough Games Remaining: vs. UCLA, vs. Stanford, vs. Washington, vs. Oregon, at Oregon State
You would think that back-to-back road games against Ohio State and USC was enough for Cal, but due to the improved Pac-12, the Golden Bears are not out of the woods just yet.
A ranked UCLA team is on the schedule this weekend, as well as Stanford in a couple of weeks. To make matters even worse, Cal will end the year with Washington, Oregon and Oregon State, teams that the Golden Bears haven't had much success against lately.
With a team that is struggling as bad as Cal is right now, it wouldn't be surprising if this program remains at the bottom of the conference this season.
Tough Games Played: vs. Virginia
Tough Games Remaining: At West Virginia, vs. Kansas State, at Texas, vs. Oklahoma
There is no team in the country that has four tougher games to end the season than the TCU Horned Frogs. And due to such a cruel month of November, it is enough to have the Big 12 newbies on this list.
TCU ends the year with a road game against West Virginia, home vs. Kansas State, a road game against Texas and home against Oklahoma. If you want to talk about more recent games, a road game against Baylor, Texas Tech and a trip to Stillwater.
And what makes the schedule even tougher is that quarterback Casey Pachall has been suspended from the team after picking up a DWI, according to Casey Pachall of the AP.
I'm not sure if TCU lost a bet before leaving for this conference, but ending the season with four consecutive ranked teams is enough to make any team in the country want to cry.
Pick up all of the wins you can now, it will come in handy later on.
Tough Games Played: At Texas A&M, at Tennessee
Tough Games Remaining: vs. LSU, vs. South Carolina, vs. Georgia, at Florida State
Are people beginning to jump on the Florida bandwagon and consider the Gators contenders?
If so, the next couple of months will determine just how good this football team really is. After picking up solid victories over Texas A&M and Tennessee, Florida now plays LSU, South Carolina and Georgia in the month of October.
As if the conference schedule isn't tough enough, the Gators will make their trip to Tallahassee and play a Top 5 team in the Florida State Seminoles at the end of the year.
The good news is that the SEC games are at home or neutral sites, but that still doesn't help ease the difficulty looking ahead.
4. Notre Dame
Tough Games Played: At Michigan State, vs. Michigan
Tough Games Remaining: vs. Stanford, at Oklahoma, at USC
Notre Dame was considered to have by far the toughest schedule in college football, but with many teams playing disappointing ball, and the Irish playing well, the schedule isn't as difficult as it once appeared.
The Irish still have to travel to Oklahoma and USC, as well as play a great defensive team in BYU and a tricky offensive team in Miami this weekend. Stanford is a team that has also managed to knock off the Irish in the last three meetings.
It is still a tough road ahead and Notre Dame certainly can't let all of the hype get to its head, but a schedule that looked impossible a month ago looks a little easier in the month of October.
3. Oklahoma State
Tough Games Played: vs. Texas
Tough Games Remaining: vs. TCU, at Kansas State, vs. West Virginia, at Oklahoma
Already losing to the first two ranked teams on the schedule, the Oklahoma State Cowboys play four more teams that are ranked and have explosive offenses as well.
With the Cowboys having one of the worst defenses in the country yet again, the Big 12 schedule is no cupcake for head coach Mike Gundy.
The Cowboys play road games against Kansas State, Oklahoma and Baylor, and that doesn't include TCU, West Virginia and Texas Tech coming to town.
The Cowboys were able to breeze through the conference schedule last season, but with two big additions to the Big 12, the road isn't looking as smooth as it once did.
Tough Games Played: At Auburn
Tough Games Remaining: At Florida, vs. South Carolina, At Texas A&M, vs. Alabama, vs. Mississippi State
Remember when LSU and Alabama were supposed to meet in November as undefeated teams and play the "Game of the Century" part II?
Well, with the SEC East drastically improved, things aren't looking so great for the Tigers. The next month of games include road trips to Florida and Texas A&M, while also playing Top 10 teams in Alabama and South Carolina.
An improved Mississippi State team is looking for a big victory and you can never sleep on a trip to Fayetteville.
In a conference that was supposed to be so top heavy, things have quickly changed in the first month of the season.
1. South Carolina
Tough Games Played: N/A
Tough Games Remaining: vs. Georgia, at LSU, at Florida, at Clemson
South Carolina has yet to play to its full potential, but also hasn't faced a team worth mentioning in the first half of the season. The next seven contests will tell us if Steve Spurrier has a true National Championship contender on his hands or not.
The next three games include Georgia, LSU and Florida, with the last two games being played on the road. Then the Gamecocks have to play two talented teams in Tennessee and Arkansas, two clubs that are capable of pulling off an upset.
And if the month of October wasn't enough, a trip to Clemson makes things that much more difficult, as South Carolina has lost five of the last seven on the road against the Tigers.
Much like LSU, South Carolina does not benefit much from an even deeper SEC in 2012.