Nonconference schedules are a hot topic in college football right now, in large part because of the SEC's new mandate for each of its teams to schedule at least one opponent from a power conference.
That rule, however, did not take effect for this season, which is how we ended up with with SEC nonconference slates such as Vanderbilt's (Temple, UMass, Charleston Southern, Old Dominion) and Mississippi State's (Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama, UT-Martin).
On the flip-side of those creampuff schedules are a group of teams that will challenge themselves. Whether by stratagem or by bad luck, their schedule features numerous teams that can beat them.
In order to make this list, a team had to have at least two quality opponents. Michigan State, for example, has the hardest nonconference game in the country—at Oregon on Sept. 6—but no other power conference teams. It was bypassed for that reason.
Beyond that, it was a judgement call.
Based on the case, I sometimes preferred a team with two very hard games over three modestly hard ones. Other times, I preferred the opposite. Context was the key.
Let me know what you disagree with in the comments.