College Football Strength of Schedule: SEC Leads with LSU, Arkansas, and Florida

Tim McGheeCorrespondent IIISeptember 13, 2011

Jarrett Lee, quarterback, Louisiana State University
Jarrett Lee, quarterback, Louisiana State UniversityRonald Martinez/Getty Images

Give an A to these schools, the grade representing their teams’ most challenging schedule after two weeks of the college football season: No, 3 Louisiana State, No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 13 Arkansas, No. 14 Florida, on deck Baylor and teams of intrigue Mississippi State and Notre Dame.

Mark down a B for these schools for signing up interesting opponents from perennially strong football programs: No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 Alabama, No. 11 Texas A & M, No. 12 Ohio State, No. 19 Texas and on deck Michigan.

A C goes to these schools, the teams which play a tough opponent or two but have a penchant for seeking games with teams outside the Top 40: No. 5 Florida State, No. 6 Stanford, No. 7 Nebraska, No. 15 West Virginia, No. 17 South Carolina, No. 18 Arizona State and on deck teams Maryland, Michigan State and Oregon.

Schools smacked with a grade of D probably scheduled a light slate that got worse as the AD ran into a string of bad luck when one or two of their opponents were upset: No. 4 Boise State, No. 8 Wisconsin, No. 10 Virginia Tech, No. 16 South Florida and on deck teams North Carolina and Texas Christian.

The action in Week 2 generated three upsets. 

  1. Iowa State upset Iowa, 44-41, in three overtimes, weakening the schedules of the Big Ten Legends division but bolstering the members of the Big XII. 
  2. I consider Auburn’s 41-34 road victory over Mississippi State in Starkville an upset, after the Tigers needed some luck to defeat lowly Utah State of the Western Athletic Conference last weekend.  Florida and South Carolina, both from the SEC East, added some schedule beef with Auburn’s win.
  3. However, the biggest surprise of the weekend was Florida International of the Sun Belt Conference doing little to alleviate the angst of the Big East with a win over Louisville at Papa John’s.

Building a 12-game slate of 11 Football Bowl Subdivision games and one game with a Football Championship Subdivision opponent is an art laced with luck. 

The athletic director balances past competitiveness of an opponent with an educated guess of future value of dollars with regard to future competitiveness and how many tickets that opponent will sell in the future…and do this years in advance?  It’s wild! 

Add the future competitiveness of the mandatory games with conference opponents and the ticket sales the conference schedule will generate.  It gets crazy!

West Virginia University football, for example, has not been successful at putting together a challenging schedule of non-conference games to provide strength against the relatively weak slate of Big East Conference teams. 

As a past Bleacher Report featured columnist covering WVU, I used to write articles with a derisive, sarcastic tone about what I thought was a lack of willingness to revise a business model outmoded when Boston College, Miami (Fla.) and Virginia Tech left the Big East to join the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Maybe I had a few good ideas then, all of which seem cynical considering No. 3 Louisiana State is going to be in Morgantown Saturday September 24.  I’ve mellowed now, truly believing that building a schedule is the most misunderstood aspect of the college game.

Cut them some slack, I say.