BCS Rankings 2011: The Hardest Remaining Schedules for the BCS Top 25 Teams

David Luther@@davidrlutherFeatured ColumnistOctober 28, 2011

BCS Rankings 2011: The Hardest Remaining Schedules for the BCS Top 25 Teams

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    As we close in on Week 10 of the 15-week college football season, a lot of fans are looking towards the future. Taking into consideration where teams currently rank and their remaining schedule has always been a fun topic of conversation. In the BCS era, however, it's turned into a game of roulette mixed with trigonometry.

    Can a No. 4 team jump a No. 3 to reach the BCS title game? Who will end up in the top 12? Who will have better computer rankings and strength-of-schedule points come December?

    All good (and fun) questions to ask. In order to find some answers, we have to look at who has the toughest remaining schedules.

    Here are the toughest schedules left amongst the current BCS Top 25.

10. Clemson

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    Clemson once had legit claim to a pretty brutal schedule.

    Once the wheels fell completely off the Georgia Tech wagon last week, however, Clemson's remaining ACC schedule looks like a relative cake-walk.

    The only thing putting the Tigers on our list is their season finale against cross-conference rival South Carolina.

    The Gamecocks are still clinging to their No. 13 BCS ranking and are still in a position to challenge for the SEC-East title again this season. The Clemson-South Carolina game is always a bitter dogfight, and with so much at stake for both teams this season, it surely won't disappoint.

9. Michigan State

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    Sparty's thrilling last-second victory over Wisconsin was huge for a couple of reasons.

    First, it puts Michigan State firmly in control of the Big Ten-Legends Division. Secondly, it shows everyone that MSU can play. This year, the Spartans appear to be for real.

    Before Michigan State fans get too worked up with BCS aspirations, however, a little work remains left to be done.

    First, No. 11 MSU must get past No. 14 Nebraska this weekend in Lincoln. A win over the 'Huskers is no foregone conclusion, but it's an open question how Taylor Martinez will be able to figure out the nation's second-ranked defense.

    After a cake walk against a terrible Minnesota team, Michigan State travels to Iowa, where the Spartans can hope to avenge last year's thrashing at the hands of the Hawkeyes, which also ruined MSU's perfect season.

    Sparty finished the season with an always dangerous trip to sleepy Ryan Field in Evanston. In addition to the quiet conditions, a game on the shores of Lake Michigan in late November can spell disaster for even the best of teams.

8. Oregon

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    The Ducks have rather quietly reassembled their BCS prospects after opening the season with a loss to now-No. 1 LSU.

    The Ducks control the Pac-12-North. With a win against likely Pac-12-South champion Arizona State under its belt, it looks likely that Oregon will be headed for Pasadena when the season is over.

    But there is a little business to be taken care of first. Most notably, Oregon has yet to play Pac-12-North challenger Stanford. The game between the No. 7 Ducks and No. 6 Cardinal will take place at Stanford on November 12 after Oregon travels to Washington to take on the potential landmine the Huskies present.

    After the Stanford game, Oregon still has USC on the schedule, set for November 19. While USC can't win the Pac-12 this season, losses to the Trojans can certainly derail the chances of someone else to win the conference.

7. Alabama

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    The Crimson Tide has four games left on its schedule, and two of them are against teams currently appearing in the BCS Top 25 rankings.

    The biggest game is obviously the Nov.5 showdown with No. 1 LSU.

    There have been a lot of No. 1 vs. No. 2 games over the years, and this one is garnering just as much attention as any of the previous in-season meetings of the nation's top-two ranked teams. There's not much left unsaid, so we'll just move on to look at the rest of Alabama's schedule.

    The reason for Alabama's ranking on this list being comparatively low is the fact that Alabama follows up their epic battle with LSU with a visit to a pretty bad Mississippi State team. The Bulldogs have yet to win an SEC contest this season, and it's looking more and more likely the Mississippi State may miss a bowl game this season.

    Alabama follows that up with a silly visit from FCS Georgia Southern on November 19. We understand teams scheduling FCS opponents to open the season, given that college football has no preseason. But a late-season FCS opponent, when the Tide should be at peak performance is just plain laughable. To be fair, Alabama is not the only SEC program to do this, as many teams have non-conference games late in the year. But at least try and find an FBS opponent next time.

    The season finishes with the annual Iron Bowl meeting against No. 23 Auburn. This year, the game is on the road for the Tide, and as any game between two bitter rivals, the outcome is always in doubt. If Alabama gets to this point in the season unscathed, there's nothing more the Tigers would like more than to destroy the Tide's chances at a BCS Championship.

6. Stanford

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    We're about to see if Stanford is everything it's cracked up to be this season.

    There has been a lot of talk lately about Stanford and its No. 6 BCS ranking. After all, who have the Cardinals played this season?

    Not a single team currently ranked in the BCS Top 25 appears on the Cardinal's past schedule, and there is only one looming for Stanford—but that doesn't mean there aren't some tough tests in the five remaining contests.

    This Saturday, Stanford travels to USC to take on its in-state rivals. While USC isn't eligible to be ranked in the BCS this season, the Trojans are ranked in the AP Top 25 (No. 20).

    Stanford then finds itself taking on No. 7 Oregon on Nov.12 in what is likely to be the de facto Pac-12-North championship contest.

    To finish the season, Stanford will welcome a dangerous Notre Dame team on Nov. 26 in the season finale for both teams. At this point, Stanford may be fighting for a BCS bowl berth, and this contest could mean the different between BCS bowling or not.

5. Arkansas

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    Believe it or not, Arkansas still has an outside chance of reaching the SEC Championship Game this season.

    How is that possible, given the loss to undefeated No. 2 Alabama? Well, should Alabama lose to LSU and Arkansas beats LSU in the season finale, the SEC-West participant in Atlanta will come down to BCS rankings. If there's one thing we've learned over the past decade or so of BCS rankings, it's to never trust a computer.

    Besides the final game of the season against LSU, Arkansas also has a Nov. 5 meeting with No. 13 South Carolina as well as a visit from Tennessee on Nov. 12.

4. Oklahoma

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    The Sooners' BCS Championship hopes evaporated on the field in Norman last weekend as the Texas Tech Red Raiders took it upon themselves to throw a wrench into the BCS system.

    Still, there's quite a lot of room to make up some ground for the Sooners, as they have games looming against Kansas State in Manhattan this weekend, followed by a visit from Texas A&M before finishing up the season with games at Baylor, versus Iowa State and at Oklahoma State.

    One of only three teams with two games against BCS top-10 teams on their remaining schedule, the Sooners could still make some noise down the stretch.

3. Oklahoma State

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    The Cowboys could have made a case for having the toughest remaining schedule had the Oklahoma Sooners won last week against Texas Tech.

    Alas, Oklahoma State will have to settle for the No. 3 position on our countdown of toughest remaining schedules in the BCS Top 25.

    This weekend, the Cowboys welcome dangerous and once-ranked Baylor to Stillwater before hosting No. 8 Kansas State on Nov. 5. The following week, Oklahoma State will travel to Texas Tech to face a Red Raiders team that upset then-No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman. The Cowboys will finish the season with a game at Iowa State before a week off to prepare for the season finale at home against hated rival No. 9 Oklahoma.

2. Nebraska

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    The Nebraska Cornhuskers were given a fairly rude welcome to the Big Ten by Wisconsin earlier this season before rebounding against Ohio State two weeks ago.

    After a week off, the No. 14 'Huskers will host No. 11 Michigan State this Saturday in Lincoln.

    After the visit from MSU, Nebraska will get their first taste visit from Northwestern before traveling to Happy Valley to take on No. 19 Penn State in one of the nation's most hostile environments.

    After that nightmare, the Cornhuskers will find themselves in front of over 110,000 fans for the second consecutive week, as Nebraska travels to Ann Arbor to face the No. 18 Michigan Wolverines.

    With the loss to Wisconsin, Nebraska now has to win out if they want to guarantee themselves a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game.

    With this schedule—the only one with three BCS-ranked teams—that's no easy task.

1. LSU

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    Whoever created the 2011 LSU football schedule certainly didn't do the Tigers any favors.

    Sure, there's not much discussion about the conference portion of the schedule, but combined with the SEC gauntlet, the Tigers have played a pretty fearsome non-conference schedule.

    After getting through unscathed to this point, the No. 1 Tigers till have No. 2 Alabama on Nov. 5 and No. 10 Arkansas on Nov. 25.

    Only two other teams face two BCS top ten teams. While Oklahoma State doesn't have quite the collection of cupcakes mixed into the remaining schedule, LSU plays No. 2 Alabama on the road. That alone trumps Okie State's two games against BCS top ten teams, with both games in Stillwater, and Oklahoma's remaining schedule, as well.