Ranking College Football's Most Difficult Schedules for 2022 Contenders

David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVJuly 14, 2022

Ranking College Football's Most Difficult Schedules for 2022 Contenders

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    Every college football season has dozens of variables. Along with injuries, the schedule is typically around the top of the list.

    That could be a positive thing since a favorable slate can provide the perfect window of opportunity for a championship hopeful. On the other hand, a difficult road can break down a talented team before it becomes a contender.

    Caliber of opponents, road games, short rest and a tough conference slate are the main obstacles. Some respected teams in 2022 are looking at a combination of those challenges.

    And in a few cases, all four.

    To trim the level of subjectivity, we considered the 18 teams with odds +9000 or better on DraftKings, as of July 12, as top contenders.

8. Wisconsin Badgers

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    The annoying truth for Wisconsin is every season tends to include an eye-rolling upset loss. Combine that trend with a road-filled schedule, and the Badgers face an uphill climb to national contention.

    After hosting Washington State—a bit of a wild card—in September, UW has an unfriendly Big Ten slate.

    Wisconsin travels to Ohio State (Sept. 24), Michigan State (Oct. 15) and Iowa (Nov. 12). Each of those programs won 10-plus games in 2021. Plus, the Badgers host Purdue (Oct. 22) and Minnesota (Nov. 26), a couple of nine-win teams last season.

    In short, the Badgers' ceiling is likely more a Big Ten West front-runner than a threat for the national title.

7. Florida Gators

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    The good news? To begin the Billy Napier era, Florida hosts six of its opening seven games.

    The bad news? That stretch includes an opener against Top Five candidate Utah (Sept. 3) and possible Top 25 opponents Kentucky (Sept. 10), Tennessee on the road (Sept. 24) and rival LSU (Oct. 15).

    Following an idle weekend post-LSU, the Gators take on reigning champion Georgia (Oct. 29) in Jacksonville and head to Texas A&M (Nov. 5). For good measure, South Carolina (Nov. 12) could be a breakout team, and Florida State (Nov. 25) hosts the rivalry clash this season.

    Napier has an arduous path to double-digit wins.

6. Texas Longhorns

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    If the Longhorns put an unpleasant 2021 campaign in the past, it'll be a hard-earned accomplishment.

    Texas is set to host Alabama (Sept. 10) early in the season but otherwise plays a majority of top competition outside Austin, including the Cotton Bowl showdown with Oklahoma (Oct. 8) and true road contests at Oklahoma State (Oct. 22) and Kansas State (Nov. 5).

    Oh, and the Longhorns travel to nemesis Kansas (Nov. 19).

    In seriousness, it's a tricky slate that concludes with a Black Friday tilt at home against Big 12 winner Baylor (Nov. 25). Steve Sarkisian and Co. have much to prove in 2022.

5. Baylor Bears

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    On paper, Baylor's six toughest games are against BYU, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Texas.

    Four of those matchups are on the road, and a pair of those effectively bookend the schedule each way.

    Baylor journeys to BYU (Sept. 10) and Iowa State (Sept. 24) early, also hosting Oklahoma State (Oct. 1). Late in the regular season, the Bears head to Oklahoma (Nov. 5) and Texas (Nov. 25) with Kansas State (Nov. 12) at home in between.

    BYU, Oklahoma State, OU and Texas are likely preseason Top 25 teams, while Iowa State and K-State are solidly mid-tier squads.

    Start hot, finish strong. That's no simple task.

4. LSU Tigers

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    Given that LSU has an 11-12 record since 2020 and lost quarterback Max Johnson to a transfer, even landing within the criteria feels like a stretch. It's not as if the schedule helps the Tigers either.

    Life as usual in the SEC West.

    After a (sort of) neutral-site opener with Florida State in New Orleans, the Tigers have an unrelenting slate. October has alternating road and home games against Auburn (Oct. 1), Tennessee (Oct. 8), Florida (Oct. 15) and Ole Miss (Oct. 22).

    If that gauntlet doesn't end the Tigers, they close the season with Alabama (Nov. 5) and trips to Arkansas (Nov. 12) and Texas A&M (Nov. 26).

    In total, that's five likely preseason Top 25 teams and three more marquee programs. Good luck, LSU.

3. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Although the Buckeyes hold the luxury of hosting most marquee games—including the opener with Notre Dame (Sept. 3)—the caliber of opponents reduces that advantage.

    MAC front-runner Toledo (Sept. 17) is no slouch prior to a date with Wisconsin (Sept. 24). Two weeks later, the Buckeyes finally hit the road after five consecutive home games and meet Michigan State (Oct. 8).

    The back-to-back against Iowa (Oct. 22) and at Penn State (Oct. 29) kicks off a season-ending run that finishes, as always, with rival Michigan (Nov. 26).

    Ohio State's schedule is unforgiving, at best.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Will the Crimson Tide be favored each weekend this season? Probably! All five road matchups are interesting, though.

    That list features Texas (Sept. 10), Arkansas (Oct. 1), Tennessee (Oct. 15), LSU (Nov. 5) and Ole Miss (Nov. 12). LSU is probably the lone member of the quintet that won't be a preseason Top 25 team.

    In addition, Alabama hosts Texas A&M (Oct. 8) for what's certain to be a narrative-charged game and the Iron Bowl against Auburn (Nov. 26).

    Since the Tide successfully navigate their schedule almost every year, it's easy to take for granted how perilous this slate can be.

1. Texas A&M Aggies

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    Texas A&M can hardly catch its breath.

    While the Aggies are at home for three straight weeks to open the season, they host a pesky Appalachian State program Sept. 10 before possible Top 15 team Miami comes to town Sept. 17.

    Even if A&M starts 3-0 as expected, the next four clashes are elsewhere. The Aggies play Arkansas (Sept. 24) in Arlington and then travel to Mississippi State (Oct. 1), Alabama (Oct. 8) and South Carolina (Oct. 22).

    The final stretch is home-heavy but full of formidable teams. Ole Miss (Oct. 29), Florida (Nov. 5), at Auburn (Nov. 12) and LSU (Nov. 26) await the Aggies for their closing run.

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