A successful college football season depends on more than just the team’s players and coaches.
A team needs a schedule that works in its favor. Teams with college football’s most difficult schedules have a harder time achieving their goals, regardless of the team’s talent. On the other hand, a team needs a fairly difficult schedule in order to have a resume good enough for the College Football Playoff.
In December, the College Spun staff predicted that USC, Auburn, Oklahoma, Ole Miss and Stanford would have the most difficult schedules of 2016, using 2015 performance as a factor. However, we published the list even before the 2015 season was over and thus did not take into account the teams’ final performance in their respective conferences and all of the team’s returning players.
In April, ESPN released a draft of its official analysis of college football schedules, using its highly-intricate Football Power Index (FPI). The FPI analyzes the schedules of each team and determines their difficulty. To get a result, the metric calculates both team strength as well as strength of schedule for every FBS team. Specifically:
The Football Power Index (FPI) is a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team’s performance going forward for the rest of the season. FPI represents how many points above or below average a team is. Projected results are based on 10,000 simulations of the rest of the season using FPI, results to date, and the remaining schedule. Ratings and projections update daily.
In the April version, the top portion of which was powerfully dominated by the Pac-12 and SEC, with eight schools. The ACC and Big 12 both had only two teams in the top 20. The Big Ten meanwhile, failed to even make the cut.