College football season officially starts next month, and Monday, ESPN finally released its updated FPI rankings heading into the new campaign. One of the most interesting factors for FPI is the strength of schedule.
This year’s “hardest” schedules are dominated by the SEC and the Pac-12. In fact, 11 of the top 20 come from the Southeastern Conference. Seven call the Pac-12 home.
Let’s take a look at the top 10. South Carolina, which has to play both Alabama and Clemson, comes in with the No. 1 ranking.
LSU’s four non-conference opponents are Georgia Southern, Texas (away), Northwestern State and Utah State. The Tigers also take on an SEC schedule of Vanderbilt, Florida, Mississippi State, Auburn, Alabama, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Texas A&M.
UCLA has a brutal non-conference schedule that includes a trip to Cincinnati and home games against San Diego State and Oklahoma. The Bruins then also get Washington State, Arizona, Oregon State, Stanford, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah, USC and Cal in Pac-12 play.
8. Oregon State
Oregon State’s non-conference schedule has Oklahoma State, Hawaii and Cal Poly on the docket. They then play Stanford, UCLA, Utah, Cal, Arizona, Washington, Arizona State, Washington State and Oregon in the Pac-12.
Auburn’s big non-conference opponent is Oregon, but the Tigers also get Tulane, Kent State and Samford. They then have Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Florida, Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama in the SEC.
Colorado takes on Colorado State, Nebraska and Air Force to start the season before playing Arizona State, Arizona, Oregon, Washington State, USC, UCLA, Stanford, Washington and Utah in Pac-12 play.
Georgia has a huge game against Notre Dame at home in September. The Bulldogs also have Murray State, Arkansas State and Georgia Tech out of conference. Their SEC schedule includes Vanderbilt, Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Auburn and Texas A&M.
Stanford takes on Northwestern, UCF and Notre Dame out of conference. The Cardinal also get USC, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, UCLA, Arizona, Colorado, Washington State and Cal.
Florida starts the season off against Miami and also takes on UT Martin, Towson and annual opponent Florida State out of conference. The Gators get Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, South Carolina, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Missouri in the SEC.
USC has a brutal schedule, which includes Fresno State, BYU and Notre Dame out of conference. The Trojans get Stanford, Utah, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona State, Cal and UCLA in the Pac-12.
1. South Carolina
South Carolina’s schedule is the hardest in the country. The Gamecocks open with North Carolina and also play Charleston Southern, Appalachian State and Clemson out of conference. They get Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M in the SEC.