By Brad Edwards, Special to ESPN.com
Using the average team rankings between the preseason coaches poll and the major preview magazines along with the exclusive 2003 schedule strength ratings from NationalChamps.net, ESPN.com released an unofficial version of what they called the Preseason BCS rankings. NationalChamps.net proudly presents the 2006 version.

1. Stanford .801
2. Michigan State .792
3. Michigan .774
4. Mississippi State .772
5. UCLA .770
6. Florida .753
7. Penn State .747
8. Georgia Tech .742
9. Tennessee .712
10. Arkansas .702
11. Kentucky .690
11. Southern California .690
13. Arizona .689
14. Washington .679
15. North Carolina .678
16. Iowa State .661
17. Cincinnati .657
18. Minnesota .639
19. Auburn .625
20. Vanderbilt .617
21. Washington State .613
22. Ohio State .610
23. Oregon .603
24. Mississippi .595
25. Baylor .590
26. Texas Tech .588
27. Alabama .585
28. Maryland .584
29. Northwestern .581
30. Texas .571
31. Oklahoma State .569
32. Nebraska .568
33. Purdue .562
34. South Carolina .554
35. Texas A&M .546
36. Duke .531
37. Colorado .526
38. Louisiana State .522
39. Oregon State .520
40. Kansas State .518
41. Oklahoma .515
42. Notre Dame .512
43. Iowa .487
44. Indiana .481
45. California .478
45. Illinois .478
47. Arizona State .472
48. Rice .471
49. Air Force .466
50. Georgia .462
51. Boston College .433
52. Florida State .432
53. Miami FL .418
54. Army .415
55. Tulane .409
56. Virginia .402
57. Syracuse .398
58. Missouri .397
59. Wake Forest .375
60. Clemson .359
61. South Florida .353
62. Rutgers .352
63. Temple .350
63. Wisconsin .350
65. Pittsburgh .348
66. Fresno State .345
67. Navy .344
68. Northern Illinois .343
69. Middle Tennessee .336
70. Virginia Tech .332
71. Louisville .331
72. Connecticut .330
73. North Carolina State .328
74. Southern Miss .315
74. UAB .315
76. Bowling Green .311
77. North Texas .308
78. Marshall .290
79. Louisiana Tech .288
80. Florida International .276
81. Buffalo .271
82. East Carolina .257
83. Louisiana-Lafayette .256
84. Troy .240
85. Central Michigan .231
86. Kansas .222
87. Hawai'i .219
88. UCF .213
89. Colorado State .203
90. Wyoming .200
91. Nevada .198
92. Brigham Young .197
93. Ball State .193
94. UNLV .192
95. West Virginia .187
96. Florida Atlantic .185
96. Utah .185
98. Western Michigan .184
99. Louisiana-Monroe .183
99. Houston .183
101. Utah State .179
102. Arkansas State .175
103. Akron .172
104. San Diego State .170
105. Kent State .166
106. Idaho .138
107. TCU .135
108. New Mexico .130
109. Toledo .119
109. Memphis .119
111. New Mexico State .116
112. SMU .115
113. Eastern Michigan .110
113. Boise State .110
115. San Jose State .108
116. UTEP .106
117. Miami OH .097
118. Ohio .079
119. Tulsa .072

Since NationalChamps.net has begun compiling our preseason strength of schedule (SOS) in 2003, the Pac Ten has never placed a team at the top of the list, until now. In fact, before the recent emergence of USC, many felt this elite western conference suffered from an East Coast bias, which meant that the Pac Ten was usually considered one of the lesser BCS conferences. To quote Robert Zimmerman, “The times they are a changin'” - half of the Pac Ten cracked our Top 26 preseason rankings. So it should be no surprise that Stanford, with a road trip to South Bend, found their way to the top of this list and that seven Pac Ten members make our SOS Top 25. Best of luck to second year coach Walt Harris.


2006 NationalChamps.net Preseason Poll
Schedule rank in parenthesis ( )
1. Notre Dame (42)
2. Texas (30)
3. Ohio State (22)
4. Louisiana State (38)
5. Southern California (11)
6. West Virginia (95)
7. Florida (6)
8. Oklahoma (41)
9. Auburn (19)
10. Michigan (3)
11. Miami FL (53)
12. Louisville (71)
13. Georgia (50)
14. Alabama (27)
15. Florida State (52)

No wonder pollsters are taking a stab at West Virginia to make it through a regular season possibly unscathed. The Mountaineers have the easiest schedule of any team in a BCS conference, and no Big East conference championship game exists. Naturally, Big East partner Louisville follows suit in terms of an easy ride, which makes their Thursday night ESPN game on November 2 at Papa John's Stadium a game with major BCS and/or national championship ramification.

Michigan, Florida and Southern California all have to toughest road to haul if they wish to make a push for top honors at the end of the season. The Gators possess a slate from mid-September through the end of October that includes Tennessee, Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia all in the span of six games. Coach Urban Meyer, in the second year of his Gainesville campaign, continues to receive a rude welcome to the SEC.


Tulsa receives the award for the worst schedule in Division I-A (119th). Isn't this the same team somebody tagged as having the best chance of any mid-major cracking the new five game BCS system? Oh wait that was us…and now you know why we say that (see Mid-Major Predictions). TCU, another team looking to break into the BCS, is not far behind (107th) in the worst schedule race. We feel that if a mid-major is to make that BCS breakthrough, the team’s schedule will have to come in below No. 85 on this list. Some others we have tagged to make a push in the new five game BCS system - UTEP, Boise State, Utah, Nevada, UCF – all come in notably lower than this in our SOS rankings.


Using our sliding scale point formula, the SEC is still king, followed by a tie between the Big 10 and Big 12. Once again this season, the ACC ranks only ahead of the Big East in terms of the six BCS big boys. While the ACC likely represents the most solid parity from top to bottom, they are still void of any team(s) currently deserving our Top 10. Such issues are big reasons why no ACC squads will be playing in the BCS National Championship Game come January 8 according to our calculations.

SEC .745
Big 12 .593
Big 10 .593
Pac 10 .548
ACC .488
Big East .444
Conference USA .170
Mountain West .169
WAC .131
MAC .079
Sun Belt .037


Toughest and Easiest SOS by BCS conference

Toughest - Georgia Tech: Opening at No. 1 Notre Dame on Labor Day weekend and closing against in-state rival Georgia. And those are non-conference games. Reggie Ball needs to severely lower his TD to INT ratio and gain some semblance of consistency for the Ramblin Wreck to finish ranked.
Easiest - North Carolina State: With an unprecedented three DL players taken in the 2006 NFL Draft, Coach Amato's defense will need time to gel. The positive: none of their out of conference opponents resemble a Top 25 team.

Big East
Toughest - Cincinnati: Back-to-back September road games in Columbus and Blacksburg give the Bearcats a big boost on this list, but not a boost in the win column. Go on, take the money and run.
Easiest - West Virginia: Don't blame WVU for their scheduling woes. The Big East was raided by the ACC, and the Mountaineers were left scrambling to find opponents on short notice. Their schedule reflects such despair and is the worst of any BCS conference team.

Big Ten
Toughest - Michigan State: With the nation's No. 2 rated schedule, Coach John L. Smith will find it difficult avoiding downtime during bowl season (much like the past two campaigns). The Spartans beat Notre Dame in South Bend last year, and the Irish are looking for payback in East Lancing. Oh yeah…Ohio State and Michigan are scheduled back-to-back right after that.
Easiest - Wisconsin: This is a ball club that could be sneaking around the Big 10 hen house come November much like the old Barry Alvarez coached teams used to. Their defense is strong enough to carry the Badgers through eight of the first nine games.

Big 12
Toughest - Iowa State: The Cyclones are poised offensively to make their best run at a North Division title. One problem: they face off versus both Oklahoma and Texas on the road. Yes, games versus opponents from the South Division count in the conference standings.
Easiest - Kansas: Way below the Big 12 norm. The non-conference schedule is extremely light as the Jayhawks somehow manage to dodge both Oklahoma and Texas. Coach Mangino must have made a deal with the devil on the Lawrence Crossroads.

Pac Ten
Toughest - Stanford: As already stated on the list to the left, this schedule is the toughest in the country. Opening the season in Eugene could start this Cardinal flight off on a bumpy note.
Easiest - Arizona State: By no means is this an easy slate (47th). By mid-October the Sun Devils will have squared off against five teams in our Top 50 preseason rankings. The bottom line: the Pac Ten has gotten much more difficult.

Toughest - Mississippi State: The poor Bulldogs and Coach Croom are having a hard time climbing out of the cellar. They will have a tough time once again with a brutal SEC slate that also has a hyped West Virginia making a visit to Starkville.
Easiest - Georgia: The Dawg’s 50th-ranked list still contains brutal tussles with Colorado, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech, none of which are ever easy. This just proves why, bar none, the SEC is the best conference. A likely rematch of last season's SEC Championship Game with LSU won't be a part of the regular season.