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2007 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
NON-CONFERENCE STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE (Click here)

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 2007 version.

Rank
Team
Pts.
1. Kentucky .920
2. Mississippi State .849
3. Mississippi .816
4. Notre Dame .813
5. South Carolina .799
6. Auburn .783
7. Oregon .771
8. Washington .747
9. Washington State .741
10. Michigan State .713
11. Florida .691
11. Alabama .691
13. Illinois .675
14. Stanford .665
15. Nebraska .662
16. Vanderbilt .653
17. Tennessee .640
18. Louisiana State .623
19. Penn State .599
20. Arizona .594
21. Florida State .588
22. Oklahoma State .585
23. UCLA .583
24. Oregon State .570
25. Arkansas .566
25. Minnesota .566
27. California .543
28. Arizona State .542
28. Purdue .542
30. South Florida .530
30. Ohio State .530
32. Cincinnati .514
33. Pittsburgh .513
34. Miami FL .511
34. Texas A&M .511
36. Syracuse .510
37. Maryland .509
38. Wisconsin .499
39. Baylor .498
40. Virginia Tech .492
41. Connecticut .486
42. Georgia .483
43. Louisiana Tech .472
44. Troy .469
45. Iowa State .463
46. Michigan .460
47. Texas Tech .446
48. Kansas State .442
49. Texas .432
50. Middle Tennessee .426
50. Georgia Tech .426
52. Southern California .425
53. North Carolina .420
54. Northwestern .419
55. Idaho .414
56. Clemson .413
57. Louisville .408
58. Rutgers .407
59. North Carolina State .406
60. Boston College .402
61. Duke .401
62. Oklahoma .353
62. West Virginia .353
64. Utah .351
64. Colorado .351
66. Missouri .350
67. Florida Atlantic .346
67. East Carolina .346
69. Indiana .337
70. Iowa .324
71. Florida International .306
72. Virginia .297
73. Army .296
74. Eastern Michigan .294
74. UNLV .294
76. Western Michigan .287
77. North Texas .286
78. Wake Forest .282
79. Tulane .279
80. Arkansas State .277
81. Kansas .269
82. Utah State .263
83. Marshall .261
84. UCF .248
85. Northern Illinois .238
86. Navy .236
87. Colorado State .230
88. Buffalo .229
89. New Mexico State .220
90. TCU .219
91. Rice .208
92. Fresno State .207
93. Nevada .201
94. Kent State .186
95. Air Force .185
96. Wyoming .183
97. Brigham Young .181
97. Southern Miss .181
99. Louisiana-Lafayette .180
100. Tulsa .175
101. Akron .168
102. Louisiana-Monroe .164
103. San Diego State .156
104. Ohio .148
105. San Jose State .147
106. New Mexico .145
107. Ball State .141
108. Bowling Green .126
109. SMU .124
110. Temple .123
111. UAB .109
112. Houston .090
113. Central Michigan .078
114. Hawai'i .077
115. Miami OH .069
116. Boise State .067
117. UTEP .053
118. Toledo .048
119. Memphis .047

The parity in the SEC East is closer than it has been in years. Such a statement is almost mind-boggling since the lesser teams have steadily improved to make this true. South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Kentucky now field extremely competitive teams while also returning a great deal of experience...ergo, higher expectations go hand-in-hand with parity. Coach Rich Brooks' Wildcats are coming off of a big bowl win (2006 Music City) over Clemson and an 8-5 record. Improving on last year's success for any of these SEC East teams is next to impossible since they all have to face each other as well as division-mates Georgia, Tennessee and Florida. Kentucky actually squares off against three of NationalChamps.net’s preseason Top 10 teams (#2 LSU, #4 Florida, and #9 Louisville). Whew! Just what should be considered a legitimate expectation in Lexington for ‘07? Another eight-win season would be enough success under these daunting circumstances.

2007 NationalChamps.net Preseason Poll
Schedule rank in parenthesis ( )
1. Southern California (52)
2. Louisiana State (18)
3. Michigan (46)
4. Florida (11)
5. West Virginia (62)
6. Wisconsin (38)
7. Texas (49)
8. Oklahoma (62)
9. Louisville (57)
10. Ohio State (30)
11. Virginia Tech (40)
12. Arkansas (25)
13. California (27)
14. Auburn (6)
15. Georgia (42)

No wonder numerous prognosticators are picking West Virginia to make it through the regular season unscathed - the Mountaineers 62nd-ranked SOS is the easiest of any in our Top 15, and no Big East conference championship game exists. Naturally, Big East partner Louisville also has an easy ride, which makes their Thursday night ESPN game on November 8 at Mountaineer Field a genuine test for both, with major BCS and/or national championship ramification just like last year. Surprisingly, Oklahoma gets somewhat of an easier ride this fall. Their non-conference schedule is a breeze outside of a home date with the 'not so now' Hurricanes. The tougher Big 12 South opponents are all at home outside of the neutral Red River Shootout versus Texas.

TOUGHEST RIDE OF THE TOP 15 – Auburn
Once again, the SEC shines in terms of conference difficulty. The Tigers have a venerable senior QB in Brandon Cox. They will need his invaluable experience - road games at Florida, Arkansas, LSU and Georgia will severely test the newest Tigers. Unlike most SEC schools, Auburn does not back away from building a challenging non-conference schedule in 2007. The first two games contain upstart South Florida and a worthy Kansas State squad. In their 12-game schedule, only two dates can legitimately be considered sure victories.

Memphis receives the award for the easiest schedule in Division I-A (119th). OK, so the 12-team C-USA line up isn't going to find many (if any) of its participants involved in the Top 25 or BCS race. The hardest game will likely be either the opener at home versus Ole Miss or their final road game at Southern Miss. Also on the non-conference slate is Arkansas State and I-AA Jacksonville State. Maybe head coach Tommy West can get his team back to postseason play.

Using our sliding scale point formula, the SEC is still king...and by a huge margin. The biggest changes in this index from a year ago include the Big 12 dropping in the ranks and the ACC dropping to last in the rankings of the BCS conferences. The unsteady nature of the Big 12 North has caused the strength of this league to diminish, while the ACC only has one team worthy of a Top 20 ranking.

SEC .886
Big Ten .607
Pac Ten .510
Big 12 .489
Big East .434
ACC .373
Mountain West .096
WAC .081
C-USA .032
MAC .028
Sun Belt .015

 

Toughest and Easiest Schedule by BCS conference

ACC
Toughest - Florida State: During his long career, Bobby Bowden has been no stranger to scheduling difficult non-conference games. In 2007, the list is much the same (Colorado, Alabama, Florida) and none of them is in the confines of Doak Campbell Stadium. Back-to-back road contests in November include division favorites Boston College and Virginia Tech.

Easiest - Wake Forest: The Deacs did not shy away from building a descent non-conference schedule (Nebraska and Vanderbilt). The fact is, though, that the reigning ACC Champs are void of having to play the three toughest teams in the opposing Coastal Division (Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Miami). Those who think they can win another league title may not just be whistling ‘Dixie’.

Big East
Toughest - South Florida: So da Bulls want to continue to live in the Top 25, eh (NationalChamps.net Preseason No. 25 team)? It won't be so easy since USF travels to Auburn the second week. A loss will likely drop them from the rankings immediately. Auburn is the only preseason ranked team to dot any of the Big East’s non-conference schedules.

Easiest - West Virginia: Don't blame WVU for their scheduling woes. The Big East was raided by the ACC, and that now means five non-cons annually for each of its eight members. The Mountaineers were left scrambling to find opponents on short notice. That is why their schedule reflects such despair and is the reason (as stated already) why WVU is considered a solid favorite to make national championship noise.

Big Ten
Toughest - Michigan State: With the nation's No. 10 schedule, new coach Mark Dantonio will find it difficult avoiding downtime during bowl season (much like the past three campaigns). Road trips to Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa mark a rough stretch before Halloween.

Easiest - Iowa: The Hawkeyes are void of having to play big dogs Ohio State and Michigan. This about says it all. The toughest non-conference game may come from one of two MAC opponents.

Big 12
Toughest - Nebraska: Now in his fourth season at the helm, this may be the best shot coach Bill Callahan has had yet. The North Division is by far the less competitive of the two, but the non-conference games include a road trip to defending ACC Champ Wake Forest and a visit by the nation's unanimous No. 1 team, USC.

Easiest - Kansas: The Jayhawks don't play Texas and they don't play Oklahoma. The non-conference schedule, which encompasses the first four games of the season, is so bad, we are certain the ‘Fighting Manginos’ would be the worst undefeated team at the completion of September if still unscathed.

Pac Ten
Toughest - Washington: Coach Tyrone Willingham wants to get his team over the .500 mark for the first time in five seasons. He will find out quickly where his team stands as no team in America opens the season with such a brutal start. September's slate includes four highly ranked teams (Boise State, Ohio State, UCLA, USC), three of whom were BCS finalists. They will need some late season victories to become bowl eligible. They close a 13-game schedule at scoring machine Hawai'i. Ouch!

Easiest - Southern California: By no means is this an easy slate. The Trojans cannot play themselves, which hurts their overall conference SOS standing. These numbers may be misleading. Challenging non-conference road games include trips to Lincoln and South Bend. The bottom line: the Pac Ten has gotten much more difficult, but the Trojans can expect to be on top playing the other wanna-be’s until someone knocks them off.

SEC
Toughest - Kentucky: As already stated here, this is the nation's No. 1 rated SOS in the nation's No. 1 rated conference. That means being competitive and winning should be considered two different results with such a tough 12-game road.

Easiest - Georgia: The Dawg’s 42nd-ranked list still contains tough battles with Oklahoma State, Alabama, Auburn and Georgia Tech in addition to the typical East Division grindstone. If the easiest schedule in the league is ranked 42nd (out of 119 I-A teams) for SOS, this just proves why, bar none, the SEC is the best conference. The term ‘easiest’ should not be a part of the vocabulary when describing the Dawg’s slate, except for the fact that it is the easiest in this ever-toughening league.