Phil Steele has published his 2018 college football strength of schedule rankings. The UCLA Bruins have the toughest schedule in 2018, while the New Mexico State Aggies have the easiest, per Steele.
How does Steele arrive at his preseason toughest schedule ratings? Steele combines his “9 sets of Power Ratings” with the amount of home and away games. This differs from the NCAA method which is strictly based on the opponent winning percentage from the previous year.
The Big 12 and Big Ten lead Phil Steele’s rankings with seven teams each in his Top 25 toughest schedules. They are followed by the ACC (4), Pac-12 (3), SEC (3), and Notre Dame.
Phil Steele’s 10 toughest schedules for 2018
1. UCLA (2017 rank: 3rd) – UCLA opens the season at home vs. Cincinnati before traveling to take on Oklahoma. In Pac-12 play, the Bruins host Washington, Arizona, Utah, USC, and Stanford and travel to Colorado, California, Oregon, and Arizona State.
2. Purdue (2017 rank: 39th) – The Boilermakers open the season vs. Northwestern. Later, they host Missouri and Boston College in back-to-back weeks. Big Ten games for Purdue, in addition to Northwestern, include Ohio State, Iowa, and Wisconsin at home and Nebraska, Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Indiana on the road.
3. Michigan (2017 rank: 36th) – The Wolverines open the season on the road at Notre Dame before hosting WMU and SMU. Michigan hosts Big Ten foes Nebraska, Maryland, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Indiana and travels to Northwestern, Michigan State, Rutgers, and Ohio State.
4. Oregon State (2017 rank: 6th) – The Beavers . ACC contests for Syracuse include Pitt, Clemson, Wake Forest, and Boston College at the Carrier Dome and NC State, Miami, FSU, and Louisville on the road.
5. Florida State (2017 rank: 16th) – FSU opens the season on Labor Day with a conference home game against Virginia Tech, travels to Notre Dame on Nov. 10, and hosts Florida to close the regular season. In ACC play, the Seminoles host Wake Forest, Clemson. and Boston College and play at Syracuse, Louisville, Miami FL, and NC State.
6. Nebraska (2017 rank: 35th) – The Cornhuskers open the 2018 season with home games against Akron, Colorado, and Troy. In Big Ten action, Nebraska will host Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan State and travel to Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Iowa.
7. Arizona State (2017 rank: 10th) – The Sun Devils open the season against UTSA and Michigan State before traveling to San Diego State. Conference foes include Oregon State, Stanford, Utah, and UCLA at home and Washington, Colorado, USC, Oregon, and Arizona on the road.
8. Texas (2017 rank: 24th) – The Longhorns open the 2018 season against Maryland at FedEx Field in Landover. Texas then hosts Tulsa and USC in Austin. Conference games include TCU, Baylor, West Virginia, and Iowa State at home and Kansas State, Oklahoma (in Dallas), Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Kansas on the road.
9. Maryland (2017 rank: 13th) – The Terrapins open the season against Texas at FedEx Field and later travel to Bowling Green and host Temple. Big Ten opponents include Minnesota, Rutgers, Illinois, Michigan State, and Ohio State at home and Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, and Penn State on the road.
10. LSU (2017 rank: 1st) – The Tigers kick off the season in Arlington against the Miami Hurricanes. LSU will host SEC foes Ole Miss, Georgia, Mississippi State, and Alabama and will play at Auburn, Florida, Arkansas, and Texas A&M.
The rest of Phil Steele’s toughest schedule rankings for 2018 are listed below.
(11) Rutgers, (12) West Virginia, (13) Northwestern, (14) Georgia Tech, (15) Texas A&M, (16) Notre Dame, (17) Iowa State, (18) TCU, (19) Oklahoma, (20) Pitt, (21) Kansas State, (22) Kansas, (23) Duke, (24) Michigan State, (25) Auburn
(26) Utah, (27) Missouri, (28) Penn State, (29) Stanford, (30) Texas Tech, (31) USC, (32) Mississippi State, (33) Baylor, (34) Syracuse, (35) Boston College, (36) Minnesota, (37) Wake Forest, (38) Indiana, (39) Kentucky, (40) NC State, (41) Oklahoma State, (42) Arkansas, (43) Clemson, (44) Iowa, (45) Virginia, (46) Ole Miss, (47) Vanderbilt, (48) Alabama, (49) California, (50) Louisville
(51) South Carolina, (52) Ohio State, (53) Washington State, (54) Tennessee, (55) Georgia, (56) Virginia Tech, (57) Miami FL, (58) Washington, (59) Colorado, (60) North Carolina, (61) Illinois, (62) BYU, (63) Arizona, (64) Florida, (65) Wisconsin, (66) Tulsa, (67) NIU, (68) SMU, (69) Tulane, (70) Oregon, (71) Florida Atlantic, (72) East Carolina, (73) New Mexico, (74) Air Force, (75) Boise State
(76) Houston, (77) UConn, (78) Navy, (79) WKU, (80) UCF, (81) Colorado State, (82) San Jose State, (83) Temple, (84) Charlotte, (85) Louisiana, (86) Bowling Green, (87) Akron, (88) Kent State, (89) Cincinnati, (90) Ball State, (91) UTSA, (92) Marshall, (93) Miami OH, (94) Middle Tennessee, (95) Hawaii, (96) South Alabama, (97) Wyoming, (98) Fresno State, (99) FIU, (100) Louisiana Tech
(101) Central Michigan, (102) UMass, (103) San Diego State, (104) UNLV, (105) Rice, (106) Georgia State, (107) Western Michigan, (108) Liberty, (109) Utah State, (110) Nevada, (111) Southern Miss, (112) Coastal Carolina, (113) Eastern Michigan, (114) USF, (115) UTEP, (116) Buffalo, (117) Army, (118) Georgia Southern, (119) Memphis, (120) Old Dominion, (121) Toledo, (122) ULM, (123) Texas State, (124) North Texas, (125) UAB, (126) Arkansas State, (127) Appalachian State, (128) Ohio, (129) Troy, (130) New Mexico State