Strength of Schedule: 2012 Mid-Season Review

By Kevin Kelley -
Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky has played one of the toughest schedules so far in 2012. Mark Zerof-US PRESSWIRE

Most FBS teams have played six games already, which means we’ve reached the mid-point of the 2012 college football season. Let’s review the strength of schedule rankings (SOS) as they stand now.

There are several sources for strength of schedule, including four of the six BCS computer components and the NCAA itself. Note that these rankings are for schedules played and will differ from preseason rankings.

For comparison purposes, we will use Phil Steele’s preseason strength of schedule rankings. Click the title to view the complete rankings for each source:

Preseason Strength of Schedule Rankings

Phil Steele

  1. Notre Dame
  2. Ole Miss
  3. Iowa State
  4. Michigan
  5. Florida
  1. Washington
  2. Baylor
  3. Texas A&M
  4. Miami (FL)
  5. Kentucky

Notre Dame, currently 5-0 and ranked 7th in the AP, Coaches, and Harris polls, topped Phil Steele’s preseason list and it’s hard to argue with him. Besides BYU and Navy, the Irish opened the 2012 season against Navy in Dublin, Ireland and also face another independent in BYU. The rest of the schedule is all BCS conference teams: Purdue, Michigan, Miami-FL (at Chicago), Stanford, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, at Michigan State, at Oklahoma, at Boston College, at USC.

Mid-Season Strength of Schedule Rankings

NCAA (vs. FBS & FCS, games played and future games)

  1. Iowa State
  2. Kentucky
  3. Kansas
  4. West Virginia
  5. Baylor
  1. Arkansas
  2. Florida
  3. California
  4. Syracuse
  5. Stanford

This NCAA ranking is based solely on the winning percentage of past opponents and future opposition. Iowa State’s opponents have 40 wins and 12 losses. Kentucky’s opponents have 43 wins and 15 losses.

NCAA (vs. FBS & FCS, games played only)

  1. Kentucky
  2. Iowa State
  3. Stanford
  4. West Virginia
  5. Arizona
  1. Syracuse
  2. UAB
  3. California
  4. Buffalo
  5. Washington (tied w/ Buffalo)

This NCAA ranking is based solely on the winning percentage of past opponents. Kentucky’s past opponent’s (Louisville, Kent State, WKU, Florida, South Carolina, and Mississippi State) have a combined 24 wins and only one loss. Iowa State’s past opponents (Tulsa, Iowa, Westerm Illinois, Texas Tech, and TCU) have 17 wins and three losses.

Anderson & Hester (BCS)

  1. Kentucky
  2. Arizona
  3. Stanford
  4. Auburn
  5. Vanderbilt
  1. UAB
  2. Southern Miss
  3. Washington
  4. Missouri
  5. California

Anderson & Hester’s strength of schedule rankings are led by SEC and Pac-12 teams with four each. Kentucky has the toughest schedule, just as they did in the NCAA’s rankings for games played.

Colley Matrix (BCS)

  1. Kentucky
  2. UAB
  3. Stanford
  4. Arizona
  5. Southern Miss
  1. FCS Group 8
  2. Missouri
  3. FCS Group 14
  4. California
  5. Washington

Kentucky also tops the strength of schedule rankings in the Colley Matrix. That gives the Wildcats the toughest schedule in three of the six rankings presented here. The other seven teams are also in Anderson & Hester’s Top 10, which means their computer formula is likely very similar. See Colley’s site for an explanation of FCS Groupings.

Jeff Sagarin (BCS)

  1. Washington
  2. California
  3. Vanderbilt
  4. Auburn
  5. Kentucky
  1. Utah
  2. Arkansas
  3. Missouri
  4. Arizona
  5. Michigan

Washington currently sits atop Sagarin’s strength of schedule rankings. The Huskies have played San Diego State, Portland State, and Stanford at home and LSU, and Oregon on the road. California, Vanderbilt, Auburn, and Kentucky round out the Top 5.

Kenneth Massey (BCS)

  1. Auburn
  2. Florida
  3. Arkansas
  4. Kentucky
  5. Texas
  1. Michigan
  2. Washington
  3. Arizona
  4. Missouri
  5. Stanford

Auburn (1-4, 0-2 SEC) holds the top spot in the Massey ratings. The Tigers have played Clemson (at Atlanta), at Mississippi State, ULM, LSU, and Arkansas, losing each time except to ULM. Florida, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Texas round out the Top 5.

Looking at each of the rankings, it’s clear that Kentucky has played the toughest schedule so far in 2012. The Wildcats are first in three rankings (NCAA – games played, Anderson & Hester, and Colley), 2nd in NCAA – cumulative, 4th in Kenneth Massey, and 5th in Sagarin. UK’s 2012 schedule was ranked 10th in Steele’s preseason rankings.

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