With no games between the middle of January to the end of August, there is plenty of idle time to examine just about every aspect of the upcoming college football season. A big talking point during the offseason is the strength of schedule a team will be dealing with. Notre Dame once again appears to have one of the toughest schedules in the nation. It might not quite live up to last season’s schedule, but if the Fighting Irish are going to get back to a BCS Bowl, they have their work cut out for them.
Depending on the metric you prefer, Notre Dame’s strength of schedule differs. Based off of the 2012 records of their 2013 opponents, they have the 23rd toughest schedule in the FBS. Last year, their opponents went 90-65 overall, with a winning percentage of 58.1%. The team with the toughest schedule, Kentucky, will face teams with a combined record of 103-50.
As great and easy to calculate as that metric is, usually it is not accurate. Teams have plenty of turnover from season to season, so it seems silly to rank teams that way. Phil Steele puts together his own strength of schedule rating system every season, attempting to go off of projected win totals instead of what a team did in the past.
According to his toughest schedules ranking system, Notre Dame is projected 13th. He uses two major factors to create his rankings. For one, he uses his nine sets of power rankings. He also factors in home and away games, since that can make a pretty big difference.
One big example that could help to illustrate the change in strength of schedule from one metric to the other is USC. After going 7-6 last season, the Trojans are just another opponent according to straight winning percentages. However, is a 7-6 USC team really worse than say, a .500 MAC, Sun Belt or FCS team? Not at all, daily fantasy sports players take note.
Oklahoma, Purdue and Stanford are the three opponents on the schedule who will also have to face a very difficult schedule in 2013. Part of that is due to taking on Notre Dame out of conference to go with a tough slate in conference.