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Author: [College Football] Topic: ESPN INSIDER Teams facing more chalenging schedule by Phil Steele
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#1
Posted: 3/23/2013 5:35:59 AM

Earlier this week, I previewed the teams that will play the toughest overall schedules in 2013. But what about the programs that, while not playing the nation's most difficult schedules, will take the biggest steps up in schedule strength this season? These teams may have taken advantage of some fortuitous schedules a season ago, but now the tables could be turned. They either face much tougher nonconference opponents, conference schedules or away matchups.

A couple of notes: In order to make the comparison from 2012 to 2013 more accurate, teams that played in conference championship games and/or bowl games did not get rewarded for those opponents' records. The win-loss comparison is based on just the 12 regular-season opponents played in each season. Also, a team's wins and losses against its 2012 opponents are subtracted from their opponents' overall 2012 record. For example, Notre Dame's 12 regular-season opponents last season had a combined record of 86-68 (55.8 percent), but if you take out their 12 losses to the Irish, it jumps to 86-56 (60.6 percent). This formula was not completed for 2013, as each team does not play exactly the same schedule as it previously did.

Here are five teams facing more challenging slates in 2013:

Arizona State Sun Devils


2012 combined opponents' record: 67-69 (49.2 percent)
2013 combined opponents' record from 2012: 87-67 (56.5 percent)

Last season, despite being one of the most inexperienced teams in the country (just eight returning starters), the Sun Devils took advantage of facing four backup quarterbacks in their first four weeks, leading to an eight-win season. But now things are much more difficult.

It starts with one of the tougher nonconference slates in the entire country. In 2012, the Sun Devils played Illinois and Missouri, which combined to go 7-17. This season, they pick up Wisconsin and Notre Dame, two teams that went a combined 20-7 in 2012.

In conference play, the good news is that Oregon drops off the schedule. The bad news is that the Ducks are replaced by a road trip to Stanford. It's preceded by the Wisconsin game and followed by matchups against USC and Notre Dame during a brutal four-game stretch from September to early October. Overall, the Sun Devils go from playing five bowl teams last season to eight in 2013.

Utah Utes


2012 combined opponents' record: 72-68 (51.4 percent)
2013 combined opponents' record from 2012: 90-64 (58.4 percent)

After going 48-14 in Mountain West play from 2003-2010, the Utes are just 7-11 in their first two seasons after making the step up to the Pac-12. Unfortunately, things don't get any easier for head coach Kyle Whittingham and Co., as they were actually fortunate to avoid both Stanford and Oregon in each of their first two seasons. In 2013, the Utes have to play the Ducks, Cardinal and also have key games in Pac-12 South play against USC and Arizona on the road. In terms of nonconference play, the final game in the Holy War rivalry (for now) against BYU will also be played on the road. Overall, the Utes go from playing just two top 25 teams in 2012 to playing two possible top five teams this upcoming season, along with an additional seven teams that won seven or more games in 2012.

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mafioso send a private message View Space | Blog | Friends | Playbook | My Sportsbook: Bellagio |
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#2
Posted: 3/23/2013 5:36:32 AM

North Carolina Tar Heels


2012 combined opponents' record: 66-72 (47.8 percent)
2013 combined opponents' record from 2012: 81-71 (53.3 percent)

One of the major reasons why North Carolina was my preseason favorite to win the ACC Coastal Division last season was an advantageous schedule that saw it avoid Clemson and Florida State from the ACC Atlantic, and had it playing other Coastal contenders Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech at home. The Tar Heels also hosted NC State and had a weak nonconference slate outside of Louisville.

The Tar Heels' fortunes are now reversed, as they must play the Yellow Jackets, Hokies and Wolfpack, all on the road. Their nonconference slate also gets much tougher, with UNC opening the season with a road trip to preseason top 10 South Carolina. Meanwhile, Middle Tennessee (8-4) and Old Dominion (11-2) represent much more respectable opponents than what Idaho (1-11) and Elon (3-8) brought to the table in 2012.

UCLA Bruins


2012 combined opponents' record: 73-66 (52.5 percent)
2013 combined opponents' record from 2012: 81-73 (52.6 percent)

Looking at the differences in records from this season to last, you may be wondering why I included the Bruins on this list. While winning percentage from 2012 is a good starting point to factor which teams make the biggest steps up in schedule strength, it is just one component. The Bruins play eight of the same opponents from last season, but it's where these games will be played that puts the Bruins on this list.

In nonconference play, the Bruins will travel to Lincoln to play Nebraska. As far as Pac-12 opponents, Washington State and Oregon State are off the schedule, but they're replaced by their much tougher in-state counterparts, Washington and Oregon. In the Pac-12's uneven nine-game conference schedule last season, UCLA played five home games (four away), but in 2013 it plays four home games (five away). UCLA also has arguably the toughest back-to-back road games of any team in the country this season, playing at Oregon and Stanford in consecutive weeks. Finally, the Bruins will have to play at crosstown rival USC, who is still smarting from last season's loss.

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