Projecting what college football teams’ strength of schedule will be before the season begins is a risky venture, but the SportsBettingDime site came up with a method of predicting strength of schedule based on a series of metrics.
It ranked the 2021 strength of schedule of all 130 FBS teams and determined that Arkansas has the toughest schedule in the country and UTEP has the easiest schedule.
No Pac-12 team has a schedule ranked among the 25 toughest in the country. Stanford has the most difficult schedule in the conference and Arizona State as the easiest, with Cal being just about in the middle at No. 7. The Bears’ schedule is ranked as the 56th toughest in the country, which also is about in the middle.
SportsBettingDime described its ranking formula this way:
The proprietary @SBD Strength of Schedule formula is based upon their opponents’ efficiency ratings from last season minus the production lost from the 2020 team; recruiting rankings; major transfers added and lost. The formula is then adjusted for each game based upon home and road games.
Here are the strength-of-schedule rankings for the Pac-12 (with the school’s national ranking in parentheses) followed by the SOS formula number assigned to that team.
1. Stanford (28) – SOS total 50.06
2. UCLA (36) – SOS total 40.54
3. USC (49) – SOS total 21.06
4. Arizona (52) – SOS total 11.53
5. Utah (53) – SOS total 9.06
6. Colorado (55) – SOS total 8.20
7. Cal (56) – SOS total 6.75
8. Washington (58) -- SOS total minus-1.30
9. Oregon State (61) – SOS total minus-6.15
10. Washington State (68) – SOS total minus-23.07
11. Oregon (69) – SOS total minus-24.82
12. Arizona State (88) – SOS total minus 60.77
You can see why Stanford’s schedule is rated the toughest. The Cardinal plays both Kansas State and Notre Dame, then faces the two favorites in the Pac-12 South (USC and Arizona State) as well as all the teams in the North, including Oregon and Washington.
Oregon is near the bottom of the conference in strength of schedule even though it plays a road game against Ohio State. However, that challenging game is countered by the fact that Stony Brook is also on the Ducks’ nonconference schedule, and they don’t play either of the Pac-12 South favorites (USC and Arizona State). Plus, of course, the Ducks do not face Oregon. If the Ducks can somehow beat Ohio State, the Ducks will be dreaming big things.
Cal’s schedule seems to fit in the middle. The road game against TCU will be a challenge, and the opener against Nevada is no gimme either. But the Bears also face Sacramento State, play the team projected to be the worst in the Pac-12 (Arizona) and face only one of the two beasts in the Pac-12 South (USC, but not Arizona State).
Of course, these mathematical projections go out the window when teams start playing and we discover which teams really are good and which are lousy.
Cover photo by Kelley L Cox, USA TODAY Sports
Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53
Find Cal Sports Report on Facebook by searching: @si.calsportsreport or going to https://www.facebook.com/si.calsportsreport