On Monday, Phil Steele examined the toughest college football schedules in the country. After factoring in his own Power Ratings and the number of home and away games played, Boston College ranked 6th in the nation, behind only Colorado, Iowa State, Baylor, Oregon State and LSU.
Let's take a look at these schedules to see how much tougher these other five schedules are.
Colorado has to be the only BCS AQ program in the nation to play seven road games and a neutral site game. But that's the price your program pays when your athletics department is too poor to initially buy out Dan Hawkins. Good thing CU-Boulder will be rolling in all that Pac-12 cash money. The Buffs schedule also features a "10th" Pac-12 game against Cal, which doesn't count in the conference standings, and a thirteenth game by virtue of making the long haul over to Oahu to face the Warriors. With no I-AA teams, no bye week and 11 BCS opponents on the schedule, the Buffs easily have the toughest schedule in the nation.
Verdict: Much tougher than BC's 2011 schedule
2. Iowa State
After Colorado, Steele ranks Iowa State's schedule as the second toughest in the nation. Like BC, the Cyclones play just six at home and six on the road. The road schedule is particularly unforgiving when you consider that all six opponents were in a bowl game last season. The same can be said, however, about the BC road schedule and I would expect a few of these programs -- notably UConn, Baylor, K-State -- to take a step back this season. It's the home slate that I think makes ISU's sched a bit tougher than BC's, with Iowa, Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State all heading to Ames.
Verdict: Slightly tougher than BC
Yet another program that plays in a BCS conference with a 9-game conference schedule (notice a pattern here?), Baylor is Steele's third toughest schedule in the nation. To me, this schedule seems far more manageable than Colorado's or Iowa State's. Baylor gets a 4-4-1 Big 12 schedule this year, with a neutral site game against Texas Tech at Jerry World. While Rice did win 10 games last season, a home sched that includes Stephen F. Austin, Rice and Iowa State seems on par with BC's Duke, UMass and Wake Forest stretch. Throw in games against the Kansases and I think Baylor's 2011 schedule equals the Eagles' sched.
Verdict: On par with BC's 2011 schedule
4. Oregon State
Oregon State has just six home games in 2011 with no let up with a schedule that includes non-conference dates with BYU and Wisconsin. With a bye week in week 3 (September 17), Oregon State will play in 10 consecutive weeks. Even still, OSU misses USC this season and Sacramento State is no UMass. However, Duke and Wake Forest are appreciably worse than any two programs visiting Corvallis, so I give the Beavs the slight edge over BC in this one.
Verdict: Slightly tougher than BC
The 2011 LSU schedule is highlighted by an opening weekend game against Oregon, again in Jerry World. Scheduling Oregon and West Virginia in non-conference play, I suppose we can forgive two home dates against Northwestern State and Western Kentucky, Tigers. The Ole Miss road game might be a trap, and not just because the school nearly went with Admiral Akbar as official mascot. Florida, Auburn and Arkansas headline the home sched and trips to Bama, West Virginia and Tennessee are no joke.
Verdict: Tougher schedule than BC
Finally, let's take a look at the Eagles' 2011 schedule.
6. Boston College
Obviously the Duke-UMass-Wake Forest home stretch sticks out, but other than that, there's not a lot of room for error on the Eagles' 2011 schedule. Northwestern is a far better team that some give credit to, Florida State on a Thursday night will certainly be difficult and N.C. State waxed BC down in Raleigh a season ago. The road slate is particularly unforgiving, including four tough ACC road trips in Clemson, Virginia Tech, Maryland and Miami to go along with trips to Orlando and South Bend. I am all for scheduling tough but this schedule looks particularly unforgiving for a team that needs a dramatic improvement on offense to stop a further step back in the win column.