College Football

Way Too Early B1G Strength of Schedule Analysis

It’s spring! Let’s talk 2014 football!

College football stat guru Bill Connelly published his first S/P+ 2014 projections Friday, based on 2014 recruiting and the last five years of performance. Read it here. Fortunately for you, reader, I dug through it and condensed the Big Ten teams.

It’s big.


HOW TO READ THIS CHART: On the left side, you see the rankings of each B1G team according to Bill C’s S/P+ projections. Scroll to the right to see each team’s opponents and their opponents’ S/P+ ranking. On the far right is the average of each team’s opponents’ ranking. The lower that number, the tougher the schedule, and vice versa.

In the rightmost column is a team’s S/P+ adjusted to their opponents’ average ranking. The bigger that number, the better equipped a team appears to be to succeed against their schedule.

A few observations of mine:

  • Michigan State, in my opinion, will be the team to beat in the B1G this year. They were its strongest team last season and only look to get stronger.
  • Wisconsin draws the easiest overall schedule and the easiest conference schedule. Note that they open the season against the fifth-S/P+-ranked LSU Tigers, which should say something about how easy the rest of their schedule is.
  • Ohio State, after playing a regular season against which their backups probably could’ve gone undefeated, has a much tougher draw this year. Top to bottom, next to poor Rutgers, they play the toughest schedule in the B1G.
  • There’s no way Michigan is the 23rd best team in the country after 8-5 and 7-6 seasons . The numbers are clearly skewed in their favor because of their 11-2 2011 season and subsequent seventh- and fifth-ranked recruiting classes.
  • Nebraska at 35 seems to pretty well define the narrative of the Bo Pelini tenure: a good team on the cusp of being an elite team, but never quite making it. Nebraska has a tough draw this year with road trips to Fresno State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Also, this is year number four in the B1G for NU and still they will not draw Indiana. WHAT ARE YOU ASCARED OF BO?
  • Iowa pulls a pretty darn easy conference schedule. If the Hawkeyes don’t pull down at least nine wins, be disappointed.
  • Rutgers, welcome to the B1G. I see you’re getting the same brutal introduction tour that Nebraska got in 2011.
  • Purdue, you probably shouldn’t have fired Danny Hope.

Now, this chart and the numbers contained therein have some drawbacks.

  • First, I didn’t know how to factor in FCS teams. There are 125 FBS teams, so all FCS teams got a de facto ranking of 126. That being said, Appalachian State (Michigan’s week one opponent) will be an FBS team this fall. Also, the B1G has scheduled a lot of teams that finished in the FCS top 25 in 2013, (#4 Eastern Illinois, #8 McNeese State, #12 Jacksonville State, etc.) a lot of whom could probably play with or beat the bottom thirty or so of the FBS level.
  • The numbers don’t factor in whether a game is home or away. Wisconsin’s a lot harder to beat at Camp Randall.

So, there’s something to think about for the next, ah, 201 days until the season starts.

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