Examining schedules is a must when playing the NCAA football futures odds, but it can be a tricky mission with several factors contributing to making it a tough exercise.
Analyzing college football schedules is at the very least an inexact science, and drawing any conclusions for an upcoming season far too often a slippery slope. Yet every year, college football bettors undertake the exercise over and over again before placing their wagers.
Helping to make NCAA schedules so difficult to evaluate is the fact each school is basically left alone to fill its non-conference slate. Sure, leagues dictate the bulk of any team's 11-12 game fixture, but the rest is up to each athletic department. Imagine telling the New York Yankees they have to fill 75% of their schedule with AL East opponents, but the rest is up to them, including the option to play minor league squads.
Another factor in the difficulty is the dynamics of a college roster. Thanks to eligibility rules and players leaving early for the NFL draft, depth charts can go through massive turnover. A team that went 10-2 in 2015 could be going through a big rebuilding in 2016, meaning they're easier prey this time around despite being counted as a tough opponent statistically.
Rebels Have Tough September-October Matchups
The top four teams in 2016 as far as last year's winning percentage come from the Southeastern Conference (LSU .675, Arkansas .667, Ole Miss .662 and Auburn .641). Again, we have to take that with a grain of salt; remove their non-con opponents, and those four schools drop dramatically.
It's no secret that all SEC schools play a tough slate just within their own conference, so maybe we should line up some of the usual suspects at the bottom of the league's barrel to call their schedules the toughest. But if we did look just at the previous four, my vote for the most difficult among the quartet would be Mississippi. The Rebels, currently going off around 10/1 on the NCAA football odds to win the SEC, face a very daunting stretch on the card when they play the other three on that list back-to-back-to-back in 14 days, the dates with Arkansas and LSU on the road before ending with Auburn in Oxford. All of that comes about a month after hosting both Alabama and Georgia, not to mention their season opener in Orlando vs. the Florida State Seminoles.
BYU Might Be Lucky To Make It To A Bowl Game
Another team looking at a tough schedule is Brigham Young. The Cougars rank seventh in the 2015 win percentage column, their opponents rolling up a 97-57 record (.630) last year, and 10 of the 12 schools played in bowl games last December and January.
The first three games on the fixture come from the Pac-12, drawing Arizona in Phoenix to begin the season followed by a trip to Utah and finally the home opener vs. UCLA on September 17. BYU then has a second neutral site affair in Maryland against West Virginia. October begins with a trip to East Lansing to face Michigan State, home against Mississippi State and then a journey to Boise State, all within 12 days.
Brigham Young has a win total of 8 on the college football futures odds, and I'm only counting seven dubyas for my free college football pick.
Trojans To Face 11 Bowl Teams From 2015
It takes more than just counting the number of bowl teams from last year are on someone's slate this time. Used to be having five or maybe even four squads that went bowling a year ago made for a tough upcoming schedule. But with nearly two-thirds of FBS teams going to a bowl last season, that no longer means as much.
Still, having 11 bowl teams in 12 games is an impressive number, and such a schedule belongs to Southern California. The only team the Trojans face that didn't go bowling in 2015 is Colorado, that game kicking off in Los Angeles on October 8. USC has to take on defending national champion Alabama in the season opener, and begins Pac-12 life two weeks later with back-to-back trips against Stanford and Utah. The Trojans also close with two toughies, crosstown at UCLA and a Thanksgiving weekend date at home vs. Notre Dame.
The tough schedule hasn't stopped sports books from leveling USC with Pac-12 conference favorite status, the Trojans a +250 pick. Southern Cal is also a 25/1 choice on the NCAA football odds to win the College Football Playoff.