Big 12 strength of schedule rankings: Texas, West Virginia facing toughest roads in round-robin format

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Scheduling matters more than ever before in the College Football Playoff era. As we've seen in the history of the CFP, it's one of the most significant factors in deciding who gets a shot to play for a national title and who does not. It's not just whether you win your conference but who you play along the way. It's also proven that it's not just about who you have beaten, but who you lost to during the season.

We've already seen numerous examples of teams missing out on the playoff not just because of who they lost to, but which teams they never gave themselves a chance to beat.

So it only makes sense that we try to get an idea of which teams will play the more demanding schedules before the season even begins, and that's precisely what we've done. Now, it isn't a perfect process, but it's one I think gives us a good idea of what to expect. I'll explain.

Methodology: Essentially, what I do is look at which teams each program is playing, and how strong those teams have performed in my ranking system in past years. The history of a program is a better indicator of its future success than just about anything, though I did make a change this season.

In previous years I ranked programs based on how they fared the last five seasons. This year I've changed it to the last three seasons. Yes, the sample size is smaller, but what I noticed is that it's typically the same teams performing well over the last three as it was the previous five, but by changing it to three, it shows a bit more accuracy for the upcoming season. For example, playing UCF last season wasn't worth as much as it probably should have been when considering UCF's previous five seasons. Now, considering only the last three, UCF is much stronger. On the flip side, there's a program like Oregon, which is the No. 27 team overall over the previous five seasons but is only No. 47 in the last three. Considering the Ducks haven't finished any of the previous three seasons ranked in the AP Top 25 poll, that No. 47 ranking better reflects their overall strength at present than the previous five seasons ranking.

Finally, I consider other factors like where the game is played, as well as when it's played. For example, if you're playing Boston College on the road and it's your fifth game in five weeks, that's more difficult than if you were playing Boston College on the road following a bye. The same can be said if your opponent is coming off a bye while you've played a month straight. There's also the issue of playing on a short week.

I then crunch all the numbers, and in the end, I get something that gives us all a good idea of which teams are most likely to face the most difficult schedules in 2019.

And, without further ado, here are your 2019 Big 12 strength of schedule rankings.

Big 12 Strength of Schedule Rankings
1
The Longhorns 2019 schedule would not have ranked higher than second in any other Power Five conference, but it finishes atop my Big 12 projections. With the Big 12 playing a true round-robin conference schedule, the teams are typically separated in these rankings by their nonconference schedules, and where and when they play their conference games. Texas finishes at No. 1 thanks in large part to a noncon game against LSU, while also having to hit the road for games against West Virginia, TCU and Iowa State this year.
2
The Mountaineers aren't playing LSU like Texas is, but they do have two nonconference games against Power Five opponents in Missouri and NC State. They'll also be hitting the road for Oklahoma and TCU, but Texas, Iowa State and Oklahoma State all come to Morgantown.
3
Kansas usually fares well in these projections for a simple reason. As I mentioned, the Big 12 plays a round-robin conference schedule. That means every Big 12 team plays Kansas, except Kansas. And considering Kansas has gone 6-30 the last three seasons, not having it on your schedule helps your SOS projection. The Jayhawks' toughest noncon game will be on the road against Boston College, but their other two games outside the Big 12 are Indiana State and Coastal Carolina.
4
Iowa State's noncon schedule is highlighted by a date against rival Iowa in Ames. Other than that, it's Northern Iowa and UL-Monroe, which doesn't do much for your SOS. Still, the Cyclones finish in the top five thanks in part to a stretch of seven games in seven weeks, as well as Oklahoma and Texas in consecutive weeks in November. Iowa State's also one of the Big 12 teams that will be playing five of its Big 12 games on the road this year.
5
Kansas State will open Chris Klieman's first season with Nicholls and Bowling Green, so it should be 2-0 before it heads to Starkville to take on Mississippi State. The Wildcats also get five Big 12 games at home, including contests against TCU, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Iowa State. The toughest road game will likely be at Texas on Nov. 9.
6
Texas Tech has a road game against Arizona in Week 3, but a noncon of Arizona, Montana State and UTEP isn't going to impress a lot of people. The difficulty level kicks up a notch when Big 12 play opens with Oklahoma on the road followed by Oklahoma State, at Baylor and Iowa State in consecutive weeks. Then, after a road trip to Kansas and a bye, the Raiders get West Virginia, TCU, Kansas State and Texas down the stretch.
7
Depending on how things work out, a nonconference slate that includes both Houston and UCLA could look a lot more impressive at the end of the season. At the moment, however, it's nothing exceptional. The Sooners benefit from getting Texas at a neutral site per usual, as well as home games against West Virginia, Iowa State and TCU. The regular season finale against Oklahoma State looks to be the toughest road test on the docket.
8
Playing Arkansas Pine Bluff and SMU doesn't do much for the noncon's strength, but that road trip to Purdue on Sept. 14 probably looks more difficult now than when it was scheduled. Still, compared to its Big 12 compatriots, TCU's projected SOS isn't great, though the Horned Frogs do have to hit the road for both Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Also, the team's last bye comes on Oct. 12, meaning the Frogs will play seven games without a break to finish the regular season.
9
Baylor's noncon is yawn-worthy. The Bears will play Stephen F. Austin, UTSA and at Rice. As easy as that is, though, things get rough late in the season. The Bears will host West Virginia on Halloween night and follow that up with a game at TCU and back home for both Oklahoma and Texas in consecutive weeks. That stretch likely decides how successful a season it is in Waco.
10
Baylor's noncon schedule is easier than what Oklahoma State will get, as the Cowboys will play at Oregon State and at Tulsa with McNeese sandwiched between. Still, that stretch at the end of Baylor's schedule just nudged it ahead of the Cowboys here, as Oklahoma State's toughest games are spread out a bit, and their bye weeks are well-placed.
CBS Sports Writer

Tom Fornelli has been a college football writer at CBS Sports since 2010. During his time at CBS, Tom has proven time and again that he hates your favorite team and thinks your rival is a paragon of football... Full Bio

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