In last week's Friday Five, I wrote about the five teams in the country who have to play the most difficult schedules in the upcoming season. Having done so, it only seemed fair that, for this week's Friday Five, I ranked the five Power Five schools with the least difficult schedules in the country.
Now, before we really dive in here, let's make one things clear. Saying a team is playing an easy schedule is misleading. There are no easy schedules. I don't care what conference you're in. Whether you're an SEC team playing an SEC schedule, or a Sun Belt team playing a Sun Belt schedule, you're playing teams on your level and playing 12 games against anybody is going to present challenges.
So when I say these are the easiest schedules in the Power Five, it's important to remember that it's all relative. After all, every Power Five school has to play a Power Five conference schedule and there is no conference without some major obstacles to get past.
The way I came to my conclusions involved a few different factors. Nonconference schedules obviously play a role, as do the 2015 records of the teams being played. Also, it's not just about who you're playing but when and where you're playing them.
If you play in a conference with divisions, you obviously have to play all the teams within your division, but what teams are you facing from the other side? Are your toughest opponents coming to your stadium? Are they spaced out, or are you playing them in back-to-back weeks? Do you have a bye the week before to rest up and prepare?
All of these things were taken into consideration while putting this list together, and when I was finished, these were the five teams I believe have what would be considered the least difficult schedules in the Power Five.
5. Florida: The Gators definitely have a couple of difficult games this season, but of the biggest tests, only Florida State, in the final week of the season, will come on the road. The Gators get LSU in Gainesville, and of course they'll take on Georgia in Jacksonville. A road trip to Knoxville will also provide some problems, and that's a game that could be very important in the SEC East this season.
What puts the Gators on this list, though, is the nonconference slate (as well as games against Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Missouri and South Carolina, but they can't be avoided). I've already mentioned Florida State, which will be difficult, but the rest of their games outside the SEC are home dates against UMass, North Texas and Presbyterian.
Good luck getting through those games.
Still, even with those opponents, I couldn't justify putting a team with games against LSU, Florida State, Georgia, Arkansas and Tennessee any higher than this. Even with all those teams on the schedule, though, the combined winning percentage of Florida's opponents last season was only 46.9 percent, and only five opponents went bowling last season. It could have been six if Missouri had been willing to accept a bowl bid at 5-7, though!
4. Minnesota: It's much easier for a Big Ten West team to make this list than a Big Ten East team because not everybody in the West has to play Ohio State, Michigan State or Michigan. That certainly played a role in landing the Gophers on this list.
The Big Ten moves to a nine-game conference schedule this season, and the West will play only four home games compared to five road games, which adds a level of difficulty to Minnesota's schedule. What puts them here, however, is that the three teams they play from the East are Penn State, Maryland and Rutgers. So not only do they dodge the real powers out East, but they get two of the division's bottom feeders from last season, as well as a Penn State team that's gone 14-12 overall and 6-10 in conference play the last two seasons.
Finally, Minnesota's nonconference schedule is three home games against Oregon State, Colorado State and Indiana State. The Beavers are coming off a 2-10 season, Colorado State went 7-6, and the Sycamores were 5-6 in the Missouri Valley last season. None of them are going to do much for the ol' resume. What keeps Minnesota from being higher on this list is that the Penn State game, as well as dates with Nebraska and Wisconsin are all on the road.
3. Baylor: I hope you're sitting down as you read this, but it turns out that Baylor's nonconference schedule is pretty weak in 2016. I know! That never happens! Yet, here we are.
Baylor will open the season against a Northwestern State team that went 4-7 last season, follow that up with a game against 2-10 SMU, and finish with a road trip to take on 5-7 Rice. Should the Bears somehow survive that gauntlet, they will then begin conference play. With the round-robin schedule in the Big 12, nobody in the conference can avoid anybody, which helps balance out that nonconference schedule.
The good news for Baylor is that it will get both Oklahoma State and TCU in Waco, though it will have to hit the road to play Oklahoma. The other factor keeping Baylor at No. 3 here instead of higher is the stretch of games in the middle of the season that sees the Bears going on the road for Texas, coming back home for TCU, and then playing at Oklahoma in a three-week stretch.
2. Clemson: This one may come as a bit of a surprise. Clemson is again one of the favorites to reach the College Football Playoff, and they have the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy in Deshaun Watson.
Also, the Tigers' nonconference schedule does feature a road game against Auburn on the first Saturday of the season. The rest of the nonconference schedule, however, is Troy, South Carolina State and a South Carolina team that went 3-9 last season.
The toughest game on the schedule is obviously a road game against Florida State, but the rest of Clemson's road schedule features Georgia Tech, Boston College and Wake Forest. Those are three teams that combined to go 9-27 last year, the three worst records in the ACC. The Tigers also have time to prepare for their toughest games, as they have had the whole offseason to prepare for Auburn, and have byes the weeks before games against both Louisville and Florida State.
All in all, the Tigers will play only five teams that went to a bowl game last season, and again, let's remember that in some cases you only had to be 5-7 to go to a bowl game. So Clemson is definitely a CFP contender in 2016, but with a schedule like this, it's not going to have much room for error as far as the resume is concerned.
1. Boston College: It's funny. When I set out to do this post, I did so accepting the fact that I was going to make at least one fan base upset. I mean, nobody wants to be told their favorite team is playing the easiest schedule. It's like an insult to their honor.
But you know what?
If you're a Boston College fan, you probably aren't upset to find out you're No. 1 here. Boston College wasn't very good last season, going 3-9 while averaging a whole 17.2 points per game (9.1 against ACC opponents!). You want an easy schedule when that's the case, and Boston College has as easy of one as you're going to find in the Power Five.
The Eagles will play UMass, Wagner, Buffalo and UConn outside of the conference. The three FBS teams in that group combined to go 14-23, while Wagner went 1-10 in the NEC. I'm purposely not telling you what NEC stands for because the fact you don't already know only makes that 1-10 record seem even worse.
Conference play will bring some challenges, obviously, with the biggest one being a road trip to Florida State, but you know what? Boston College probably isn't beating Florida State at home, either, so getting the Noles on the road is kind of a break as it means they'll get to play a more winnable game at home. The rest of BC's road schedule (which features only five games) is Virginia Tech, UMass, Wake Forest and NC State. None of those are impossible.
Clemson and Louisville both have to make their way north.
So, congratulations, Boston College, you've got a relatively easy path to take this season. I don't know if it'll do anything to improve that win total, but if it doesn't, you'll have nobody but yourself to blame.
Honorable Mention: Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Wake Forest