I’ll just state it right now: Strength of Schedule (aka SoS) is one of the more fluid stats in sports, and we shouldn’t take it too seriously this early. What looks like a challenging slate against roaring lions during preseason may look like declawed kittens by the time bowl season rolls around. And of course, the opposite can be quite true as well.
So if SoS is So-BS, why should we talk about it?
I’m glad you asked.
It’s because it’s the offseason and we need something to talk about other than people watching at the Indy 500.
Earlier today, CBS Sports ranked which Big Ten teams have the toughest schedules in 2019. This caught my attention as a tweet from a semi-popular CFB blog/twitter account accidentally tweeted out last year’s pre-season rankings, in which Purdue had the toughest schedule in 2018 (who would have thought that OSU would end up being a declawed kitten?).
In the article, CBS Sports ranked Purdue’s schedule as the 9th hardest in the B1G, just in the bottom half of the conference. Here’s what they said about their schedule:
Purdue’s nonconference schedule is quite respectable. They open with a road game against Nevada (why I do not know) and follow it up with home dates against Vanderbilt and TCU. That’s two Power Five opponents and a G5 program that seems to be on an upward trend. Where they lose points in relation to their Big Ten brethren is in conference play. The Boilermakers do have to go on the road for Penn State but avoid Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State. Instead, they get Maryland and Indiana. The division schedule is a bit more complicated, as they’ll be on the road for Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin.
Well, we know that Purdue is going to Nevada as a left-over of the Burke administration, as he scheduled the home-and-home series with them.
As for the rest of the description, I’d say it’s pretty spot on. Purdue does have a decent non-con schedule, with the two P5 match-ups at home, and they get an easier slate in the conference play, drawing Penn State, Maryland, and IU from the East. Granted, much of this can change by the time the season ends, let alone when Purdue plays the teams on game day. Sure, Iowa could be tough, but Purdue has won at Kinnick 2 out of their last 3 trips.
Given the departures and graduations after the 2018 season, leaving Purdue with a slightly younger team, a schedule like this could be beneficial for Purdue, especially as they work towards reaching their 3rd straight bowl game (and ideally, have their 6th win BEFORE the Bucket Game).
Here’s a look at CBS’s full SoS rankings:
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
- Penn State
I know I said that SoS is So-BS, but I’m still going to laugh at IU for a moment. We always hear from their dozens of football fans that they get snubbed a bowl game for being in the B1G East, yet they tend to have one of the easier (if not the easiest) schedule’s in the B1G.
What’s also interesting to note in these rankings is that, despite the B1G East being considered the tougher division, the distribution of East and West teams is decently uniform. While there are slightly more East teams (4) in the top half compared to the West (3), the difference isn’t as big as one would expect. Granted, teams like Wisconsin and Nebraska are drawing East teams like Michigan, MSU, and Ohio State, and have strong non-conference schedules to prop them up, which would impact these rankings.