10 Teams Featuring Toughest Schedules In College Football In 2016


By Matt Murschel

Orlando Sentinel


When talking about tough schedules in college football, it’s almost impossible not to include a few teams from the Southeastern Conference. Here is a look at 10 teams that will play the most challenging schedules in 2016.



Buzz: New USC coach Clay Helton has a daunting task getting his Trojans prepared for one of the toughest opening months faced by any team in 2016. USC kicks off at AT&T Stadium in Dallas against defending national champs Alabama, followed by two early Pac-12 road contests against Stanford and Utah. These early tests could help this team prepare for a final month that features home contests against Oregon and Notre Dame and a road showdown with rival UCLA.

Toughest games: vs. Alabama (S3), at Stanford (S10), at Utah (S23), Oregon (N5), at UCLA (N19), Notre Dame (N26).



Buzz: LSU kicks off this season in earnest by traveling to the not-so-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field to take on Wisconsin. The Tigers are 13-5 in neutral-site games under Les Miles, but more important the program is an impressive 19-3 against Power 5 foes. Two of the team’s toughest games are at Tiger Stadium (Ole Miss and Alabama), where LSU is 67-10 under Miles, while road contests versus Auburn, Florida and Arkansas could leave impact this team’s chances in the SEC West.

Toughest games: vs. Wisconsin (S3), Mississippi State (S17), at Auburn (S24), at Florida (O8), Ole Miss (O22), Alabama (N5), at Arkansas (N12).



Buzz: Give credit to Arkansas for not shying away from tough competition as the Razorbacks have featured one of the toughest schedules in college football over the past four seasons. This one is no different with several key road contests in the opening month against TCU and Texas A&M. Arkansas is 4-9 under Bret Bielema on the road and 12-8 at home which is good news for a squad that plays Alabama, Ole Miss, Florida and LSU in Fayetteville.

Toughest games: at TCU (S10), at Texas A&M (S24), Alabama (O8), Ole Miss (O15), at Auburn (O22), Florida (N5), LSU (N12).



Buzz: Wisconsin won at least a piece of three consecutive Big Ten championship from 2010-12 and hopes of winning another title will rely on how well the Badgers can traverse a schedule that features four straight weeks against teams that finished 2015 ranked starting off with Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa. It all starts with the season-opener against LSU at Lambeau Field. Wisconsin is 3-9 all-time against SEC opponents at neutral-site games.

Toughest games: vs. LSU (S3), at Michigan State (S24), at Michigan (O1), Ohio State (O15), at Iowa (O22), Nebraska (O29).


Florida State

Buzz: Florida State is well-equipped to make another run at the College Football Playoff with 17 returning starters back in 2016. Good thing because the Seminoles face the toughest schedules in the ACC with things kicking off against Ole Miss at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. The ‘Noles are 11-4 against Power 5 opponents under Jimbo Fisher. The month of October will be crucial for FSU with crucial conference showdowns against North Carolina, Miami and Clemson.

Toughest games: vs. Ole Miss (S5), at Louisville (S17), at USF (S24), North Carolina (O1), at Miami (O8), Clemson (O29), Florida (N26).


Ole Miss

Buzz: Ten of Mississippi’s 12 regular-season games are against teams that were bowl-eligible last season with three of those teams ranked in the top 25 at the end of 2015. The Rebels have won their season-opener the past four seasons and are 12-3 in the month of September under Hugh Freeze since 2012. That could be a daunting task this time around with showdowns with FSU, Alabama and Georgia in the first month of the season.

Toughest games: vs. FSU (S5), Alabama (S17), Georgia (S24), Memphis (O1), at Arkansas (O15), at LSU (O22), Auburn (O29), Mississippi State (N26).



Buzz: If USC features one of the toughest opening months of the season, Alabama shouldn’t be that far behind the Trojans. Three of the Crimson Tide’s four opponents in September qualified for postseason bowls with two of those teams finishing 2015 ranked (WKU, Ole Miss). If Alabama is going to win its third consecutive SEC title, it will need to do it on the road with showdowns with Ole Miss, Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU.

Toughest games: vs. USC (S3), Western Kentucky (S10), at Ole Miss (S17), at Arkansas (O8), at Tennessee (O15), at LSU (N5), Auburn (N26).


Ohio State

Buzz: Ohio State is 50-4 under Urban Meyer during the past four seasons but the Buckeyes face perhaps their biggest challenge with just six returning starters back from 2015. What Meyer’s team lacks in experience they make up in with talent — something the group will lean on early on with tough games in September including a road showdown with Oklahoma. The good news is Ohio State is 18-0 on the road under Meyer and 11-0 against teams from the Group of 5 conferences.

Toughest games: Bowling Green (S3), Tulsa (S10), at Oklahoma (S17), at Wisconsin (O15), at Penn State (O22), at Michigan State (N19), Michigan (N26).



Buzz: Oklahoma bounced back from a disappointing eight-win season in 2014 to win 11-games in 2015 while capturing the Big 12 title and a spot in the College Football Playoff. The last time Oklahoma opened the season at a neutral-site was in 2009 against BYU — a game the Sooners lost. The showdown with Ohio State is just the second game against a Big Ten opponent in the 19 seasons under Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.

Toughest games: vs. Houston (S3), Ohio State (S17), at TCU (O1), vs. Texas (O8), Baylor (N12), at West Virginia (N19), Oklahoma State (D3).


Notre Dame

Buzz: Notre Dame’s best chance of earning a spot into the College Football Playoff requires the Irish to play one of the tougher schedules in college football. This season won’t disappoint with a season-opener against Texas on Sunday night. The home schedule features tough showdowns with Michigan State, Stanford, Miami and Virginia Tech as Notre Dame is 30-8 at Notre Dame Stadium under Brian Kelly.

Toughest games: at Texas (S4), Michigan State (S17), Stanford (O15), Miami (O29), vs. Navy (N5), Virginia Tech (N19), at USC (N26).