Putting the ‘Strength of Schedule’ Argument into Perspective

A college football team’s strength of schedule is an important section to highlight on its season-long resume, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Think about what the following quote is referencing: “Today is going to be a rugged day. As a young player, you won’t make it. At some point, you’re going to say, ‘I’ve had enough.’ For an older player that is not rugged, you’ll be exposed in a minute.”

Was that Nick Saban delivering a pre-game locker room talk to his players before a Week 7 SEC matchup? No, it was Urban Meyer addressing Ohio State players before a practice session earlier this Fall.

The concept behind the quote is probably pretty common. Every football coach in America wants his team to practice with that level of focus and hard-hitting intensity, but only a small fraction of them have the depth of talented players to pull it off successfully. And Ohio State is the only team from the Big Ten Conference in that select group.

That’s the kind of talent and depth that enables teams to win national championships. That kind of talent and depth is something that a team can have no matter what conference it plays in. No matter how many Big Ten teams are ranked in the Top 25 or how the Big Ten performs in non-conference play this season, the Buckeyes have earned the right to not have their validity as a national championship contender questioned because of the opponents on their schedule.

When a team is as loaded with talent as Ohio State is this season, their schedule shouldn’t play a big role in peoples’ objective analysis of how they’d fare against the nation’s other top teams. Skeptics may argue that Michigan State is the only real test that Ohio State will face this season – if they don’t count the Virginia Tech game or the always-tense game against Michigan. Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema may have pointed out, and rightfully so, that his SEC team has to play against eight ranked opponents – not including the Toledo Rockets – during the regular season, while Ohio State only has the aforementioned game against the Spartans. It’s true – the SEC is the most competitive conference, with the best accumulation of talent, in the country, and is still light years ahead of the Big Ten. But don’t question for a second Ohio State’s ability to run through the entire SEC if given the opportunity.

Consider last season – when given the opportunity, OSU took it to the SEC champion and perceived playoff juggernaut Alabama Crimson Tide, before dismantling the electrifying and competitive, yet perennially overhyped PAC 12 champion Oregon Ducks. With all the proven talent that the Buckeyes return to the gridiron this season, there’s no reason to believe that those outcomes wouldn’t be repeated again this postseason.

The best teams are going to win their games regardless of the teams they play each week. You can be assured that a team like Alabama or Auburn will be more battle-tested than OSU by the time it reaches the playoffs, but that won’t change the fact that the Buckeyes are talented enough to rise to the occasion and beat them when it counts. Ohio State’s skeptics throughout the country should keep that in mind when trying to use strength of schedule as an argument to downplay their status as one of the nation’s elite teams.


  1. Funny how Arkansas losses at home to Toledo after he complains about OSU’s schedule

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