2012 College Football Preseason Projection Highlights: 10 Toughest Schedules, 10 Most Improved, 10 Bowl Bubble Teams & More

posted in College Football

Now that our full and final 2012 college football preseason rankings are out, here are some of the highlights. Below you’ll find the top ten …

… Toughest schedules.
… Easiest schedules.
… Most improved.
… Biggest declines.
… Most likely undefeated.
… Most likely winless.
… Highest conference win odds.
… Bowl bubble teams.

All the ratings below are expressed in “points above average”. It’s essentially how much we expect the team to win (or lose) by, if they play a perfectly average opponent at a neutral site.

To give you an idea of the typical range, Alabama and LSU last year finished the year at +27.1, while New Mexico was the worst at -30.7. Our preseason ratings will have a narrower range (about +20 to -20), simply because the best ratings in real life we be a combination of good skill and good luck, and we’re only predicting the skill portion, not the luck.

Many of the odds below can be found on our college football season projections page, which updates daily throughout the season, or on individual team projections pages — like this Alabama projections page.

Toughest 2012 Schedule

The strength of schedule ratings answer the question: “If you replaced all of this team’s games with a single opponent, what rating would that opponent need to be in order for the team’s projected wins to stay the same?”

This is different than just averaging the opponent ratings. For example, for Oklahoma, playing a team rated -10 or a team rated -20 is basically the same (a near-automatic win), so their SOS wouldn’t change much if you switched one for the other. On the other hand, playing a team rated +10 or a team rated +20 is a huge difference — the difference between OU being a solid favorite, or the game being a toss up. So, for OU, the ratings differences of good teams make the most difference in their SOS. For a bad team, the situation is reversed.

SOS RankTeamSOS
1Oklahoma7.0
2Alabama6.9
3TCU6.2
4Notre Dame5.9
5Texas5.8
6LSU5.7
7Florida5.5
8Oklahoma St5.1
9Texas A&M5.1
10Missouri5.1

Easiest 2012 Schedule

SOS RankTeamSOS
124UT San Antonio-16.7
123Memphis-12.9
122New Mexico St-12.6
121New Mexico-11.2
120South Alabama-10.9
119Colorado St-10.8
118Middle Tennessee-10.8
117Texas St-10.7
116UNLV-10.1
115San Jose St-10.0

Most Improved In 2012 (Of Above Average 2011 Teams)

2012 Rank2011 RankRank ChangeTeam2012 Rating2011 RatingRating Change
102616Florida13.07.75.3
315524Tennessee5.40.64.8
143016Nebraska10.87.13.7
72114Texas14.110.53.6
345117Auburn4.51.53.0
274114South Florida6.93.93.0
284315Georgia Tech6.43.62.8
415312North Carolina3.30.92.4
223412Ohio St7.75.52.2
395213Pittsburgh3.61.52.1

Biggest Declines In 2012 (Of Above Average 2011 Teams)

2012 Rank2011 RankRank ChangeTeam2012 Rating2011 RatingRating Change
207-13Boise St8.921.4-12.5
83-5Oklahoma St13.425.4-12.0
51-4LSU15.227.1-11.9
188-10Wisconsin9.121.0-11.9
3510-25Houston4.415.8-11.4
7024-46Arizona St-2.68.2-10.8
95-4Stanford13.123.8-10.7
341Oregon16.425.2-8.8
220Alabama20.727.1-6.4
3220-12Michigan St5.011.3-6.3

Most Improved In 2012 (Of Below Average 2011 Teams)

2012 Rank2011 RankRank ChangeTeam2012 Rating2011 RatingRating Change
122120-2New Mexico-21.5-30.79.2
119117-2Florida Atlantic-17.0-26.29.2
619332Mississippi-0.6-9.69.0
679730Bowling Green-2.0-10.78.7
9810810Troy-7.9-16.08.1
8510419Kansas-6.2-14.28.0
1001066Central Michigan-8.1-15.97.8
123119-4Akron-22.4-30.17.7
961059Eastern Michigan-7.6-15.07.4
1011076Indiana-8.9-16.07.1

Biggest Declines In 2012 (Of Below Average 2011 Teams)

2012 Rank2011 RankRank ChangeTeam2012 Rating2011 RatingRating Change
9967-32San Diego St-8.0-1.6-6.4
9772-25Washington St-7.7-2.7-5.0
11094-16San Jose St-14.5-9.8-4.7
7865-13Arkansas St-4.4-1.1-3.3
7662-14Northwestern-4.0-0.8-3.2
121112-9New Mexico St-21.3-18.7-2.6
10792-15Colorado-11.9-9.5-2.4
7263-9SMU-2.9-0.8-2.1
7769-8Wake Forest-4.3-2.4-1.9
10382-21Hawaii-9.4-7.7-1.7

Most Likely Undefeated Teams

TeamTeam RankSOS RankProj RecordUndefeated%
Oklahoma1110.4 - 1.618.7%
Alabama2210.3 - 1.716.7%
Oregon32710.4 - 1.616.1%
Boise State20749.9 - 2.112.4%
Southern California4139.7 - 2.310.3%
Houston35829.5 - 2.59.5%
Florida State12369.5 - 2.58.9%
Nebraska14299.0 - 3.07.2%
Louisiana State569.2 - 2.86.9%
Wisconsin18479.1 - 2.96.8%

Least Likely To Win A Single Game

TeamTeam RankSOS RankProj WinsWinless%
Akron1231131.9 - 10.110.2%
Memphis1241232.3 - 9.78.9%
Massachusetts112812.9 - 9.16.5%
Tulane1201093.0 - 9.06.3%
New Mexico1221212.8 - 10.26.0%
New Mexico State1211223.0 - 9.04.6%
Florida Atlantic1191113.3 - 8.73.6%
Ball State88724.6 - 7.42.8%
Buffalo109853.3 - 8.72.7%
Rice108914.1 - 7.92.7%

Highest Conference Win Odds

TeamTeam RankProj Conf RecordWin Conf%
Boise State207.2 - 0.848.1%
Louisiana Tech585.0 - 1.045.7%
Oklahoma17.6 - 1.439.5%
Florida State126.4 - 1.632.2%
Oregon37.4 - 1.630.9%
Utah State644.7 - 1.330.9%
Alabama26.5 - 1.529.9%
Southern California47.0 - 2.027.4%
Wisconsin185.6 - 2.425.1%
South Florida274.7 - 2.324.9%

Bowl Bubble Teams (Bowl Eligibility Odds Closest to 50%)

TeamTeam RankSOS RankProj RecordBowl Eligible%
UL Monroe90925.8 - 6.253.5%
UCLA57375.7 - 6.353.5%
Colorado State1061195.7 - 6.353.2%
Washington54345.6 - 6.451.8%
Wyoming1041085.6 - 6.451.5%
Miami52255.5 - 6.551.3%
North Texas1021005.4 - 6.649.1%
Hawaii1031015.4 - 6.648.6%
Marshall93805.3 - 6.747.3%
Virginia75645.2 - 6.846.8%