In the coming year, the Pac-10 will significantly raise the bar as several conference members add games against high profile programs.
One-third of all announced Pac-10 OOC games are against Top-30 competition (as ranked by Sagarin (USA Today) at the end of the 2005 season). USC faces the most difficult schedule, with two Top-30 teams, Notre Dame and Nebraska, on their slate. The only schools without a Top-30 team on their schedule are Oregon State and Arizona State. The Beavers top opponent is Boise State (#46) while the Sun Devils top foe is Colorado (#36).
To date, just two conference teams have scheduled games against D1-AA (lower ranked) competition. Arizona will host Stephen F. Austin and Arizona State will entertain Northern Arizona.
Several OOC teams will play multiple Pac-10 schools, led by Notre Dame, which will take on USC, Stanford and UCLA (the latter two in South Bend). Oklahoma and Fresno State will both play Washington and Oregon. The Sooners will travel to Eugene and face UW in Norman, whereas Fresno State will play in the Emerald City and take on UO in Bulldog Stadium.
The other two OOC teams that will face more than one Pac-10 team fall under the heading of “traditional OOC opponents”. San Jose State will take the road against Washington and Stanford and Idaho will travel to Washington State and Oregon State.
NOTE: Three schools, Cal, Arizona and Oregon State are still looking for a third OOC opponent to fill out their respective schedules.
Here are announced opponents as of January 7, 2006:
@ Louisiana State
Stephen F. Austin
@ Fresno State
@ Boise State
San Jose State
@ Notre Dame
San Jose State
To assess these schedules, I developed a “strength formula” as follows:
I doubled the final 2005 Sagarin ranking (to increase the influence of the most current season) and added the final rankings from 2003 and 2004 (to account for a traditionally strong team that may have experienced a down year in 2005), and then divided the result by four.
For example, Tennessee was ranked #47 in 2005 (doubled = 94), #15 in 2004 and #20 in 2003 (composite = 35). 94 + 35 = 129 divided by 4 (2005, 2005, 2004, 2003) = 32.3 average.
This strength factor, which is a kind of weighted average national ranking for Tennessee, is 32.3.
To cope with the (temporary) absence of a third OOC opponent for Cal, Arizona and Oregon State, I assumed the three schools would use the A, B, C approach to scheduling (where A refers to a strong team, B to a middle ranked team, and C to a weaker team) to select their third opponent, because many – though not all - programs try to schedule one of each for their three OOC games.
At Cal, the expectation is that the Bears will schedule a C team because the two already scheduled qualify as A and B teams. For the other two I added a B team value since both schools already had C teams on their schedules (Oregon State has Idaho and Arizona has S.F. Austin).
The value I used for C teams is the average ranking for the lowest third of the 21 OOC teams scheduled so far by Pac-10 schools, the B value from the middle third.
On the basis of these assumptions, I calculated the weighted average national ranking of OOC opponents for each Pac-10 team. Here are the results:
Thus the USC OOC schedule averages out to playing three teams ranked 31st in the nation, Cal is right in the middle of the Pac (until the actual their team is announced), and ASU has taken the easy road. USC deserves respect for being willing to take on a strong OOC schedule, significantly stronger than any other Pac-10 team.
NEXT UP: A review of the number of returning starters for each Pac-10 school. Look for this article after the final list of athletes going pro is published later this month.
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