<
>

FPI projects USC has toughest FBS schedule

Clay Helton and the Trojans face an extremely difficult slate in 2016. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Good news, Washington fans! ESPN’s newest preseason Football Power Index (FPI) metrics give the Huskies a 1.2-percent chance to go undefeated in 2016. That’s tops in the Pac-12. Congrats!

Every other team is not as blessed and has less than a 1-percent chance to run the table.

The new FPI strength of schedule projections show why the Pac-12 annually guts itself. Eight teams in the conference rank in the top 20 nationally in projected schedule difficulty. The USC Trojans have the honor of owning the toughest schedule in all of FBS.

The Trojans nonconference slate in 2016 includes a date with Alabama, the defending national champs, plus Utah State and Notre Dame. Sandwiched in between are road trips to Stanford, Utah, Washington and UCLA at the Rose Bowl. So Clay Helton and Co. have their work cut out for them.

Despite those odds, FPI gives the Trojans a 47.4 percent chance to win the South, making them the early favorites to repeat as division champs. But seeing as the South has had four different winners four years in a row, that number is shaky at best.

On the flip side, FPI projects the Washington Huskies as having the best shot to win the North Division at 45.8 percent. Defending league champ Stanford checks in at 26.1 percent to repeat in the North, followed by Oregon at 17.6 percent. Washington has the No. 50 schedule in the country, which projects to be the “easiest” among all Pac-12 teams.

Should the Huskies win the North, it would reflect a tectonic shift in how the league has played out since expansion in 2011. Only two teams – Oregon and Stanford – have won the division. And the league, for that matter.

Across the rest of college football, only the SEC boasts as many teams with equally difficult schedules. The SEC has eight teams ranked in the top 20 – including Alabama (6), LSU (7) and Texas A&M (10) in the top 10. The ACC and Big 12 have two teams each. You have to go down to No. 31 and Ohio State to find a Big Ten team.

For some info on what goes into FPI and complete preseason rankings, you can check out this post from our Stats & Info group.