If there is one thing we learned from the inaugural season of the College Football Playoff, it is that nonconference scheduling matters.
Baylor paid the price for a weak nonconference schedule last year, and considering that strength of schedule must be considered based on the committee's protocol, there is no doubt it will continue to matter more than ever. With that in mind, we set out to rank the nonconference schedules of every team in a Power 5 conference over the next five years.
With around 85 percent of those games scheduled or agreed upon, we were able to fill the holes with either an average Power 5 opponent, an average Group of 5 opponent or an FCS opponent, based on analysis by ESPN's college football research department on each team's scheduling trends.
The difficulty of every game was measured using each opponent's four-year average FPI rating. FPI is a measure of team strength and has been shown to correlate with future team power.
Once the schedule and opponent strength was set, we calculated how an average FBS team would perform against each team's nonconference schedule. The number associated with each team (below) is the percentage of games an average FBS team would be expected to lose if it faced that schedule; the higher the number, the harder the schedule.
Based on this process, the number of nonconference games each team plays does not matter; rather, the competition faced is the only component of schedule strength.
Below are three takeaways from the nonconference schedule study: