“Sure they dominate in their conference, but they could never do that well in the SEC.”
If I had a dime for every time I’d heard it, I’d be one rich man. While there isn’t much argument that the SEC has produced the strongest teams overall in the BCS era, how much does playing an SEC schedule hurt a team’s odds of, say, going undefeated?
I originally embarked on this bit of research to answer a simple question: “How would FSU do if they played Alabama’s schedule?” The answer I found was actually quite surprising. It turns out Florida State’s odds of going undefeated would only fall by 1.1% when playing Alabama’s schedule rather than their own.
How could this be? I compared the average and median power ratings of both teams’ opposition, which may shed some light on the reason:
FSU Opponents: 71.28 Avg, 71.00 Median
Alabama Opponents: 69.39 Avg, 72.10 Median
Surprisingly, the two schools play a very similar strength of schedule. FSU’s scheduling of Notre Dame and Oklahoma State boosts them above the ACC average, and games at Louisville and Miami keep the strength of schedule boat afloat.
Meanwhile, while Alabama faces LSU and Auburn, as well as two very underrated teams in Ole Miss and Mississippi State, their strength of schedule is weighed down by a poor FCS team in Western Carolina, and a Southern Miss team that finished the season rated lower than most FCS teams.
A significant disclaimer must be attached to these statistics though. Florida State playing Alabama’s schedule implies that they wouldn’t have to play against Alabama. If they were simply added to the SEC West and faced Alabama in addition to all of those opponents, their odds of going undefeated would be cut in half.