Much like arguing over conference strength all season long, a typical point of contention when evaluating teams ties back directly to strength of schedule. This ties into the never ending College Football Playoff selection process and the perception of which teams are most deserving based entirely on who they played in September in games scheduled years prior.
Using our ratings, we sorted this all out for you to not only at the team level but at the conference level as a whole.
So, which conferences as a whole are playing the toughest schedule against non-conference opponents:
They are sorted by Power Five and Group of Five affiliation separated but ranked by overall schedule toughness. Surprisingly, a Power Five conference team came in with the second toughest non-conference schedule with the Big Ten landing right behind the Independents--for obvious reasons, the Independents finished atop the mountain with teams like Notre Dame and BYU scheduling so tough. Although the gap from first to second is rather small, all things considered.
The Independents being at number one really isn't a shock when you look at it by team and see that Notre Dame and BYU are 2nd and 10th respectively in difficulty on their non-conference strength of schedule. Notre Dame plays Michigan, Stanford, at Virginia Tech, Navy, at Northwestern, Florida State and USC just to name the highlights.
Meanwhile, half of the Sun Belt shows up in the top 46 of non-conference schedule strength by team to cement themselves at the third overall spot.
The Big Ten largely finished where they did because of all teams in their league there are only two games against FCS opponents.
To break down that angle further, below is a table of non-conference games for the Power Five conferences and the percentage of non-conference games against FCS, G5, or P5 affiliations.
It doesn't take long to realize that the Big Ten's avoiding of FCS teams is the biggest difference but they also play almost 67 percent of their non-conference games against G5 opponents, which is pretty clearly the most.
However, the Big 12 has the highest percentage of their non-conference games against Power Five opposition with nearly 37 percent of them coming against other Power Five teams.
We made it easy for you no to forget all of this information when it comes time to debate the merits of teams being selected the College Football Playoff by adding the Non-Conference Strength of Schedule to our ratings. This new addition will be updated weekly throughout the season so by season's end we have a full picture on how teams performed outside of their predetermined conference match ups.
**Notre Dame and BYU are classified as Independent but also P5 because of how they schedule and largely operate as programs.