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How tough was Missouri’s football schedule in 2016?

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Hardest in the FBS? Alabama would like a word. And Tennessee. And Ohio State. And Clemson.

Arkansas v Missouri
Missouri’s schedule didn’t do Barry Odom many favors in his first year as head coach. But at least he wasn’t Chris Ash.
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

I don’t really know how you RockMNation readers see me at this point.

I hope you see as neither foe nor friend to the Missouri football program, as someone who has studied the team closely for the past four seasons, studied college football professionally for the past seven and as a fan for basically my whole life and that the sum of those parts add up to someone who can judge the program and narratives surrounding it dispassionately, based solely upon their merits.

The offense made a light-year jump under Josh Heupel? Yeah, I can buy that, with a small caveat or two.

The defense is a doomed proposition? No way, just as the offensive line wasn’t doomed after a historically bad season last year.

This year’s team, despite all its faults, was a whisper away from a bowl berth? Certainly, if it had closed out Georgia and avoided laying an egg against Middle Tennessee.

The 2016 Tigers, with everything else they had working against them, also played an abnormally tough schedule? You could talk me into that. With Eastern Michigan on an upswing, West Virginia’s resurgence and (mild) surprise bowl berths from South Carolina, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, all 11 of Missouri’s FBS foes are bowl-eligible.

An impressive stat. This is where you lose me, though.

I get this. It’s the job of the school’s athletic department to promote its interests. And a 4-8 record against the toughest schedule in the FBS looks better than a 4-8 record against an above-average slate.

But...I mean...no. Not in the FBS.

Ohio State played at Oklahoma (beat West Virginia, 56-28), against Tulsa (9-3 record in a Group of Five league versus Middle Tennessee’s 8-4), no FCS opponent like Missouri had and conference games against top-8 CFP teams Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State. Yes, the SEC lacked doormats like Rutgers and Michigan State, but it also takes about five 6-6 or 7-5 teams (and Missouri did play five of them) to approximate the Big 3 that Ohio State played.

Not even in the SEC.

Alabama opened against USC (ranked higher than West Virginia), 9-3 Western Kentucky and played in an SEC West that went 9-5 against the East.

Not even in the SEC East.

Tennessee played Virginia Tech (playing for an ACC title), Appalachian State (top of the Sun Belt), Ohio (playing for a MAC title) and had West games against Alabama and Texas A&M, teams with a combined 20-4 record. Missouri’s West opponents had a 15-8 record.

I’ve just named three teams with pretty much objectively tougher schedules than Missouri without straining myself too much. But I like straining myself. So I went deeper.

I took all 64 Power 5 teams (and Notre Dame which, like the major-conference teams, plays at least eight games against P5 teams on a yearly basis) and combined the record of each team’s FBS opponents this season against FBS teams to come up with a purely win-percentage based strength of schedule. I did not factor in how the team I was studying did against each opponent.

So 9-2 West Virginia, for instance, counted as 7-2 in Missouri’s strength of schedule because wins against the Tigers and the FCS’ Youngstown State were discounted.

And yes, I’m aware a 7-2 West Virginia for Missouri should count more than a 9-2 Appalachian State for Tennessee, but I’m also of the mind that these things tend to even out over 11 or 12 games for each of the 65 teams I’m looking at.

And yes, this could change a little as the Big 12, Sun Belt and some other leagues’ teams finish up their regular seasons this weekend, but incrementally.

And yes, I realize I’m punishing teams that played all FBS opponents because a, say, Massachusetts would count for 1-9 against Florida but a, say, Delaware State would count for 0-0 against Missouri.

But that’s actually bolstering Missouri’s case, so why would you care?

Anyway, using this way of measuring strength of schedule, Missouri’s FBS opponents this season have a .574 win percentage — a 62-46 record — against FBS teams not named Missouri.

That’s above average in the SEC (.562) but also sixth, behind Alabama, Tennessee, LSU, Auburn and Ole Miss.

It’s further above average among the 65 studied (.538) but also clocking in at 16th, behind those five SEC teams, four from the Big Ten and three each from the ACC and Pac-12.

None, interestingly enough, from the Big 12. Also interesting? Kansas is basically the average team when it comes to Power-5 strength of schedule.

Missouri’s in the upper 25 percent of Power 5 strength of schedule. Toughest in the nation?

Eh....

Here’s the whole picture:

Overall

1. Alabama: .661 (72-37)
2. Tennessee: .640 (71-40)
3. Ohio State: .624 (78-47)
4. Clemson: .618 (68-42)
4. Florida State: .618 (68-42)
6. LSU: .604 (61-40)
7. Auburn: .598 (64-43)
8. Rutgers: .596 (68-46)
9. Oregon: .588 (67-47)
10. Ole Miss: .583 (63-45)
11. Arizona: .579 (66-48)
11. Northwestern: .579 (66-48)
11. Oregon State: .579 (66-48)
14. Pittsburgh: .578 (63-46)
15. Michigan: .576 (72-53)
16. Missouri: .574 (62-46)
17. Syracuse: .571 (64-48)
18. Vanderbilt: .564 (62-48)
19. Illinois: .563 (63-49)
20. Penn State: .557 (68-54)
21. Oklahoma: .556 (65-52)
22. Wisconsin: .5537 (67-54)
23. Washington State: .5536 (62-50)
24. Colorado: .553 (63-51)
24. Iowa: .553 (63-51)
Kentucky: .550 (61-50)
NC State: .550 (61-50)
California: .5440 (68-57)
Purdue: .5439 (62-52)
Michigan State: .543 (63-53)
Arkansas: .542 (58-49)
USC: .540 (67-57)

Average: .5378 (61-52)

Kansas: .5377 (57-49)
Georgia Tech: .537 (58-50)
UCLA: .5285 (65-58)
Georgia: .5278 (57-51)
Texas A&M: .527 (58-52)
Maryland: .526 (61-55)
Mississippi State: .5234 (56-51)
Duke: .5229 (57-52)
Arizona State: .522 (59-54)
Nebraska: .520 (64-59)
Oklahoma State: .519 (56-52)
Miami: .514 (57-54)
Minnesota: .513 (58-55)
North Carolina: .510 (51-49)
Texas Tech: .509 (54-52)
Stanford: .504 (62-61)
Washington: .500 (56-56)
TCU: .500 (54-54)
West Virginia: .500 (54-54)
Indiana: .496 (62-63)
Florida: .495 (54-55)
Notre Dame: .492 (59-61)
Utah: .487 (55-58)
Boston College: .486 (54-57)
South Carolina: .482 (53-57)
Virginia: .482 (53-57)
Louisville: .475 (57-63)
Wake Forest: .473 (52-58)
Kansas State: .468 (51-58)
Iowa State: .466 (54-62)
Baylor: .463 (50-58)
Texas: .462 (54-63)
Virginia Tech: .455 (50-60)

——-

ACC

Clemson: .618 (68-42)
Florida State: .618 (68-42)
Pittsburgh: .578 (63-46)
Syracuse: .571 (64-48)
NC State: .550 (61-50)
Georgia Tech: .537 (58-50)

Average: .528 (58-52)

Duke: .523 (57-52)
Miami: .514 (57-54)
North Carolina: .510 (51-49)
Boston College: .486 (54-57)
Virginia: .482 (53-57)
Louisville: .475 (57-63)
Wake Forest: .473 (52-58)
Virginia Tech: .455 (50-60)

——-

Big Ten

Ohio State: .624 (78-47)
Rutgers: .596 (68-46)
Northwestern: .579 (66-48)
Michigan: .576 (72-53)
Illinois: .563 (63-49)
Penn State: .557 (68-54)
Wisconsin: .554 (67-54)

Average: .553 (65-53)

Iowa: .553 (63-51)
Purdue: .544 (62-52)
Michigan State: .543 (63-53)
Maryland: .526 (61-55)
Nebraska: .520 (64-59)
Minnesota: .513 (58-55)
Indiana: .496 (62-63)

———

Big 12

Oklahoma: .556 (65-52)
Kansas: .538 (57-49)
Oklahoma State: .519 (56-52)
Texas Tech: .509 (54-52)
TCU: .500 (54-54)
West Virginia: .500 (54-54)

Average: .498 (55-55)

Kansas State: .468 (51-58)
Iowa State: .466 (54-62)
Baylor: .463 (50-58)
Texas: .462 (54-63)

——-

Pac-12

Oregon: .588 (67-47)
Arizona: .579 (66-48)
Oregon State: .579 (66-48)
Washington State: .554 (62-50)
Colorado: .553 (63-51)
California: .544 (68-57)
USC: .5403 (67-57)

Average: .5396 (63-54)

UCLA: .528 (65-58)
Arizona State: .522 (59-54)
Stanford: .504 (62-61)
Washington: .500 (56-56)
Utah: .487 (55-58)

———

SEC

Alabama: .661 (72-37)
Tennessee: .640 (71-40)
LSU: .604 (61-40)
Auburn: .598 (64-43)
Ole Miss: .583 (63-45)
Missouri: .574 (62-46)
Vanderbilt: .564 (62-48)

Average: .562 (61-47)

Kentucky: .550 (61-50)
Arkansas: .542 (58-49)
Georgia: .528 (57-51)
Texas A&M: .527 (58-52)
Mississippi State: .523 (56-51)
Florida: .495 (54-55)
South Carolina: .482 (53-57)


A lot of strength of schedule is in the eye of the beholder. It’s opinion-based, is what I’m trying to say.

But what I’ve tried to do (exhaustively...in way too many words...) up there is to thoroughly back up my opinion that Missouri’s schedule, while tough, was not toughest-in-the-country tough.

If any of you have counterpoints, I welcome them.