Strength of schedule is one of the main factors that will be hotly debated this season, both inside and outside the College Football Playoff selection committee proceedings. To state the obvious, contenders will need to win games, and a weaker overall schedule will help them do just that.
We calculated the 2014 projected schedule strength of every Football Bowl Subdivision team based on our post-spring FEI rankings and compared it to the regular-season schedule strength each team faced last year. In terms of potential wins gained, the following programs are the biggest beneficiaries of a lighter schedule this fall.
2013 regular-season SOS rank: 55
2014 projected regular-season SOS rank: 99
The Hawkeyes went 8-4 in the regular season last year with three losses coming against teams that won at least 12 games each -- Northern Illinois (12-2), Michigan State (13-1) and Ohio State (12-2). None of those three opponents appears on the 2014 schedule, as Iowa slides to a new Big Ten West Division with fewer interdivision challengers and a manageable cross-division slate (Indiana and Maryland). Iowa is 30th in our post-spring FEI rankings, but the Hawkeyes have the 13th-best chance nationally to finish the regular season at 11-1 or 12-0 (16 percent).