Tough road awaits LSU, Ohio State
Many top teams have schedules that could knock them out of the Top 25
Scheduling is important in almost every sport, but it is uniquely so in college football, where a single loss has the potential to mean the difference between a BCS appearance and a berth in a midlevel bowl game.
Consider, as an example, the 2010 Pittsburgh Panthers. Ranked 15th in both preseason polls, the Panthers dropped three challenging nonconference contests in five games to start the season and ended 8-5 and out of the Top 25. Had they scheduled (and beaten) a trio of cupcakes instead of Utah, Miami and Notre Dame, we'd be talking about an 11-win Pitt team that would have risen up near the top of the polls.
So, after looking Tuesday at the teams that could make a rise into the Top 25 based on soft schedules, we're looking now at the schools that, like Pitt in 2010, run the risk of falling out of the Top 25 based on challenging schedules.
(Note: With the preseason polls not released yet, we're using ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach's Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings as a reference point.)
Oklahoma State Cowboys
The good news is that the Cowboys get to host Oklahoma in the in-state rivals' season finale. Getting to that game might prove to be the bigger challenge. They get Arizona in Week 2 on a five-day week, then face Texas A&M on the road two weeks later, one of four road games in their first seven contests (a stretch that includes a back-to-back at Texas and at Missouri).