Does UCLA have the toughest schedule in D1 football? ESPN Thinks So.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN's Stats & Info group ran their data and determined that our Bruins have the toughest schedule in the nation. Here are their top six:

As you can see, five of the six toughest schedule are in the PAC-12. Which begs the question, if the SEC is the top conference in the country, why aren't more SEC teams at the top of the list? As we and others know, the PAC-12 is the only conference where teams play nine in-conference games plus a championship game.

ESPN's Ted Miller notes that a consensus has developed that the PAC-12 is the second best conference in the nation:

Overall, the Pac-12 finished with six teams ranked in the AP Top 25 and five teams ranked in the top 10 of ESPN's Football Power Index. As a result of its strength in the computers, the Pac-12 was the clear No. 2 conference in the Power Rankings.

It wasn't just ESPN. Jeff Sagarin ranked the Pac-12 No. 2 in 2013. Phil Steele ranked the Pac-12 the No. 2 conference in 2012 and 2013, and also projected it as No. 2 in 2014. Athlon Sports did the same. In fact, if there is a conference rating system that ranked the Pac-12 anything different in 2013 and projects a lower rating this fall, we haven't seen it.

So playing many in-conference games plus the championship game in the second best conference, makes things tough, the way it should be. While the PAC-12 teams are playing each other and, in many cases, competitive non-conference games (UCLA vs. Texas, Memphis, Virginia), most SEC teams are still padding their schedules with easy opponents. Looking at the SEC out of conference schedule, #2 Alabama non-conference schedule includes Western Carolina, Florida Atlantic, and Southern Miss. According to FB Schedules, "The Crimson Tide haven’t faced two power-five non-conference opponents in the same season since 2010 when they hosted Penn State and played at Duke." The #5 Auburn Tigers will have a tougher non-conference schedule with San Jose St, Kansas St., and Louisiana Tech., but then will get to go against Samford on November 22nd.

While UCLA's tough schedule should help them in the eyes of the championship selection committee, the road is much tougher for UCLA then say, Alabama. And I wonder if, say UCLA and Alabama both end the season with one loss, would UCLA go ahead of a one loss Alabama in the championship placement? Or will perception trump reality? If UCLA does have the toughest schedule in the country and they end the season with one loss or even two, will the committee consider SOS, if that means leaving an SEC team like Alabama or Auburn out of the final four? Will the selection committee stick to its insistence that strength of schedule is paramount?

For wins. For revenue. ... Strength of schedule will become such an important factor that if you want to be under consideration, you need to have a more meaningful schedule than perhaps you've had in previous years.

Ted Miller thinks that the PAC-12 could even make a case for being the #1 conference in the country:

What separates the Pac-12 this season -- and could make it a legitimate threat for the No. 1 conference -- is behind center. Not only does the conference welcome back 10 starting quarterbacks, a majority of those are NFL prospects.

As Stanford Coach David Shaw puts it:

I've never seen anything like this...You have multiple guys that you could say could be the No. 1 pick overall in the draft. You have multiple guys in the conference that could be All-Americans and lead the nation in quarterback rating or lead the nation in passing.

Obviously, none of this matters at this point. UCLA must go out on the field and make its case. The Bruins haven't even played one game and already I'm concerned about final four picks. But I am getting excited about this season and clearly getting way ahead of myself.

Our success is still limited, in my view. We haven't won the Pac-12 championship. We're 0-3 against Stanford. I don't want our players to feel like we've accomplished what we want to accomplish. We're just on the right track.

Thanks Coach Mora, I needed that! (From PAC-12 media day via SF Gate.)

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.

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