Toughest 2021 College Football Schedules

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(Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)
Sam Herder Aug 24, 2021, 3:35 PM
  • Alabama has the highest projected win total and the seventh-hardest schedule.
  • Kansas did itself no favors with its non-conference schedule.
  • Which SEC team has the toughest slate of games?

“Kansas football is terrible, but it can win at least two games this year, right?” you may be asking yourself as you go through BetMGM’s college football odds and notice the over/under on wins for the Jayhawks is 1.5.

But not only is Kansas projected to be one of the worst FBS teams this season, but its schedule is also one of the 10 toughest, according to ESPN’s strength of schedule rankings. The 1.5 win total now looks a bit tougher to take the over on.

On the other side of the spectrum, Alabama’s over/under for regular-season wins is 11.5. To take the over means you think the Crimson Tide are going undefeated against the seventh-hardest schedule.

Who else has a demanding schedule this fall, and how does it reflect on their projected win totals? Here are the 10 strongest slates, per ESPN.

10. Ole Miss

BetMGM’s O/U Regular Season Wins: 7.5

The Rebels haven’t won more than seven games since 2015 and have the 10th-toughest schedule in the FBS. They do have a good shot to go 4-0 in the non-conference slate with four games against Louisville, FCS Austin Peay, Tulane, and Liberty.

Navigating the SEC schedule is where it gets tough. Ole Miss is in the middle of the pack to win the SEC.

9. Kansas

BetMGM’s O/U Regular Season Wins: 1.5

Kansas opens its season against FCS South Dakota, who went 1-3 in the 2021 spring season and 5-7 in 2019. So there’s one good shot at a win. But finding a second win to hit the over of 1.5 is tough. The Jayhawks visit Coastal Carolina and Duke in the non-conference and did not win one Big 12 game in 2020.

8. Texas

BetMGM’s O/U Regular Season Wins: 8

Texas plays versus Louisiana, at Arkansas, and versus Rice in the non-conference before conference play. The Longhorns get five of their nine Big 12 games at home, including the top dog and future fellow SEC program Oklahoma.

7. Alabama

BetMGM’s O/U Regular Season Wins: 11.5

The Crimson Tide have an excellent season-opener against Miami in Atlanta. They give themself a breather the next week against FCS Mercer and also play Southern Miss and New Mexico State to round out their non-conference. At 11.5 wins, you’re guessing if Alabama goes undefeated or suffers one loss. The SEC opener at Florida is one to watch.

6. LSU

BetMGM’s O/U Regular Season Wins: 8.5

The Tigers have a fun season-opener at UCLA before hosting McNeese and Central Michigan. They also host Louisiana-Monore in November. After a 15-0 season and a national title in 2019, LSU went 5-5 in 2020. It gets Texas A&M and Florida at home this year, avoids Georgia, and goes to Alabama.

5. Florida State

BetMGM’s O/U Regular Season Wins: 5.5

Florida State doesn’t have an easy non-conference schedule, hosting Notre Dame the opening weekend. The Seminoles then host a quality FCS opponent in Jacksonville State a week later. Struggling UMass comes to town in October, and a challenging game at Florida ends the season. Plus, they have road games at the projected top two teams in the ACC — Clemson and North Carolina.

4. South Carolina

BetMGM’s O/U Regular Season Wins: 3.5

South Carolina had a winning record in 2017 and 2018. It dipped to 4-8 in 2019 and 2-8 in 2020.

So the 3.5 wins is fair, especially against one of the toughest schedules in the country. The non-conference is highlighted by a home game versus Clemson to end the regular season. The other three are winnable — versus FCS Eastern Illinois, at East Carolina, and home against Troy.

3. Auburn

BetMGM’s O/U Regular Season Wins: 7

Auburn’s SEC schedule sets up nicely (if there is even such a thing in the loaded conference). The Tigers avoid Florida and get Georgia and Alabama at home. Going to Penn State is a terrific non-conference game, while Auburn should defeat its other three out-of-conference opponents against Akron, FCS Alabama State, and Georgia State, all games at home.

2. Georgia Tech

BetMGM’s O/U Regular Season Wins: 5

Georgia Tech has a beefy non-conference schedule. The first two weeks of the season should be wins, hosting Northern Illinois and FCS Kennesaw State. But the last two weeks feature games at Notre Dame and versus Georgia. Add in a road conference game at Clemson, and the Yellow Jackets have a loaded slate of games.

1. Arkansas

BetMGM’s O/U Regular Season Wins: 5.5

Just looking at their SEC schedule makes you understand why the Razorbacks are No. 1.

They go to LSU, Alabama, and Georgia. Arkansas does get four non-conference games at home, though, with the biggie coming against Texas. It takes on Rice, Georgia Southern, and FCS Arkansas-Pine Bluff as well.

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About the Author

Sam Herder

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Sam Herder is a writer for BetMGM and HERO Sports. A North Dakota State journalism grad, he spent several years in the print media industry before writing for online outlets. Sam has covered sports at all levels — high school, college, and professional — since 2011.

Sam Herder is a writer for BetMGM and HERO Sports. A North Dakota State journalism grad, he spent several years in the print media industry before writing for online outlets. Sam has covered sports at all levels — high school, college, and professional — since 2011.