Teams with toughest 2013 schedules

Updated: January 30, 2013, 4:11 PM ET
By Travis Haney

It's late January. That's not too early to start thinking about college football schedules, is it? Yeah, we didn't think so. Admit it, you've already gone looking for the slate of your favorite team. So we'll just splash in a little context, laying out some of the country's most challenging 2013 slates.

Will anyone's schedule be prohibitive for success next season? It's certainly possible. Let's look back. We presumed Georgia would get something akin to a free pass to the SEC title game in 2012, which turned out to be accurate in part because the one team that beat the Bulldogs in the regular season, South Carolina, couldn't overcome a three-game stretch of Georgia, at LSU and at Florida.

And then there's Notre Dame, which we presumed wouldn't make it out of September without a loss -- let alone skate through the entire regular season unblemished (never mind what happened in the BCS title game).

Wintry as it might be where you are, here's a look ahead at the most difficult schedules (and an honorable mention) in each of the five major conferences. And we'll include Notre Dame in the ACC section because, frankly, the ACC hasn't demonstrated it's worth having two notably tough schedules. (We'll have no problem Thursday, though, finding two easy ones in the conference.)


Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Irish had better enjoy the opener against Temple, because 10 of the final 11 games are against bowl teams from 2012. Not that last season guarantees success for those teams in 2013 (remember, the Irish's 2012 schedule began to look a lot more manageable as the season went on than it did during the summer, after Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma and USC all had early stumbles), but it's a reasonably accurate barometer in most cases. The return of the home-and-home against Oklahoma (Sept. 28) is in South Bend, as is the USC game (Oct. 19), but trips to Michigan (Sept. 7) and Stanford (Nov. 30) will be tricky.