Ohio State remains undefeated, and is ranked fourth in the nation in the AP Top 25 poll. The USA Today Coaches Poll has the Buckeyes ranked third in the country. Ohio State, however, continues to catch a ton of criticism for their weak schedule, both conference and out-of-conference.
Perception is one thing, and the perception of the relative strength of the Big Ten in the world of college football is generally not favorable. Until this past week, the Big Ten had four ranked teams, one being Ohio State, and the other three were Northwestern, Wisconsin and Michigan – teams that have already played the Buckeyes, or will play the Buckeyes this season. Now, after Michigan's loss to Penn State (and a series of lackluster performances before that), and Northwestern's one sided loss to Wisconsin, the Big Ten has just two ranked teams, Ohio State and Wisconsin in the AP rankings, and Ohio State and Michigan in the Coaches Poll.
Compare that to Bama's SEC, which features eight ranked teams out of twelve teams total, Oregon's Pac 12, which has four ranked teams, or Clemson's ACC, with three teams in the top 10. This in and of itself elevates the national perception of these conferences, and the strength of schedule of the teams within them.
But, in reality, is Ohio State's schedule really that much weaker than Alabama's, Oregon's or Clemson's respective schedules?
Bama is ranked first in the nation, and has been since preseason. Their schedule features four ranked opponents. The Crimson Tide beat Texas A&M (just 25th in the latest F/+ rankings) while the Aggies were ranked sixth, and they have since dropped to seventh in the nation. There's no taking away from a road game of that nature, which is better than many in the Top 10 have played. Bama also beat Ole Miss when they were ranked 21st, although they aren't ranked any longer. The Rebels are just 37th in the latest F/+ rankings.
Aside from that, the opponents Bama has already played have a win percentage of .514 through the first few weeks of the season. Bama has wins against Colorado State (2-4) and Georgia State (0-6), as well as the SEC's own 1-5 Kentucky. The Tide will also face sixth-ranked LSU, and Auburn, currently ranked 24th in the nation in the AP Top 25.
Oregon, ranked second in the nation in both major polls, is also undefeated. They beat Washington last week, prompting the Huskies to drop from 16th to 20th in the nation (though the previously mention F/+ are big fans of theirs). They do have #9 UCLA and #13 Stanford upcoming on their schedules, though.
The total win percentage of all of Oregon's opponents to date, however, is just .457. The Ducks have beaten three teams with losing records so far this season, Virginia (2-4), Colorado (2-4) and Cal (1-5). Another win came against 3-3 Tennessee.
Clemson is ranked third in the AP Top 25, and fourth in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Clemson beat UGA, ranked fifth in the nation at the time, in the first week of the season, and has Florida State, currently ranked fifth, and South Carolina, currently ranked 11th, on their schedule this season.
Clemson, at this point, has faced opponents with higher winning percentage than Bama or Oregon. Their opponents to date have a win percentage of .568. One of those teams, South Carolina State, has a 5-2 record, but their five wins came against Alabama A&M, Benedict, Hampton, North Carolina A&%, and North Carolina Central. Clemson struggled at times against 3-3 Boston College last week, though they did come away with a 24-14 win. Along with Florida State and South Carolina, Clemson will play Virginia (2-4) and the Citadel (2-5) later this season.
As far as the Buckeyes, whose wins against Wisconsin and Northwestern came while both teams were ranked in the AP Top 25 and the USA Today Coaches Poll, their opponents so far this season have an even .500 win percentage. That's not great, but it's better than Oregon's, and it's only barely behind Bama's.
The Buffalo Bulls, Ohio State's week one opponent, has a four game winning streak going. Cal has only lost to ranked teams. Wisconsin and Northwestern are both 4-2, with one of Wisconsin's loss coming in an extremely strange finish against Arizona State, and the other coming from Ohio State. Northwestern's losses came from Wisconsin and Ohio State. The rest of Ohio State's schedule features four teams that currently have records over .500, Iowa, Penn State, Illinois and Michigan.
If you pay much attention to the media narrative, it's easy to fall into the trap of believing that Ohio State's schedule is markedly weaker than other top teams in the nation, but in reality, it's not all that different, at least not yet. Yes, Ohio State played Florida A&M, but Bama played Georgia State. Ohio State beat 1-5 Cal, and so did Oregon. Clemson seems to have the most challenging schedule among the top four teams in the country, but with South Carolina State behind them and The Citadel to come, they too are certainly more than familiar with the cupcake variety of opponents.
Ohio State's schedule is not necessarily weak enough to warrant so much criticism, or legitimately keep the Buckeyes from the National Championship Game, should their remarkable winning streak continue. The rest of the schedule is very manageable for the Buckeyes, despite the fact that four of the Buckeye's six remaining opponents have winning records. The negative perception may be too much for the Buckeyes to overcome, but convincing wins over their remaining opponents would help. WIth Bama, Oregon and Clemson all facing ranked teams in the coming weeks, a loss or two from any of those teams wouldn't hurt, either.