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Does USF own the AAC’s toughest football schedule?

It’s way too premature to say for sure, but early indicators say yes
USF defensive back Mike Hampton (7), returning an interception during the 2018 season opener, will help lead the Bulls through what could be the American Athletic Conference's toughest schedule in 2020. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

Upon Tuesday’s release of the American Athletic Conference football schedules, schools splashed their web sites and social media accounts with data hailing the appeal and or ruggedness of their program’s respective slate.

Truth be told, it’s not a terribly difficult task. By manipulating the metrics (advanced, rudimentary or both), nearly any schedule can be dressed up statistically in February to make it appear challenging.

But how can one objectively assess where USF’s 2020 slate stacks up against the rest of the league’s? Maybe that’s impossible at this early juncture, but we gave it a crack anyway, employing four benchmarks.

Based on those, the Bulls’ schedule looks pretty darn stern, arguably the toughest in the league.

Related: Report: Former USF coach Charlie Strong joins Alabama staff

For instance, the combined 2019 win percentage of USF’s 2020 opponents (excluding Division I-AA programs) is .629, highest in the conference. It’s also playing eight teams that reached a bowl last season; only Houston and East Carolina play as many.

But because those 2019 percentages may not translate well to 2020, we also considered a more forward-thinking metric: USF plays four teams (Texas, UCF, Cincinnati, Houston) ranked in the top 50 of ESPN’s inaugural Football Power Index (FPI) rankings of 2020.

Only three other teams (Memphis, Tulane, Tulsa) play as many.

Mind you, it’s all guesswork at this point, but it’s still darn fun to guess and gauge. So for your own perusal, here’s a breakdown of each AAC team’s 2020 schedule.

Teams are listed with the number of opponents on their schedule that made a bowl in ’19, combined ’19 win percentage of their ’20 opponents, number of opponents who won at least 10 games last season, and number of foes in the top 50 of the preseason FPI:

Team Bowl appearances Pct. 10-win seasons Top-50 FPI
USF 8 .629 5 4
Houston 8 .578 5 2
East Carolina 8 .596 4 3
Tulsa 7 .593 4 4
Temple 7 .533 5 3
Memphis 7 .579 4 4
Tulane 6 .544 4 4
Navy 6 .580 4 2
Cincinnati 6 .563 3 3
UCF 5 .500 2 3
SMU 5 .525 3 3