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Ranking College Football's Top 25 Toughest Schedules for 2017

DJ Durkin

DJ Durkin

Scheduling remains one of the most high-profile controversies surrounding college football, particularly in the new Playoff era. Like most college football controversies, it's not one the sport is likely to resolve any time soon, with anything resembling a consensus. The question for national title-aspiring programs remains: Do you schedule down in the non-conference and hope to pile wins ahead of league play, or do you test yourself against the best the nation has to offer?

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The 25 teams with the nation's toughest schedules, ranked below, seem to adhere to the latter philosophy. In addition to challenging conference schedules, each of these squads also play some marquee dates outside of the conference. While not enough evidence exists to answer the question surrounding Playoff approach, these tougher schedules are certainly a win for spectators.

1. Maryland

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No one can accuse the Terrapins of hiding in their shells. Head coach DJ Durkin's second season in College Park pits Maryland against one of the most brutal schedules any program has faced in recent memory. Playing the Big Ten East is bad enough, with games against Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State. The Terps also draw road games at Minnesota and Wisconsin in cross-divisional competition — all that after opening the season at Texas. 

2. Florida State

College Football Top 25 Rankings: FSU

A Week 1 dream matchup with Alabama sets the tone for Florida State's challenging 2017 schedule. The Seminoles book-end their campaign with non-conference dates against SEC competition, closing with the customary rivalry game vs. Florida. ACC play offers no reprieve: The conference proved to be the best in college football a season ago, with the Atlantic Division specifically setting the tone. The Seminoles have to deal with defending national champion Clemson on the road, as well as Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and Louisville in Tallahassee. Jackson solidified his case for the nation's top individual honor by running roughshod over Florida State a season ago.

Related: Ranking the ACC’s Toughest Non-Conference College Football Schedules in 2017

3. Michigan

Michigan enters 2017 with lofty aspirations, and a difficult schedule that kicks off in Texas against an SEC opponent. The last time the Wolverines saw such a scenario was 2012, a disappointing campaign that started on the sour note of losing a blowout to Alabama in the Cowboys Classic. Florida presentes a more manageable Week 1 opponent for Jim Harbaugh's team this time around, but the Gators set a fitting tone for a challenging docket. Michigan's other non-conference dates are against an always-tough Cincinnati, now with former Ohio State assistant Luke Fickell at the helm, and against the unorthodox offense of Air Force.

College Football Top 25: Michigan

In the Big Ten, Michigan draws Penn State and Wisconsin on the road, mixed in with the tough Big Ten East slate.

Related: Ranking the Big Ten’s Toughest Non-Conference College Football Schedules in 2017

4. Oklahoma

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Oklahoma