Strength of schedule is a subjective thing, and subject to change as the season goes along, and teams expected to be strong unravel while others thought to be down surge. But its importance has increased, most notably for those teams that are in competition for one of the 4 berths in the College Football Playoffs. We've all read about Baylor being penalized for 1 loss to a good team because of having some of their wins being over not so good ones.
It's also important if you are jockeying for the Group of 5s berth in a NY6 bowl game, or in some cases, the Holiday Bowl instead of the Las Vegas Bowl. And both television contracts and kickoff times are affected as well.
It's also a fair indicator of how many Ws a team might get (or Ls) relative to how good a team actually is, especially in football, where the lack of easy opponents exacerbate depth and experience issues.
The pre-season assessment of strength of schedule for 2016 is out, and Oregon State's fall campaign is initially rated the 14th toughest in the country. This despite the unusual (for the Beavers) 7th home game.
That's actually probably understating the difficulty though, given that Oregon State's bye falls in the second week, which means 11 games in 11 weeks, with the last 10 all against teams in the top 84 (and Boise State's strength of schedule understates how tough they will be), 7 against teams in the top 41.
That's partially because of the 9 game Pac-12 schedule, and the fact that the conference team with the easiest schedule this fall is Washington, and its only at 52 (of 128 FBS programs). Nine members of the conference are in the top 15.
USC (who Oregon State does not face this fall) tops the list, with the #1 toughest schedule in the country, but California is close behind, at #5. UCLA is #9, and Stanford is only slightly higher on the list than the Beavers, at #12.
The fact that the Trojans, Bears, Bruins, and Cardinal all do not face an FCS foe are a big reason they are all in the top 12.
Indeed, the Pac-12's top end is second only to the SEC West, which has 5 teams in the top 8, and 6 in the top 10; get ready for more SEC talk this fall, especially if USC can't upset Alabama and UCLA loses to Texas A&M.
Utah, at #16, Oregon at #20, and Colorado at #21 are also up there. Oregon State misses Arizona State, which rounds out the top 25, but Washington State is #41, and Arizona is ranked #47.
For reference, Minnesota, who Oregon State will open against, is #66 in the pre-season SOS.
Oregon State fans might not see as many Beaver wins as a softer schedule could afford, but at least they will see plenty of good teams, and ones that will see other good teams too.
And the Pac-12 will likely, once again, beat up on each other.