Tech football schedule ranks toughest in NCAA Division I

Watson Brown knew the schedule his team would face this season was tough.But just how tough is Tech’s 2010 slate, which began on the road at FBS No. 17 Arkansas followed by a trip to FBS No. 4 TCU in the first two weeks?

Tougher than Tennessee. Tougher than Georgia. Tougher than Virginia Tech. Tougher than.everybody.

According to the Sagarin college football rankings, a computerized listing of all 245 NCAA Division I teams, both FBS and FCS, the Golden Eagle schedule ranks No. 1 nationally as the most difficult.

“I’m not surprised,” Brown said. “Those first two games would test any football team, and we have some really good teams ahead of us. The important thing right now is to just look ahead to the next game and try not to get caught up in those kinds of numbers.

“The season really begins right now for our team, with our game at Southeast Missouri,” Brown said. “They are an awfully good football team. They haven’t played at home yet so they’ll have a big crowd, and we better just be ready to go play.”

Tech is one of two FCS teams listed among the 15 most difficult schedules nationally, with Northern Arizona ranked 12th.

Several local schools are listed among the 15 toughest schedules, including Tennessee at number 10, Western Kentucky 11th, Vanderbilt 14th and Georgia 15th, but none can compare with the Golden Eagles, so far.

In the actual team rankings, the Golden Eagles are listed at 155 following those two games, which is second highest among the nine Ohio Valley Conference teams. The Sagarin rankings include only games against FCS and FBS foes, so the game against Lane does not figure into Tech’s rankings or difficulty of schedule.

Jacksonville State is currently the highest ranked team in the OVC, listed at 102. The Gamecocks’ schedule is ranked the 185th toughest. Tech is at 155 in the rankings, and this week’s opponent, Southeast Missouri, is next at 167. Following the Redhawks in the rankings are Eastern Kentucky (190) Austin Peay (194), UT Martin (202), Eastern Illinois (209), Tennessee State (223) and Murray State (228).

After their jaunt to Cape Girardeau this weekend, the Golden Eagles will be back in Tucker Stadium next week for their second – and final – Thursday night game of the season. Tech hosts UT Martin in a 7 p.m. game Thursday, the first in defense of the Sgt. York Trophy.

“Being ranked as the toughest schedule in the nation says a lot about what coach Brown and his student-athletes have been up against early in the season, and what they will face in the coming weeks,” said Mark Wilson, Tech director of athletics.

“It’s something that our fans can rally around as the Golden Eagles try to win an Ohio Valley Conference championship,” Wilson said. “It reminds our fans just how important their support will be each week and how much of a difference they can make for the football team by buying tickets and showing their support at our four remaining home games.”

Tickets for the UT Martin game, as well as season tickets, are on sale at the Athletic Ticket Office in Eblen Center or by calling 931-372-3940.