5 Thoughts - Schedules, Schedules, Schedules
Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson
Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson
Posted Sep 19, 2011

Why schedules are a really big deal in the BCS race


CFN Analysis 

5 Thoughts, Sept. 19

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Week 2 Thoughts  2010 5 Thoughts | Week 1 | Week 2

- Fiutak: Yes, you will like realignment
- Cirminiello: Bring on OU vs. Bama, but ... 
- Zemek: It's September. Relax. It's Early
- Sallee: Houston Nutt has to got
- Fiutak: The problems with the schedules    

E-mail Pete Fiutak

We're still about a month away from the first BCS rankings and all the talk about who might be in the best position for one of the at-large bids and who might be most deserving for the top two spots. Before then, over the next few weeks it's time to start hammering into the voters' heads the key element of the equation that's not part of the equation, and the part that gets ignored and is misunderstood year after year after year …

The Schedules.

The No. 1 problem with the BCS is that it's heavily weighted on belief.

Do you believe that Boise State is worthy of playing for the national championship? Do you believe that TCU should've played Auburn last year? Do you believe that a one-loss Stanford team deserved to be in the BCS Championship picture?

The BCS formula is supposed to be partially based on cold, hard, data, but in the end, whatever the voters in the Coaches' and Harris polls believe turns out to be reality for the national title. Their version of reality is based on what they've seen on highlight shows and on the stat sheet. But the schedules simply aren't fair across the board, and the BCS formula doesn't use strength of schedule in the mix, with the belief that the voters will take into account all the different moving parts of the slates when they make their picks.

Only they don't.

For example, Clemson might be the best team in the ACC, and if it's not, it might be a close second and good enough to earn an at-large BCS spot if it finishes, at worst, 10-2. However, on Clemson's slate is Florida State, at Virginia Tech, at Maryland, North Carolina, at Georgia Tech, and at South Carolina, not to mention the recent game against Auburn. Compare that to Virginia Tech, who gets Clemson and North Carolina at home, misses Florida State, gets Duke and Virginia as road games, and whose lone tough road test is at Georgia Tech and toughest non-conference game was at East Carolina.

No one believes Georgia is the best team in the SEC, and an argument could be made that it's not even one of the three best teams in the East. Even after opening the season with two losses, the chance is there to run the table with no LSU, Alabama, or Arkansas to deal with from the West, and with Auburn and Mississippi State coming to Athens. South Carolina has a three-game midseason road stretch against Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Florida gets crushed with Alabama, at LSU, at Auburn, and Georgia in Jacksonville for a four-game swing, and closes out the SEC season with a trip to South Carolina before finishing up the regular season with Florida State. If Florida and Georgia swapped schedules, the season might be very, very different.

Welcome to the Big Ten, Nebraska. Try this out for part of your inaugural conference schedule: at Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State, at Penn State, at Michigan, Iowa. Meanwhile, the Illinois conference road games are against Indiana, Purdue, Penn State, and Minnesota, while Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin all have to go to Champaign.

Would Stanford have played Auburn for the national title last year if the Oregon game was in Palo Alto instead of Eugene? This year, the big game is at Stanford, and while the Cardinal has to go on the road to play USC, it misses Arizona State and Utah – two of the league's stronger teams – and has layups on the road against Washington State and Oregon State.

Wisconsin is deep in the national title hunt, and if it's one of two unbeaten BCS teams at the end of the year, it'll play for the national title over a one-loss Oklahoma. However, Bucky's toughest road games – at Michigan State and at Ohio State – look like lambs after this last weekend, and the Nebraska and Penn State games are in Camp Randall. The toughest non-conference game was Northern Illinois at Soldier Field last Saturday, while Oklahoma, who just beat Florida State in Tallahassee, has to play Texas, Oklahoma State and Baylor away from home and has to deal with Texas Tech, Missouri, and Texas A&M in Norman.

Confused? So are the ones who'll be voting in the BCS because this is just too hard.

The day the BCS really works is the day when a one-loss BCS conference team plays for the national title over an unbeaten BCS conference team that played a lighter schedule, but that will never happen. Unlike the other sports that make up for the difference in schedules with the equalizer of a playoff system, this is it. It's all up to the whims of the voters, and their belief system overloads when comparing and contrasting Oklahoma's schedule with Boise State's with Stanford's with LSU's with Wisconsin's with Florida International's with West Virginia's and on and on and on.

Please, BCS powers that be. Please, you're not going to give us a playoff, but for next year, figure out how to add strength of schedule into the formula to make it a more even system.

And then give us a playoff anyway.