Strength of Schedule: Dead Horse Beaten Edition

ziplock007's picture
August 16, 2014 at 2:00a

Schedules Matter.

The FBS division: 125 teams, 12 regular season games.

Harder Schedules are Harder:

For example, last year both LSU & Ball State finished 10-3.  Which team is better?  
Football seasons are brutal.  Tough schedules have a higher accumulation of collisions bringing about injuries and fatigue.  
Last year Georgia opened with Clemson on the road, lost a nail-biter by 3 and dropped from 5 to 12 in the polls.  Oregon clobbered FCS Nichols State and leapt from 3rd to 2nd in the polls.  Nichols State went 1-10 in 2012 against FCS competition; this was the test that boosted Oregon's poll standings.
Am I wrong, but wasn't Georgia's performance more impressive?
Georgia's idiotically scheduled Clemson, South Carolina (win), and LSU (win) in the first five weeks.  The aggregate of violence led to a slew of injuries and a disappointing season.

Easier Schedules Are Easier:

Source - Phil Steele:
Phil Steele made some interesting points regarding how easy a schedule is and how well a team does.  While it's common sense, it's interesting to note that champions get there the easy way.  Someone needs to tell Georgia.
Alabama has the EASIEST of all SEC schedules. And, "The only time Alabama missed out on a BCS appearance in the past four seasons was also the same year its schedule was the most difficult"

And, championship bound FSU had their, "2013 schedule at No. 64 coming into last season. That was No. 13 in the ACC and on par with UConn at No. 63 and Temple at No. 65."
Speaking of ACC, remember when Duke was an FSU victory away from a Division Title? "Which ACC team had the easiest schedule coming into 2013? Well, that was Duke, which ended up going 10-4, the most wins in the history of the program."

Easier Schedules Have always been Better:

1915 A.D.
Back in the days of Woodrow Wilson, a European War (America hadn't joined WWI yet), and no Breaking Bad, the deep south had the SIAA Conference (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association).
Vanderbilt finished the season 7-1, whilst Georgia Tech finished 7-0-1.  They didn't play head to head; but GaTech clearly had the tougher schedule compared Vandy's wins over the likes of Henderson State, Sewanee, Cuberland, and Southwestern.  Because of no head-to-head contest, Newspapers voted Vanderbilt conference champions.  Why?  They had a higher point differential.

Easier Schedules are more rewarding... Even for OSU

Nearly 100 years later, I still don't understand the notion of tough football schedules.
Back in 2005, I remember, before the season, wondering "Why did OSU and Texas schedule each other?"  Defeating Texas would put them on the road to a national title, but so would a lackluster 17-6 win over Idaho.
OSU lost to Texas by 3 points and fell out of title contention. 2005 is possibly Tressel's greatest ever had; but, they lost a nailbiter.  Still riding on the low, they lost another battle two weeks later at PSU.  Had OSU scheduled, say, Idaho they may have played for the national title.

2007: Two years later a Boeckman led OSU was without Ginn, Troy Smith, Gonzalez, Pittman.  It was one of Tressel's weakest teams, but somehow a toiletesque non-conference slate (Youngstown state, Akron, a 4-9 Washington, and Kent State) and 7-1 in a weak B1G yielded a National Title Shot.

Voters Still Don't Get It:

Oh Wisconsin: Last September an eventual 10 win Pac-12 squad bested them on the road at night (three time zones away) via officiating incompetence.
Pac-12 Manned Up: The officiating was so errant, the Pac-12 actually admitted fault.  A rare occurance in major sports.
Aftermath: Arizona State, previously unranked, sprang to 23rd in Coaches & AP Poll.  Wisconsin trekked into the desert 18th & 20th in the Coaches and AP poll, but frustratingly dropped to 24th in the Coaches poll and Unranked in the AP poll.  
Unranked due to a close loss, on the road game, at night, where Pac-12 officiating admitted incompetence.

Yeah, there's rumblings the playoff committee will entertain a revolutionary notion of factoring SoS.  But, voters haven't figured it out since WWI, 2014 is no different.

Big 10 Strength of Schedules

From Phil Steele:

1  (19) - Rutgers
2  (23) - Minnesota
3  (26) - Indiana
4  (36) - Ohio State
5  (38) - Illinois
6  (39) - Maryland
7  (43) - Purdue
8  (45) - NorthWestern
9  (50) - Michigan State
10 (51) - Nebraska
11 (53) - Michigan
12 (54) - Penn State
13 (70) - Iowa
14 (72) - Wisconsin

Seriously, look at Iowa's schedule.  You'll laugh because laughter will prevent you from crying. Save the tears for Wisconsin if they beat LSU in the opener; they'll be on easy street to the B1G Title Game.

Duke has a SoS ranked #79 out of 128: The lowest of all the Power 5.  The 2nd & 3rd lowest?  Yep, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Every coach talks the talk about challenging non-conference opponents and tough divisional cross overs... but, Bama (whose permanent divisional cross over is Unranked Tennesee) and FSU know better.

It would be a ratings bonanza if OSU tested their prowess against Bama and Oklahoma every September... but until voters wise up, why not schedule 4 games against Idaho?  You won't be intrigued, but you won't care come playoff time.

Fun Trivia Fact:
The highest non Power 5 SoS is SMU @ #41.  If they get 6 or 7 wins, they're basically a middle of the pack B1G team.

ps--Can someone explain to me why OSU closes out both 2015 & 2016 with MSU, Michigan, and then a potential B1G Title Game... Wisconsin is lovin' it.

Comments Show All Comments

Liening's picture

Hard to argue with the data.  It is really aggravating how the SEC teams seem to never get called by the press (think E$PN) on their weak schedules.  I am hopeful that the playoff committee will eliminate most of the advantage of scheduling patsies.  Even if that happens, there is still the injury issue.


Furious George 27's picture

OSU didn't make it to the ncg in 2007 because of an easy schedule. They made it in because everyone in front of them lost in the last 2 weeks of the season. 

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

+4 HS
allinosu's picture

Good points. I appreciate the time and thought you put in to this. Hopefully as stated above the committee won't be influenced by the bias that only one conference is deserving and a strong schedule is rewarded.

bigDbuck's picture

Awesome write up ziplock!! Thanks for the read and very valid points by you. 

rosenbuck's picture

1. Georgia didn't schedule the SC and LSU games, those are conference games.  They chose to play Clemson, the same team the got drubbed by Florida State (the team you say later benefited from easy scheduling-can't have it both ways). And that cupcake schedule Duke faced, how well did it prepare them for the FSU game? The aggregate of violence you mentioned didn't stop 7 straight SEC teams from winning the title.

2. Texas beating OSU propelled them to a national title.  OSU beating Texas the following year helped propel that team to a NCG game appearance, in spite of a home loss to Illinois.

3. Furious covers how that 07 team made the title game.  No way a future OSU squad makes the playoff with a late home loss to Illinois.  Now say we lose to a top-10 Oklahoma on the road by a point and then destroy all comers in the B1G for the rest of the season.  That team would still be firmly in contention for a playoff spot.

4. The Wisconsin fiasco had nothing to do with SOS.  Wisconsin actually finished 1 spot behind ASU (after both lost bowls), and had Wisconsin actually won that game they would have finished ahead of ASU.  Yes there was an awful officiating error but we got the result we got, and nothing was going to change that.  Also that 10-win ASU team got to 10 wins beating the likes of Sacramento St, Utah, Colorado and Wazzou and then lost to a 7-5 Texas Tech team by two TD's in their bowl game.  That weak-ass SOS didn't help them there.  Wisconsin played 2 scrubs but also played a tough BYU team and then ended up taking the #4 ranked Gamecocks to the wire in their bowl game. Also you're points on this game really don't have anything to do with SOS.

5. This year's SOS that you cite are just projections.  No one will know how good anyone's schedule is until teams step on the field this season.

6.  There are 5 power conferences, and most years you can expect 1-2 "outsiders" who, with a tough enough schedule could fight for a playoff spot.  That means that at least one power conference will be left out every year.  Would that be an undefeated team from what's perceived as the worst power-5 conference who played nobody in the non-con or would it be the sec team whose only loss was (a) to a division rival who won the SEC or (b) in the SEC championship game?  Or what if all power-5 conferences have undefeated champions?  Or everyone has one loss? Any B1G team in those scenarios (with a horrible SOS) is out. 

I guess you could say I disagree.