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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Scheduling: A Disturbing Trend

Like all of you, nothing gets my blood running faster than a Saturday slate full of compelling gridiron matchups. Lately, that means Notre Dame's early schedule, followed by conference play. After early October, Notre Dame doesn't play anybody (except on even years where they play Southern California in November), and conference big boys are scheduling fewer interesting interconference matchups each year. I've listed the nonconference schedules of what I consider the upper half of each conference.

Atlantic Coast Conference
Boston College: Army, UMass, Bowling Green, Notre Dame
Clemson: Lousiana-Monroe, Furman, Central Michigan, South Carolina
Florida State: UAB, Colorado, Alabama, Florida
Georgia Tech: Notre Dame, Samford, Army, Georgia
Miami: Marshall, Oklahoma, Florida International, Texas A&M
Virginia Tech: ECU, LSU, Ohio, William & Mary

Top 5 Matchups:
1) Virginia Tech vs. LSU
2) Florida State vs. Florida
3) Miami vs. Oklahoma
4) Florida State vs. Alabama
5) Georgia Tech vs. Notre Dame

Verdict: Half of these schools (FSU, GT, Miami) have scheduled two marquee games. A lot of these other games are not only not marquee, but are downright uninteresting. Clemson vs. Furman? Virginia Tech vs. William & Mary? Sign me up!

Big East Conference
Louisville: Murray State, Middle Tennessee, Kentucky, Utah, NC State
Pittsburgh: Eastern Michigan, Grambling State, Michigan State, Virginia, Navy
Rutgers: Buffalo, Navy, Norfolk State, Maryland, Army
West Virginia: Western Michigan, Marshall, Maryland, East Carolina, Mississippi State

Top 5 Matchups
1) West Virginia vs. Maryland
2) Louisville vs. NC State
3) Louisville vs. Kentucky
4) Pittsburgh vs. Virginia
5) Rutgers vs. Maryland

Verdict: This is utterly embarrassing. No Big East team should be considered for national championship contention (are you listening, West Virginia?) until these schools schedule someone of note outside conference play. These guys are lucky Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White has pledged to play this conference three games per year starting in 2009.

Big Ten Conference
Iowa: NIU, Syracuse, Iowa State, Western Michigan
Michigan: Appalachian State, Oregon, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan
Ohio State: Youngstown State, Akron, Washington, Kent State
Penn State: Florida International, Notre Dame, Buffalo, Temple
Wisconsin: Washington State, UNLV, The Citadel, Northern Illinois

Top 5 Matchups
1) Michigan vs. Notre Dame
2) Penn State vs. Notre Dame
3) Michigan vs. Oregon
4) Ohio State vs. Washington
5) Wisconsin vs. Washington State

Verdict: Remove Notre Dame from the equation and these out-of-conference matchups look very ordinary. Michigan vs. Oregon should be fun. Ohio State can't be faulted for how badly Washington has fallen, but this game could drive one of the final nails into Tyrone Willingham's coffin.

Big XII Conference
Colorado: Colorado State, Arizona State, Florida State, Miami (OH)
Nebraska: Nevada, Wake Forest, Southern California, Ball State
Oklahoma: North Texas, Miami, Utah State, Tulsa
Texas: Arkansas State, TCU, UCF, Rice
Texas A&M: Montana State, Fresno State, Louisiana-Monroe, Miami
Texas Tech: SMU, UTEP, Rice, Northwestern State

Top 5 Matchups
1) Nebraska vs. Southern California
2) Oklahoma vs. Miami
3) Texas A&M vs. Miami
4) Nebraska vs. Wake Forest
5) Colorado vs. Florida State

Verdict: An unusually heavy schedule for Nebraska makes this top 5 interesting. Nebraska will probably keep it closer with the Trojans than folks are expecting, but that still doesn't look like a winnable game for the Cornhuskers. Colorado vs. Florida State could be funny.

Pacific-10 Conference
Arizona State: San Jose State, Colorado, San Diego State
California: Tennessee, Colorado State, Louisiana Tech
Oregon: Houston, Michigan, Fresno State
UCLA: BYU, Utah, Notre Dame
Southern California: Idaho, Nebraska, Notre Dame

Top 5 Matchups
1) Southern California vs. Notre Dame
2) Southern California vs. Nebraska
3) California vs. Tennessee
4) UCLA vs. Notre Dame
5) Oregon vs. Michigan

Verdict: Say what you want about USC, but they don't build a light schedule ever. Notre Dame and Nebraska may be their two toughest games in 2007, and they're both out of conference. California will be looking for revenge against Tennessee, as will UCLA against Notre Dame.

Southeastern Conference
Alabama: Western Carolina, Florida State, Houston, Louisiana-Monroe
Arkansas: Troy, North Texas, UT-Chattanooga, Florida International
Florida: Western Kentucky, Troy, Florida Atlantic, Florida State
LSU: Virginia Tech, Middle Tennessee, Tulane, Louisiana Tech
Georgia: Oklahoma State, Western Carolina, Troy, Georgia Tech
Tennessee: California, Southern Miss, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette

Top 5 Matchups
1) LSU vs. Virginia Tech
2) Florida vs. Florida State
3) Tennessee vs. California
4) Alabama vs. Florida State
5) Georgia vs. Georgia Tech

Verdict: A few of these games should be interesting, as listed above. Most of them are not. The SEC may be "the toughest conference in college football," but their out-of-conference schedule is far from it. On the bright side, it's not as bad as the Big East's.

Fortunately, there are still some good intersectional football games left in the modern college football landscape. That said, probably half of them are due to longstanding rivalries, like Notre Dame vs. Southern California, Florida vs. Florida State, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech and the like. As long as those rivalries stay alive (c.f. Penn State vs. Pitt), we'll at least have some interesting games outside conference play. But until teams are dinged for playing doormats, this trend will only get worse.

1 comment:

Boilermaker football blogger said...

Thank you for the comment. I really only have 2 things.

1. I said I would like Notre Dame to start 1-7 or 0-8, and say it is possible based on what another website predicted (CFN). Later on I finished the article by saying I could very easily see them splitting the first eight games. I recognize I am biased, and I apologize for the confusion in the article.

2. I apoligize also for the bias. In recent days I have seen that it's not so much the team itself I hate, but some of the more jaded and voiciforous fans, and that spilled over too much into the article itself. I agree that Notre Dame has tons of talent coming in, and this is Purdue best chance to get a win for a long time unless things drastically in the future. I wish you guys luck this year, and look forward to the game in late September.