Just kidding Bulldogs fans. Don’t go postal on me now.
It was just the first thought that came to my mind when I read a couple quotes from Georgia associate athletic director Arthur Johnson regarding scheduling.
“Strength of schedule is overrated”, said Johnson in the story by ESPN’s Ivan Maisel. He also added that “We want to play as many home games as possible.”
I’m just not sure how strength of schedule is overrated. There are definitely situations where, through no fault of its own, a team doesn’t play a great schedule. Maybe its conference is down one year. Maybe the team it scheduled 10 years ago is going through a down cycle. Maybe another team backed out of a series. But deliberately playing a weak schedule designed to manufacture wins and then crowing that SOS is overrated doesn’t sit well with me.
I understand the pressure of maintaining athletic department budgets and Maisel does a great job of illustrating the difficulties of scheduling. And Georgia, which until recently hadn’t left the South for a game since 1965, is starting to do a good job scheduling quality out-of-conference home-and-home series (ASU, Oklahoma State, Colorado and Oregon as examples).
But what this story really hammered home to me was the importance of scheduling reform in college football. I’m not sure how the finances can be worked out, but to me the primary knock against a playoff is the lack of uniformity among conferences and the process that allows a disparate number of home games to be scheduled. How many times do people complain now over how such-and-such league has a conference title game, while another one does not? How many times do we hear about Team X playing creampuffs and still getting into the title game? How many times do we hear about a team breezing through a schedule filled with eight home games?
Unless these issues are resolved, then the gripes about them will just be transferred over to any playoff system that is created. Any eight team playoff scheme, for example, will most likely include some teams that will have rigged the scheduling to qualify for said playoff, while another team that played a demonstrably tougher schedule and more road games will one day be left out to dry. Then what will we do?
The best solution to me (that is, if I had a magic wand) would be to take the 120 teams in college football and have 12 10-team conferences. No team would be allowed to play more than six home games. That way there would be a level playing field and there would be no scheduling distortions to take into account when it came to comparing the quality of teams. It would give the polls, or whatever concoction was in play, a sounder footing.
It just seems to me that any discussion of playoffs without dealing with scheduling isn’t a serious one.