2012-10-25

Week Nine FBS Preview - Scheduling for beginners ...

Let's make an experiment.

I show you two schedules and you think about winning the better part of the games.

Ready?

You team is Ohio (Bobcats, from the MAC) and it plays

@Penn State,
New Mexico State,
@Marshall,
Norfolk State (FCS),
@Massachusetts,
Buffalo,
Akron,
@Miami (OH),
Eastern Michigan,
Bowling Green,
@Ball State and
@Kent State.

Before the season, what would have been your guess?
I think nobody did expect a win @Penn State but the rest looked manageable, right?

Toughest games in the MAC were supposed to be @Miami (OH) and that Bowling Green game at home.
Now, a few games played, the Bobcats are 7-0 (they did win that Penn State game, as you might remember) and at the moment it looks like the toughest games ahead are Bowling Green, Ball State and Kent State.
The Miami (OH) game this week is also critical (which game is not?) but those three teams I mentioned do all have better records.
Problem here is, the last games are AWAY-games.
So this might get your team into trouble, since it makes the games tougher (ask South Carolina).

Ohio is still the favourite to win this division of the MAC, but it might happen that the Division Title is on the line right at that Kent State game, at the end of the season.
And that is played as an AWAY-game. Tough. This kind of schedule can destroy your season.

Let's switch the schedule and get to the second schedule:

You team plays

Penn State,
@New Mexico State,
Marshall,
@Norfolk State (FCS),
Massachusetts,
@Buffalo,
@Akron,
Miami (OH),
@Eastern Michigan,
@Bowling Green,
Ball State and
Kent State.

Same schedule, only switched game sites.
Before the season started, you probably would have worried most about that Bowling Green game.
Suddenly that Miami (OH) game is at home and doesn't look that tough anymore and even the visiting Penn State team seems in reach.

Now we assume the Bobcats would have won also the first seven games, which would be possible.
Which games would be the most feared, now?
Still the last three games, right?
Well ... at least I think yes, but now that Bowling Green games gets the main focus and if this Division Title would be still be on the line on the last gameday, great, we play AT HOME.

Schedules in College Football are there to build or destroy championship hopes.
Of cause, if you want to win it all, you have to WIN all games, but win it all isn't always the same in the same conference or division.

Let's start with the single list conferences.

Big 12, Big East, Western Athletic, Mountain West and the Sun Belt.

The Big 12 has 10 teams and every team plays all 9 other teams.
The Big East has 8 teams and every team plays all 7 other teams.
The Western Athletic has 7 teams and every team plays all 6 other teams.
The Mountain West has 10 teams and every team plays 8 other teams. One team is not played in a season.
The Sun Belt has 10 teams and every team plays 8 other teams. One team is not played in a season.

For the conferences which play every team, it's hard to hide your strength or weaknesses, but still, home field games and away games are essential.
In the Big East and Big 12 it means every second year you have one more home game than an away game. Great.

Some teams, like Oklahoma have a very good record at home, so every second year you might have a problem for your unbeaten season plan to win the Big 12.
Kansas State DID win in Oklahoma this year, the only loss Oklahoma suffered this season so far. You have to respect that effort by Kansas State.
But what would happen, if they rematch now or the game would simply just be played in the next few weeks?
I think Oklahoma did grow since that defeat and Kansas State would have a hard time winning now.
So timing and the game sites are important.

Of cause not all game dates are plan able to fit into your wish-a-championship-season, but you can try it and you can bring your team in the position to have better chances of winning, than a year before.That also includes recruiting processes and redshirting players, so they are available for 5 years in the best case.

That early game at Oklahoma might give Kansas State the BIG 12 championship and a shot for the National Title.

It's getting even better, if you have a rotating schedule like the MWC or the SBC.
Wouldn't it be nice to simply AVOID a game against the second best team?
That's not talking like man? Might be, but you can sit on your coach on new year and be proud of your man talk, while my team plays in a bowl AFTER it won a championship in the conference.
Of cause it sounds like backing off from a fight, but at the end, you need the wins, not the fights.

In that rotating schedule case you don't have full control over such scheduling, but once in a while you not only get lucky by playing the toughest team at home, no you just don't play them at all.

The other conferences are best suited for that.
If you have 12-14 teams in your conference and only 12 gamedays with around 3-4 non conference games, you have to play some team only once in a while.
Normally they have a rule, which says, play all teams of your division (5-6) and then some of the other one (2-3).
Great. Some teams have a lucky season and do avoid the toughest teams from the other division and play the toughest teams from their own division at home.
It's not getting better than that.
Others do have the opposite. Play ALL tough teams and most of them NOT at home.

Of cause this is a black and white view. The reality is most of the time somewhere between those scenarios.

But take OleMiss this season. OK, the are not the biggest fish this season in the SEC, but they KNEW it will get hard, when they had @Alabama, @Arkansas, @Georgia and @LSU on their schedule.
That Arkansas game got a little bit downgraded now, but still ... No hope winning most of these games, if even one.
But NEXT season, this team will probably play all division rivals AT HOME and probably NOT Georgia.
Looks like the Rebels have a shot of being much better next year.

Take the North Carolina Tar Heels in the ACC as a positive example. They play VT and GT at home, which is great for them and they avoided Florida State AND Clemson from the other division, playing NC State and Maryland at home and Wake Forest as an away game.
It won't get much better.
OK, the Tar Heels, with a new coach, did fumble the Wake Forest game and even worse they did lose against Duke.
Still, they CAN win the Division and CAN win the Conference, means Championship and a BCS Bowl.
I doubt it, but who knows ....

And to complete the schedule talk, you can pimp your championship hopes with well placed non conference games.
And here it depends on your character.

Take a pushover and boost your win total, even an FCS team doesn't hurt you much; at least if you are in the SEC (see Florida).
Or you take a risk and play a bigger program, like Alabama did against Michigan on the first gameday in Cowboys stadium.
If Alabama had lost that one, be sure they would be somewhere BEHIND LSU in the BCS-Rankings now, somewhere at #7-#10.
That game was a risky one, but Saban is not stupid, did gamble a bit and it payed off.
Alabama is undisputed #1 since day 1.

The BLOCK OF GRANITE TOP GAMES FOR WEEK 9

I hate this weekend. You know why? It's mid season and all those little injuries are piling up, all the momentum does add up and there are a lot of games this week, which have UPSET POTENTIAL all over it.
And i'm not talking about the BIG games, I will show you soon.
No I talk about the smaller ones, like Iowa @ Northwestern.
The Hawkeyes are really GOOD in spoiling games like that.
Northwestern is favourit and probably will win, but Iowa did in such situation often spoil the day.
Hate it.

OK, I can't change it.

#2 Florida vs #10 Georgia
The SEC East comes probably down to this game.
If this would be in Athens, Georgia at UGA territory, I would second guess my pick and might even pick Georgia, but this game is played in Jacksonville, Florida since ages.
Not the home of the Gators, but still in Florida.
Last year, the Bulldogs won and snapped a 3 game losing streak in that rivalry.
This year, I expect a Gators win.
They are so good on defense, this shaky Bulldogs offense will be held in check and those two Runningbacks of the Gators will simply put the game away.
Florida will win the SEC East, Period.

#14 Texas Tech @ #3 Kansas State
Texas Tech did sneak into a very good position.
Had anyone seen the Red Raiders at #14 at that point?
But they are in a bad position to extend their winning streak this week.
First of all, the have a defense with lots of issues. You can't affort that against this KSU Offense. I smell lots of points by KSU.
No problem in the past, TTU just had to score MORE, right?
And there is the second problem.
KSU has a very good defense and I can't see them giving up THAT much points.
Wildcats win ahead.

Ohio State @ Penn State
The Buckeyes maybe have enough issues right now to stumble over a rebuilding Penn State team.
Ohio State does play good, but the last few games where not A-game calibre, by far.
They did survive Purdue, but Penn State did win all games, after those two terrible losses at the season start and they might be focus enough to win at home against the Buckeyes.
I'm leaning towards Penn State, it just feels right.
At home; on a high note; big name opponent in a rebuilding year.
Hollywood, please make notes.
Penn State will win.

#5 Notre Dame @ #8 Oklahoma
As already hinted, I think the unbeaten streak of Notre Dame will end here.
And it is not because of their Defense. They will probably be fine, but they might have to take more points than this crappy offense can produce.
Except the Navy and the Miami game, they just scored 20 points max in each game.
Against teams, which did get a lot more points by other teams.
If Brian Kelly gets his team to win this one, I believe they are contenders, for real.
But as long as they don't get their offense on track, I can't see them in the TOP 10 of the BCS standings.
We will see ...
Sooners win expected.

#11 Mississippi State @ #1 Alabama
This can be crucial.
It’s getting hotter for Alabama, they have to play better teams now and those Bulldogs did win against Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee.
That's not much this year, but enough to push them to #11 right now.
On the other hand, Alabama did win against Michigan, Ole Miss, Mizzou, Tennessee and this Non-Playing-Arkansas-Team.
That's also not THAT much. Not enough to really evaluate the strength of Alabama.
No question they are good, but THAT good?
This game will be the first hint and I think the home factor will help them big.
Expect a nice game, with a win by Alabama and then get ready for the REAL TEST @Death Valley.

‘Til next time
Jack6 on BLOCK OF GRANITE

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