Saturday marked the end of Week 13 in college football. This late in the season, we are pretty sure who is who and what is what among the teams in the FBS.
Alabama is two weeks removed from throttling LSU, and FSU hasn't really been tested by any team they have faced thus far. Baylor had looked solid prior to Saturday's blowout loss to Oklahoma State, and Ohio State has overcome every obstacle they've faced no matter how insignificant the challenges have been. Both Clemson and Auburn are good teams that were at one point overwhelmed by another squad just playing better football that particular day. Lastly, Stanford, Oregon, LSU and Texas A&M are all teams that just didn't play well when they really needed to in order to make the splash they were all expected to make at one point or another.
What we don't know is what athletic directors at some of these institutions are thinking about when scheduling Football Championship Subdivision schools this late in the year.
First, we'll start with Alabama. After playing down a bit to a decent Mississippi State club a week ago, the Tide faced Southern Conference powerhouse, Chattanooga. Bama blanked the Mocs in seemingly effortless fashion, scoring 49 points going away.
|Photo by: Dave Martin|
Moving on down the line, we come to South Carolina, who invited Coastal Carolina to Williams-Brice Stadium. The Chanticleers were bested in this one by 60 points after yielding a total of 70 to the Gamecocks. The output doubled Carolina's previous best total points mark in a game this year.
Finally, and perhaps most ironically, we come to Florida going up against the Georgia Southern Eagles. The Gators suffered their first ever loss to an FCS team when the Eagles totaled 429 total yards with their starting quarterback posting a passing line of 0-3 for zero yards. Yes, you read that correctly. An FCS team went into the Swamp and tallied over 400 yards of offense without completing a single solitary pass en route to the win.
Regardless of Florida's situation with injuries, or Alabama going into the Iron Bowl against a surprisingly good Auburn team, there is simply no excuse for scheduling such an opponent this late in the season when games should matter most. It is a disservice to your fan base, who has to pay to see the game, and your team, which risks injuries in a near meaningless contest that is often times hard to get up for. Furthermore, it is a disservice to the game of college football in general, since it only encourages more teams to do the same thing in an effort to avoid losing to a quality opponent and being penalized.
Unfortunately, I don't really see anything changing anytime soon. There is simply no real incentive for teams to change their scheduling tactics. Teams like Alabama, LSU, Ohio State and Oregon all get the benefit of the doubt when it comes down to it, regardless of their schedule as long as they are undefeated.
These schools do not visibly suffer from scheduling virtual scrimmages late (or early for that matter) in the season. Why should they schedule decent teams out of conference if the chances of losing to a quality opponent doesn't outweigh the benefits of drubbing a far less talented squad? Their fans seem to be content attending the games as long as the outcome furthers the team's goal of reaching a quality postseason bowl.
Perhaps most egregiously, teams that do schedule out of conference only see a modest gain from their efforts based on a better Strength of Schedule Rating that really only comes into play when clubs who have similar records are being compared. The BCS encourages this by giving only two teams a shot to determine an overall national title winner on the college gridiron at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. Fortunately, the BCS is in its last season, but a 4-team playoff will probably not be much better since its participants will represent less than half of one percent of its total teams in the postseason. This is by far the lowest in major American sports. Teams will still have little incentive to schedule better opponents, since one loss will loom so large in the grand scheme of the season.
Ultimately, the group that probably has the best chance of changing this is the fans of college football. Unless we overcome our zealotry and start to value a better on the field product more than our desire to see our team hoist the hardware at the end of the season, we will never force the type of changes that are necessary. The fans called for an end to the BCS and eventually got it. We must demand an expanded playoff to at least 8 teams (12 would better), and a ranking system that actively penalizes teams for scheduling poor clubs and rewards them for scheduling better teams, even in a loss.
I would much rather see my LSU Tigers play a schedule like the one they had two years ago, when they took on teams like Oregon and West Virginia, as opposed to this season, where their only real marquee matchup out of conference was against a young TCU team.
So who's with me?