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College Football Schedule

Who Schedules College Football Games?

A college football schedule is more important than it ever has been in NCAA football, because strength of schedule is a factor in determining BCS rankings. Coaches who know how to plan their schedule can plan early tuneups and tests, while preparing the team for the upcoming conference schedule.

Many major college teams these days schedule one tough opponent early in the year, because that opponent will help with strength of schedule, but an early season loss isn’t always fatal in the rankings to see who gets into the BCS Championship Game.

Conference Schedules

Scheduling conference games is done by the individual conferences. Therefore, the SEC Conference makes out the SEC schedule of games, which is generally pretty set in stone from one year to the next. Most of the time, rivals like Ohio State-Michigan and Auburn-Alabama are going to play later in the season. That’s not always the case, as with the Texas-OU game that comes during the State Fair of Texas in early October. So most college football teams have 8 games on their schedule which are beyond their control.

That leaves the non-conference games.

Scheduling College Football Games

College football coaches and Athletic Directors handle the non-conference schedule. Generally, the head coach schedules three non-conference games, usually the first three games of the season. Occasionally, a team will schedule a fourth non-conference game, which is usually something like the Kickoff Classic or some other television spotlight game.

In these cases, the extra publicity and money generated makes it worth it to put an extra game on the shoulders of ones players.

When scheduling college football games, most coaches start with an powder puff opponent. These are sometimes Division II opponents or opponents from one of the smaller conferences. The typical college football schedule will have one very easy opponent, one fairly simple opponent and one opponent of some stature.

Since college coaches are able to direct a part of their schedule, one can choose opponents like one would in boxing, finding tomato can opponents. This is a departure from pro football, where the NFL Front Office makes out the yearly schedule and teams have no say. That’s why, when hearing Jimmy Johnson would be moving from the Miami Hurricanes to the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL, then-Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan quipped, “He’ll learn there are no East Carolinas in the NFL.”

Homecoming Games and Senior Day Games

Teams like to schedule an easy opponent for the home game that is their homecoming game, when more alumni (and therefore boosters) will be in the stands. College teams who are scheduled as homecoming opponents use that fact as motivation, because it’s a sign that the opponent thinks they will be an easy victory.

That same can be said of senior day opponents – though to a lesser degree. Senior Day happens during the last home game of the year, since it’s the last time those seniors will play before a college home crowd. Scheduling easy opponents is less frequent, since these are usually going to be conference games and often rivalry games.

It’s not just when you play, but who you play. Conference rivals only play each other once a year, and the home team flip-flops every year. This means you might have one year where you have to go on the road to several tough opponents, while you have easier conference opponents on the road every other year.

This makes it where some teams are literally more likely to run the table in certain years. For example, a team might play their two toughest conference opponents on the road in the odd years. This means they have a better chance to win the national title in the even years, when they play host to both of those teams.

College Bowl Schedule

The college bowl schedule is made out immediately after the college football regular season comes to an end. The BCS Bowl Games get first pick, and then a free-for-all starts to see where everyone else plays. Generally speaking, the later a bowl game takes place on the schedule, the more prestigious the bowl game is. This culminates in the BCS Championship Game (though we’ve all seen where some nonsense bowl game schedules itself after the national championship game; madness).

Of course, the college bowl season is what the college football schedule is building towards. If you schedule too easy of a list of opponents, this can hurt you in the BCS rankings.

Imagine you are at #2, but the #3 team has played a much harder schedule. If you have the same record and play in roughly the same strength conference, the team with the harder strength of schedule rating is likely to be moved to #2 by the BCS computer. Scheduling a bunch of easy wins ends up hurting your chances to win the national title. So a lot of thought must go into a college football schedule.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 29th, 2009 at 2:29 pmand is filed under College Football. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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