Buckeyes

Strength of schedule no longer matters for Power 5 football teams

During the BCS era, one of the easiest ways to build your team’s resume was by not only scheduling big-time game against major, high-ranked opponents, but to win those games. A win over a top-25 team meant so much more than one over a team in the bottom end of the FBS or even FCS programs, for many obvious reasons.

When the College Football Playoff made it’s way onto the scene in 2014, it not only allowed four teams to compete for the big prize instead of just the BCS naming two for the national championship game, but it also took away all of the computer rankings and relied entirely on the human element; a committee consisting of 13 people able to select who would make the Final Four.

Strength of schedule used to be one of the most important factors, other than record. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Sunday’s Selection Show proved it. While the argument that the better team (Alabama) made the Final Four over the team that has had it’s good moments and bad moments (Ohio State) is valid, choosing the Crimson Tide over the Buckeyes set yet another precedent. Strength of schedule no longer matters for Power 5 programs.

I’m not saying the Crimson Tide don’t deserve to be the fourth and final team in the Playoff ahead of the Buckeyes, but the reasoning behind the selection is what’s wrong.

The College Football Playoff committee contradicted themselves from week to week. Last Tuesday night, committee chairman Kirby Hocutt admitted that there was “very little separation in the committee’s eyes between teams five (Alabama) through eight (Ohio State).”

That single quote gave Buckeye Nation plenty of false hope, because with Ohio State able to add another quality win and a conference championship to their resume in the Big Ten Championship, it seemed as though the scarlet and gray would then jump Bama and be the fourth team in the Playoff. But, that didn’t happen.

The committee might have had its mind made up prior to the Big Ten title game Saturday night. If Wisconsin won, the undefeated Badgers would be the No. 4 seed; if the Buckeyes won, Bama would be in. So, why even give Ohio State that statement? They should have just been straight up and said that due to their 31-point loss at Iowa earlier in the season, it’s going to be tough for the Buckeyes to make the Final Four even with a Big Ten championship.

Due to the human element that will obviously take place when selecting the Final Four, the committee has a set a four criteria that they will always use to compare two teams that they consider close, or at least so we thought:

  • Championships won
  • Strength of schedule
  • Head-to-head
  • Comparative outcomes of common opponents

When it comes to Ohio State and Alabama, the latter two cannot be used because they not only didn’t play one another, but they didn’t have any common opponents either. So, who won the first two? The Buckeyes won the Big Ten championship while Alabama was able to sit at home and watch Conference Championship Saturday in the luxury of their own living room, so that gives them the advantage in the first one. In terms of strength of schedule, Ohio State had three wins better than the Crimson Tide’s best win. The Buckeyes beat No. 6 Wisconsin, No. 9 Penn State, and No. 16 Michigan State; Bama had just two wins against ranked opponents: No. 17 LSU and No. 23 Mississippi State.

During Sunday’s Selection Show, the committee’s main reason for picking Alabama over Ohio State was because Bama is not only a better team, but they had “a better body of work” over Ohio State. That isn’t the case whatsoever. The Crimson Tide may be the better team, but any argument that includes them having a better “body of work” over the scarlet and gray is ridiculous.

Much can be made about Ohio State’s 31-point loss at Iowa, but they made up for it by beating the quality opponents that they did, right? Perhaps the committee values less losses and a weaker schedule over better wins.

On the second leg of a home-and-home, Ohio State lost to Oklahoma in Columbus early in the season, a loss that greatly affected their chances of make the Playoff. Meanwhile, Alabama’s out-of-conference schedule included Florida State (at Atlanta, Georgia), Fresno State, Colorado State, and Mercer. If Ohio State had played Mercer instead of Oklahoma, their lone loss on the season would have been to Iowa. Would a one-loss Buckeyes team have made the Playoff over Alabama? Probably. So, why schedule tough non-conference opponents then? There’s no point, really. Granted, no one knew that the Seminoles would go 6-6. But, that is life. Florida State was completely overrated to start the year, which didn’t give Alabama a quality non-conference win.

Also, the Big Ten plays a nine-game conference schedule, the SEC has just an eight-game schedule, giving teams like Bama yet another opportunity to schedule a cupcake. The Crimson Tide not only have a weak out-of-conference schedule, but they also schedule one of those cupcakes for the second-to-last week of the regular season, essentially giving themselves a “bye week” and an easy win prior to taking on their biggest rival, Auburn.

Plus, Bama refuses to schedule home-and-home matchups. Why? Probably so that the Crimson Tide don’t have to play a true road game out of conference.

Bama’s weak non-conference schedule is mind boggling, but if this year proved anything, it showed that they should continue to schedule like they do because as long as they win those bad games, they’ll make the Playoff, which is all that matters in the end. Not only is it weak, but the fact that they don’t play any true non-conference games on the road is crazy, too.

For those wondering, Alabama’s out-of-conference schedule doesn’t get any tougher for the foreseeable future. Let’s take a look at their upcoming out-of-conference schedules that are already set for them so far:

  • 2018: Louisville (at Orlando, Florida after Lamar Jackson leaves), Arkansas State, UL Lafayette, The Citadel
  • 2019: Duke (at Atlanta, Georgia), New Mexico State, Southern Miss
  • 2020: Georgia State, Kent State
  • 2021: Miami, FL (at Atlanta, Georgia)

For those who are curious, Ohio State has some tough home-and-home matchups already scheduled in the coming years:

  • 2018: Oregon State, TCU (at Arlington, Texas), Tulane
  • 2019: Florida Atlantic, Cincinnati, Miami (OH)
  • 2020: Bowling Green, at Oregon
  • 2021: Oregon, Tulsa
  • 2022: Notre Dame, at Texas
  • 2023: Texas, at Notre Dame
  • 2024: at Washington
  • 2025: Washington
  • 2026: Boston College
  • 2027: at Boston College

No matter who Ohio State plays, both in-conference and out-of-conference, an undefeated Buckeyes team will make the Final Four. So why schedule premier non-conference matchups, especially on the road? Strength of schedule and quality wins used to matter, but now less losses matter more, and the committee proved that on Sunday. While big-time non-conference games are fun and all, a loss hurts more than a win helps, especially for a Power 5 team.

I was kidding when I sent this tweet, but in reality, the Buckeyes should just do this. Would be four guaranteed non-conference wins.

Whether you’re Ohio State or another Power 5 team, if you go undefeated, you’ll make the Playoff. For the first time ever, strength of schedule no longer matters for Power 5 teams, and for teams like Ohio State, who have matchups set up with Notre Dame, Texas, and Oregon, just to name a few, they mine as well should just play Mercer instead.

The committee set a new precedent this season, and it’s one that could potentially make the non-conference part of the regular season less entertaining in the future. Like I said, if the Buckeyes would have scheduled Mercer instead of Oklahoma this season, Ohio State would be preparing for a Final Four game instead of preparing for the Cotton Bowl. The committee only has themselves to blame.

  • Chris

    Stop it. Stop. Stop.

    It’s not Alabama’s fault that Florida St fell apart after injuries. Alabama took the field against a healthy #3 ranked team. Would you feel better if the Florida St and Mercer games were switched on their schedule?

  • RGB

    “I’m not saying the Crimson Tide don’t deserve to be the fourth and final team in the Playoff ahead of the Buckeyes, but…”

    “…if the Buckeyes would have scheduled Mercer instead of Oklahoma this season, Ohio State would be preparing for a Final Four game instead of preparing for the Cotton Bowl.”

    Yes, you are.

  • MartyDaVille

    If you have to argue that you should have been the fourth team in, then you really haven’t earned your way in.

  • Garry_Owen

    Ohio State doesn’t deserve anything, and they would likely lose to all 4 of the teams in the “playoff.” But beyond that, the emperor (CFP) has no clothes. When are we going to see this? Why do we accept any of this at all? It’s all fabricated nonsense. Some random people chose Alabama over Ohio State for some random reason? You don’t say. What did we expect? What did we think an entirely subjective process for choosing a national champion would look like? The only joy I take in any of this is that Ohio State has been a catalyst for possible change and expansion in almost every year of this stupid thing’s existence.

    On another note, much on the side: Stylistically, what is this new trend of copying and pasting twitter entries in articles? If they’re your own thoughts, why not just include them in the text of the article? Everything included in those tweets is legitimate content for the article itself. I know I’m a Morley Safer curmudgeon, but I don’t like this new writing trend. Is it just a time saving technique? Is it supposed to provide additional weight or credibility? (And I’m not criticizing Josh, specifically, but the overall trend in general that I see everywhere.)

    Will someone please get off the grass??

  • mgbode

    Cardale Jones led national championship squad would like a word with you.

  • Garry_Owen

    If “argument” is part of the process at all, the whole process is stupid.

  • mgbode

    It’s not fair, but there is no way at all that the Tide get credit for playing a “No. 3” team when that ranking is based on preseason expectations and that team finishes 6-6 (and only after frantically rescheduling a game it cancelled).

  • mgbode

    I’ve talked with Josh on it behind the scenes too. It is fearful of the precedent this is setting across the college football landscape the most. Wisconsin (in if they had won B1G) and Alabama (made it in despite schedule that was weak, even if not all their fault) has set a worrisome precedent this year.

    Really, there were only three teams that deserved to get into the CFP this year, which put everything out of whack.

  • tigersbrowns2

    as a Buckeyes fan , even I know Alabama has a superior team … the loss to Iowa stained their chances. and besides , didn’t the Buckeyes get in last year the same way ?

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi MARTY … i agree. it doesn’t matter if they expanded to 8 teams , because the 9th team would be crying they didn’t get in.

  • Saggy

    How can you tell? They didn’t beat anyone. Hell, they didn’t even PLAY anyone. Hard not to look good against Mercer.

    They gave up over 100 yards rushing to Mercer, by the way. And 151 to LSU, 172 to Miss St., and 168 to Auburn.

    Remind me again why they’re so good? And I agree with Josh – it’s not that OSU necessarily deserved to go, but if you’re going to use “criteria,” you should have sent UCF, who didn’t lose to anyone.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi SAGGY … “Remind me again why they’re so good …” … well , Alabama has been one of the top 3 teams in the nation for the last 8 years , along with winning their 4 NC’s … don’t you think this goes into the committees thinking ? it shouldn’t , but it does.

    we all know the NCAA is always going to have this problem … too much human intervention involved.

  • Chris

    FSU lost their QB after the game was already 21-7 or 24-7… so a completely moot point in that game. They lost three offensive linemen for the year. They were without key receivers for much of the year.

    Four of their losses were to Clemson, Alabama, Miami, and Louisville… the latter two were within 4 points. Florida State may have had a bad year, but that first game should be considered at full value. Florida State was not the garbage team they’re made out to be.

    If Clemson’s loss to Syracuse can be discredited due to an injury, then Alabama’s win over Florida State should be credited as a major win. At the very least, don’t claim that Alabama picked a cupcake schedule.

  • tigersbrowns2
  • mgbode

    Repeat after me: Preseason rankings mean nothing, are not done by the CFP, they have no bearing on the final standings in any way shape or form.

    Something that DID favor Alabama and I wish the CFP used as a reasoning: they had a bunch of injuries down the stretch before the Auburn game. They have a legitimate case that THEY would have fared better and will fare better at full strength.

  • tigersbrowns2

    … and obviously , if Alabama goes on to win the NC again , it will prove the committee was right.

  • tigersbrowns2

    “Preseason rankings mean …” … oh , sorry.

  • mgbode

    That won’t really prove anything. Small sample sizes and such. I mean, if Bama rolls in both games, then their argument is augmented, but if they win a couple close ones, we won’t know how it would have played out if they weren’t there either. It’s a weird space. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

  • MartyDaVille

    Well it’s not stupid. I wouldn’t want the choices to be made solely on objective data (i.e., analytics). Unless you have four undefeated conference champions left, argument is a necessary part of The Process. Some subjectivity (i.e., non-analytics) is a good thing.

  • Saggy

    This isn’t pro football where the same team stays together. College teams have constant turnover. Remember when Iowa was 12-1?m Yeah, that was just 2 years ago.

    I don’t care what Alabama did last year and the committee shouldn’t either.

  • Chris

    How would a healthy Florida State team fared? 9-3? 10-2? That was a dominant win over a top-caliber team… there’s no way around it.

  • Saggy

    Injuries are part of the game. If you get hurt that has a little to do with your toughness. Toughness is important in sports. Nobody wants to hear excuses about injuries.

  • Saggy

    Why didn’t UCF go to the playoff?

  • CBiscuit

    You should end every one of your posts with an Andy Rooney like complaint. “What’s the deal with those little ads at the bottom of the screen advertising coffee tables on a sports site?”

    (Note: I actually like the twitter post inbedded citation because it visually draws you and breaks up a big chunk of text. Sorry!)

  • Garry_Owen

    Well I maintain that it’s stupid. Purely objective data would be a full playoff format where the winner objectively takes all. Anything less is categorically, mind-numbingly, jaw-droppingly stupid. If the NCAA isn’t willing to go to a full playoff format, then we should just go back to the Bowls and the AP declaration (which is also stupid).

    Of course, that’s just my opinion. I may be wrong. (But I’m not.)

  • tigersbrowns2

    it is the almighty dollar that gets in the way … the other divisions in college football have it right … this will probably never happen in division I football.

  • tigersbrowns2

    LMFAO !!!

  • Garry_Owen

    You should be sorry. Very, very sorry.

    Look, I’m not on twitter, so I’m not interested in what you or anyone tweets. If I didn’t read it on twitter, which I didn’t, then I don’t care what you tweeted. I see an imbedded tweet, I skip it.

    And WHAT IS THE DEAL with those little ads?? I wish we still had newsreels at the movie theater.

  • Garry_Owen

    Because it’s not a playoff. It’s a subjective dog and pony show.

  • tigersbrowns2

    because they are not in one of the big-time conferences (?)

  • Steve

    “Strength of schedule no longer matters for Power 5 football teams”

    If you lose. If you win, it becomes a nice boost. Ohio St may have gotten in last year specifically because they beat Oklahoma.

  • Chris

    I’m not saying Florida State deserves to be ranked or considered a great team. I get it, results matter. But the FSU team that played the ACC season was absolutely not the same FSU team Alabama beat. Alabama showcased their ability against as good of a non-conference opponent as they could have scheduled. And FSU was healthy when they played!!!

    OSU only had one better win than Alabama. They each had a loss to comparable opponents (but OSU lost by more points), and OSU had an added stinker. OSU shot themselves in the foot all year by inconsistent play. Alabama is the better team.

  • Steve

    How many teams make this “full” playoff format? The more you add, the more you devalue the regular season, What makes college football so great is that importance of every single game.

  • CBiscuit

    No as to the Twitters! Roger that. Instead, Garry is more of a Snapchat, skinny jeans kind of guy. Noted!

  • Garry_Owen

    Negative. I take my coffee black, my whiskey neat, and my internets dial-up.

  • Steve

    https://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2017/11/3/16556844/college-football-strength-of-schedule-rankings-2017-sos

    “The Crimson Tide are currently second in overall S&P+. Their schedule strength ranks 34th; if the average top-five team played Alabama’s previous opponents a countless number of times, they would win about 79 percent of those games. The Tide have won 92 percent of their games, with an average scoring margin about 12.5 points per game higher than said average top-five team.”

    This is the argument for why Alabama is good. Going into the analytics and seeing how much they have dominated their opponents. Now, this is different than the argument as to whether the committee should have selected them, as the committee is supposed to avoid even the most basic things like margin of victory. But Alabama is this good. So is Ohio St. If we were picking the likely best four teams going forward, both should be in.

  • CBiscuit

    “Put everything out of whack.”

    I hear you sir about the top 3. But the bigger point is that for CFP…this buzz is exactly what they want. For all the heat the committee gets, they’re thrilled. For them, it’s actually in whack (is that a thing??)

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi MG … i know this is off-the-subject , but we were discussing Lamar Jackson yesterday … there is an article today on ESPN on the 2018 draft & Kiper & McShay were asked how many QB’s would go in the 1st round … they responded 4 : Rosen , Darnold , Mayfield & Allen … no Lamar in the 1st round … now , I realize these guys are wrong half the time , but what do you see that they don’t ?

    they did admit that Jackson’s stock could rise after he runs a 4.4 at the combine , but they , and I , can’t get past that skinny frame of his that will have to stand-up to an NFL pounding.

    yes , a lot can change between now & the draft , but I still think he can be had with our 2nd first round pick , or maybe even later in the draft.

    Not sure what you think of Josh Allen , but he is a big boy … same goes for Rudolph.

  • MartyDaVille

    Yes you are. There are way too many variables in college football to produce valid data. The eye test is important.

  • tigersbrowns2

    Hi Steve … thanks for using some facts … I am a shoot-from-the-hip guy … just ask MG.

  • Garry_Owen

    No other level of college football deems the variables to be so great as to require “data.” We think we need “data” because we’ve been told we need “data.” But the emperor has no clothes.

  • tigersbrowns2

    clothes are over-rated anyway.

  • Garry_Owen

    The entire country appears to agree with you.

  • MartyDaVille

    You need data. I don’t need any datum except for a won-loss record and maybe strength of schedule, although I could interpret a strength of schedule without any data.

  • Garry_Owen

    You only need that crap if you submit football to polling and subjective judgments as to who is “good” and who is “gooder than good.”

  • MartyDaVille

    To show you that the committee has some integrity, it would have been better for TV, general fan interest, and other factors if they had chosen Ohio State. As it is, we’ve got basically a regional bracket. But they thought Alabama was more deserving, so they are to be congratulated for not chasing every last nickel.

  • tigersbrowns2

    … do like Division I-AA , Division II & Division III

  • RGB

    But, we’re loking for the “goodest.”

    How about using a straight up computerized point system like OHSAA?

  • Steve

    Division two may choose more teams and have a longer playoff format, but the criteria to make it is just as subjective as D1 – a committee just ranks teams as they see fit.

  • mgbode

    Florida State went 6-6. Giving them credit for preseason predictions being wrong is opening up a can of worms that should not be touched. I get that they had injuries. That’s football.