Sunday, August 7, 2011

2011 OOC Scheduling - SEC! SEC! SEC!

Fresh off a record-setting 2010 season with regards to Out-of-Conference (OOC) schedules, more on that here *1, the 2011 college football season will be here is less than a month. And with it will be even weaker OOC schedules and more records for cupcake scheduling.

First, let’s look at some overall highlights or rather lowlights. 2011 will be the first time in history that all 6 AQ conferences play at least 20% (1 in 5) of their OOC games against FCS schools. Related to this, 22.7% of all OOC games played will be against FCS schools, a record for the 4th consecutive season. Also, three conferences (ACC, Big East, SEC) will have every single team play at least 1 game versus an FCS school, another record. Lastly, 3 conferences (Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC) will set records for the number of OOC games played versus FCS teams, although it should be noted that both the Big 10 and Pac-12 added teams for the 2011 season. Now let’s recognize some individual conferences for their achievements.

They’ve won 5 straight BCS Championships and you don’t achieve that level of success by playing quality fellow AQ opponents on a regular basis. The SEC will join the Big 12 (2006) and Big 10 (2010) as the only conferences to play at least as many OOC games versus FCS schools, twelve, as versus fellow AQ schools, twelve) *2. Additionally, 2011 will mark the first year that every SEC team plays an OOC game versus an FCS school. Finally, the SEC will play exactly 25% of its OOC games against FCS schools—another record. With three records in one-year, they don’t call the SEC the best conference in college football for nothing.

Just like the regular season product, the other conferences just don’t match up to the SEC in 2011. While the ACC and Big East didn’t set any records for OOC scheduling in 2011, it does mark the 3rd consecutive year that each conference will have every team play at least one game versus an FCS team. The Big Ten also didn’t set any new records but its 10 games versus FCS schools ties the record it set in 2010, although this year it does have one more team (12) than last year (11). The Big 12 is a mixed bag as its percentage of games vs FCS schools, 20%, will be the highest since 2008; however, the same is true for its percentage of games vs fellow AQ schools.

The most disappointing conference has to be the Pac-12. Traditionally, it has been the gold standard in terms of scheduling quality opponents instead of cupcakes. It played the highest % of OOC games against AQ schools the last two years (50%-2008, 48%-2010). It has the lowest average percentage of OOC games against FCS schools since 2006, when the 12 game regular season became standard, at 14.3%. It has three of the four teams (USC, UCLA, Notre Washington, Note Dame) who have never played an FCS school *3. But, oh how the mighty have fallen. The 22% of OOC games against FCS teams in 2011 falls just short of the 23% record the Pac-12 set in 2010. Additionally, the league added two teams this year, and five additional OOC games *4, yet the total number of OOC games versus AQ schools, 15, stayed the same as last year. Finally, from 2007-2009, the league played a total of 8 OOC games against FCS schools; in 2011, the league will play an identical number of games against FCS schools.

Although the results for 2011 aren’t quite as bad as they were for 2010 or in 2009 when I first looked at OOC scheduling, the indicators are still very clear. AQ schools love scheduling easy OOC games against FCS schools, oftentimes at the expense of games against fellow AQ schools. We’ve now crossed the threshold where, after 2011, half of the AQ conferences will have had seasons where every member plays an OOC game against an FCS team and seasons in which the number of OOC games against FCS teams is equal to or greater than the number of OOC games played against fellow AQs.

Percentage of OOC Games versus AQ, FBS Non-AQ, and FCS teams in 2011
BIG 10
BIG 12
PAC 10

*2-Note: Notre Dame is not considered an AQ school for this statistic though it was for all the percentage calculations
*3-This will become two teams of the remaining three after 2011 as Washington is scheduled to play Eastern Washington on Sept 3.
"Notre Dame, USC and UCLA last holdouts from college football's cupcake feast", The Oregonian, April 9, 2011
*4-Cal and Colorado are playing this year but it is not considered a conference game due to existing contracts that were in place before the Pac-12 expanded. Thus, technically there were only five additional OOC games added instead of six; even though this game appears on both teams schedules it can only be counted once as it is only one actual game being played.

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