More blathering about schedules

Yesterday, I responded to a post by Michael Elkon about Georgia’s scheduling. Michael in turn responded to me in part with this comment

… I acknowledged in the comments to the post that the better criticism of Georgia’s OOC scheduling is not that they never leave the South, but rather than they never play name opponents. Arkansas has played Texas and USC this decade; when is the last time that Georgia played a program on that level? Florida plays Miami and Florida State this year; when is the last time that Georgia played programs on that level (assuming, for the sake of argument, that Miami and FSU are in temporary dips right now). Tennessee has played UCLA and Notre Dame this decade. Alabama has played Oklahoma. Auburn has played USC. LSU has played Virginia Tech. Where are Georgia’s comparable opponents?

… to which I came back with

… it might be interesting to see how the weaker parts of Georgia’s schedules over the same time period compare to some of those schools you mention. If they’re similar, I’d expect that Georgia’s overall strength of schedule rankings would be lower than those schools. But what if the SOS numbers are roughly equivalent?

I decided to take a look at that. I’ve used two sets of SOS rankings (CollegeFootballPoll.com and Sagarin) from 1999 to 2007 for seven schools, several that Elkon named in his comment (LSU, Georgia, Florida, Auburn, and Arkansas) plus Michigan and Southern California as non-regional controls to make the comparison.

One caveat as you check these out. These are the rankings for the complete seasons, so they’re going to be a little biased in favor of higher ranked schools, because those schools will generally see better opponents in their bowl games. With that in mind, here’s what the SOS rankings look like.

First, CFP.com:

Year LSU S. Cal. UGA UF Aub. Mich. Ark.
               
1999 34 35 23 9 46 3 60
2000 41 26 64 16 14 6 69
2001 11 5 30 27 19 8 32
2002 30 3 31 6 42 14 29
2003 38 12 22 41 48 23 27
2004 59 25 15 49 46 11 38
2005 34 6 27 17 64 9 50
2006 54 5 51 4 65 15 3
2007 16 14 15 24 30 29 54
               
Avg. 35.22 14.56 30.89 21.44 41.56 13.11 40.22

Next, Sagarin:

Year LSU S. Cal. UGA UF Aub. Mich. Ark.
               
1999 32 36 33 12 20 2 53
2000 59 11 32 27 51 38 63
2001 20 24 48 23 11 13 18
2002 33 1 24 9 27 6 18
2003 28 19 5 7 13 36 35
2004 46 7 41 57 60 36 38
2005 50 8 49 40 61 3 51
2006 20 2 24 8 23 12 26
2007 11 29 23 3 35 37 43
               
Avg. 33.22 15.22 31 20.67 33.44 20.33 38.33

Man, those Southern Cal numbers are something, aren’t they?

Anyway, Georgia’s SOS ranking is squarely middle of the pack. So even starting with Elkon’s premise that Georgia’s non-conference opponents over the years have lacked star power, that would seem to be balanced out for the most part with schedules that aren’t as weak at the low end as some of the other schools he cites.

Does that make his point unfair? Maybe from a raw statistical perspective it does. But I suspect it plays in to the national perception of Georgia’s program. People tend to remember the glamor games more than they do the turkeys. From that standpoint, Damon’s efforts to punch up the schedule are probably necessary to get people to look at this program in the same way as the Southern Cals and the Ohio States. Whether that’s fair or not I’ll leave for somebody else to answer.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “More blathering about schedules

  1. NM

    Our schedules are tougher than he thinks, but there’s something to be said for having marquee opponents.

    Last year, Okie St, Troy and Tech were all bowl-caliber teams, but none of those were games where we really proved anything, especially by the end of the season when it was apparent that OSU wasn’t nearly as good as advertised. Probably 30 teams would have gone 3-0 in that set.

    On the other hand, LSU beating Va Tech (especially since it was a thrashing) was a lot more impressive — only a handful of teams, at most, could’ve done that. Even when the rest of their non-conference consisted of various directional Louisiana schools, they’d already said all they needed to say.

    Hopefully Arizona State will dominate the Pac 10 next year, and in every game except ours for that matter. Although it would still not be as impressive as one of the 10 or so perennial powers like Ohio St., USC, etc. (of course, since probably 3-4 of those teams are already in the SEC it’s harder to add them…)

  2. Methinks Elkon’s a wee bit bitter for the whole “Charles Rogers Theorem Pwns The Dawgs!!!!1″ thing blowing up in his face.

  3. Thanks for doing that leg work. I’m a little surprised that Georgia has had only one top-20 schedule according to Sagarin or two according to CFP. The rankings certainly do not disabuse me of the notion that Georgia’s conference schedule shouldn’t preclude the Dawgs from playing quality OOC opponents.

    Regarding Auburn, Arkansas, and LSU, they certainly don’t deserve full marks for OOC scheduling. They’ve all had embarrassing years where they have played four minnows. They can’t claim to have been gutsier than Georgia throughout the decade. However, they have made more of an effort to schedule big time opponents.

    One last point: LSU’s thumping of VT last year was the tie-breaker that got LSU into the title game.

  4. One last point: LSU’s thumping of VT last year was the tie-breaker that got LSU into the title game.

    I totally agree. That was the biggest regular season win any school had last year.

  5. I don’t know if “thumping” even begins to describe it — that was the kind of domination that made you wonder whether VT would’ve won that game had you given them 100 tries. And the fact that the Hokies went on to win the ACC title surely made the win look even more impressive.

  6. UgaMatt

    Does anyone know the last time UF played outside the Southeast? I know they played at Syracuse in like 90 or so, but it’s not like they have a reputation for traveling all over the country either.

  7. TV Dawg

    I don’t like the term ‘gutsier’ in the comments – it’s not that Georgia has been ducking competition. We all know it’s the combo of the WLOCP and GTU. With the 12th game added, UGA has stepped up. Simple as that. And it adds credibility to the reasons given over the years for not having a tougher OOC schedule – the inability to give a return game most years. Now that we can, we are.

    I remember Coach Dooley talking about wanting to play Texas or Ohio State, for example, but not being able to. Since the SEC expanded, most schools had 7 home games, where UGA had 6 in the majority of years. Hell, UTK had 10 games in-state one year (late 90’s, I think)!

    So don’t throw around the notion that Georgia was too scared to play tougher OOC teams. Now that UGA can, they are.

  8. Ladydawg

    I don’t get how FU ever gets ranked so high. Not only do they not leave the south to play OOC opponents, they don’t/won’t leave the State of Florida and 99% of the time don’t leave the Swamp unless its for FSU or Miami. I think they may be doing a home and home with USF sometime in the next few years. They say that they schedule the OOC cupcakes at home because they can’t afford to give up the $2,000,000 each home game brings in.