Is strength of schedule a matter of perspective?

From Mandel’s latest Mailbag ($$) comes this bit of wisdom from Brian Fremeau:

Imagine two schedules. Schedule A consists of the six best teams in the country and the six worst. Schedule B consists of the 12 most average teams in the country. Which is tougher? Ask Alabama, and they’ll obviously say Schedule A. Alabama would have a much easier time running the table against Schedule B. But ask the worst team in the country which one is easier, and they’ll say the opposite. The worst team in the country would have a hell of a time winning a single game against Schedule B.

That’s a really sharp observation, if for no other reason than it’s a good reminder of one of college football’s defining features, its lack of parity.


Filed under College Football

13 responses to “Is strength of schedule a matter of perspective?

  1. The Truth

    Bluto, Mandel’s entire mailbag was pretty good, with a question about the ripple effect of Jacob Eason’s injury. His final Q&A about what he’s looking forward to this season was a reminder of why I love college football so much despite all the crap.


  2. Jared S.

    I’m not sure I understand the point he’s making. Why do I care if the worst team in the country has a “tougher time” winning a single game in Scenario B versus Scenario A.

    And why do I care if there’s parity?


    • Gaskilldawg

      His point is that whether A of B is tougher depends on your perspective. Kind of like a debate if green is prettier than blue.


  3. David H.

    The answer that strength of schedule is a matter of perspective is correct. But … why do we really care about judging strength of schedule? We care because we need to “fairly” assign teams to playoff berths, major bowl berths, etc. Because, by definition, only elite teams are in the running for such berths, practically we must look at strength of schedule from the perspective of an elite team facing the schedule.


    • Biggus Rickus

      Well stated. It just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme how the worst team in the country goes 1-11 or 3-9. How two different teams arrive at 11-1 matters quite a bit.


    • Otto

      You will always have debate, is a 9 game PAC schedule and all P5 nonConf teams harder than the SEC? If you average the math maybe, maybe not. However, are you less likely to have injuries facing Auburn, A&M, Bama etc and then giving the 3rd string and walk on more time in 2 extra games? .. Or is tougher to play Oregon State, Cal, bottom tier Big teams for the nonConf and fewer very physical teams that can push as playoff team on any given week?


  4. The other Doug

    Schedule A is Bama’s and schedule B is Clemson’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • JCDawg83

      Actually, schedule A is Bama’s and Clemson’s schedule is a combination of 6 of the worst teams in the country and 6 average teams.


  5. TN Dawg

    Probably the one disadvantage that weak teams have, statistically speaking, is that they don’t get to play themselves.


  6. TN Dawg

    I’m not gonna say strength of schedule is completely unimportant, but it’s largely unimportant.

    You can still be the best team in the country with the best personnel and best coaching and play no one of importance.

    Surely Clemson’s schedule is softer than any SEC team, but that doesn’t change the fact that when lined up across the field from Alabama that they stomped the Tide decisively.

    SOS is useful in one regard that has already been previously stated, if you are looking at two teams with identical/similar records AND you don’t see a significant gap with the eye-test in talent and ability and you are trying to determine which one makes the playoffs, looking at resume has some use.


    • Debby Balcer

      Except I believe playing tougher teams will cause more injuries and Clemson beat Bama because we have them a road map and they were healthy. They were down players for failing the drug test but Alabama did have to face a tougher road to get there.


  7. Admiral Sackbar

    That’s a very nuanced and intelligent look but unfortunately it’s nearly of no use to most fans and dare I say the selection committee


  8. Comin' Down The Track

    It’s like I’ve been saying about aTm’s and Sakerlina’s schedule, “You know how you can be absolutely sure to avoid playing all of the Top 3 teams in the country in the same season? Be one of the Top 3 teams.”

    Liked by 1 person