Has Kirby Smart made a good bet on strength of schedule?

Seth Emerson ($$):

Almost exactly two years ago, Kirby Smart stood in a basement conference room, telling a roomful of reporters at SEC meetings why he was doing something that seemed either brave or risky, depending on your outlook: Georgia’s future schedules, at Smart’s behest, had added Oklahoma, Clemson, Texas and Florida State, with Ohio State, Oregon and Louisville to come.

No, Smart insisted, it was not because he had any inkling or insight that playoff expansion was coming.

“I have no clue,” Smart said. “I’m not forecasting this. What I am forecasting is we’re going to have a strength of schedule that’s going to allow us — (whether the playoff is) one, two, three, four, eight teams — to be one of the teams in the conversation because of who we play.”

Honestly, as much as I love beefing up Georgia’s non-conference schedule purely from a fan’s standpoint, I’m not sure Smart will turn out to be right about that under the proposed 12-team format for the CFP.  The reason I say that is because the new structure clearly establishes a place for conference champions, but is totally silent about the role strength of schedule will play in the rankings.  And when you leave purely subjective standards in place for half the playoff field, silence strikes me as being pretty significant.

“I think a lot of this is going to boil down to strength of schedule,” Smart said on ESPN radio’s Marty & McGee show. “For a long time now we have been trying to build up our future strength of schedule, because it’s not the losses that are going to kill you, it’s not playing the best teams.”

That’s an assumption on Smart’s part, one that some may argue against. The selection committee has never come out and declared, well, anything, about its criteria. But when all else is equal it sure seems strength of schedule is more important than a team’s pure record.

Seth’s “all else is equal” is doing some very heavy lifting there, methinks.  I do agree if there’s a point where the selection committee is having to split the thinnest of hairs between two teams, strength of schedule should come into play.  But who knows how often that’s really going to be the case?  I don’t.  Neither does Kirby Smart.

“The naysayers,” Smart said two years ago, referring to critics of harder scheduling, “will say an extra loss is going to cost you. My argument is the men in that (selection) room, the women in that room that are on that committee, are going to have to balance somebody that goes out and plays three nonconference Power 5 teams.”

I think that argument carried a lot more weight when we thought we were looking at an eight-team playoff field, all chosen in a similar manner to the way teams are currently selected.  Now, I’m not so sure.  That’s what silence will do for you.

Now, Seth does make a good point that there were other considerations in play, such as regular season attendance and recruiting, behind the non-conference scheduling.  But we all know ultimately that this is going to be judged by whether this pays off on selection day.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Georgia Football

45 responses to “Has Kirby Smart made a good bet on strength of schedule?

  1. spur21

    What is lost in the conversation is the opponents are taking the same risk.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Some are, but I’m not sure any school has been as aggressive with this as UGA.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ran A

        SEC Opening Schedule

        Florida – Florida Atlantic
        Kentucky – ULM
        Missouri – Central Michigan
        SouthCarolina – Eastern Illinois
        UT – Bowlig Green
        Vandy – ETSU
        Arkansas – Rice
        Auburn – Akron
        MSU – Lousianna Tech
        A&M Kent State

        LSU – UCLA
        Mississippi – Louisville
        Alabama – Miami

        Georgia – Clemson

        Tech’s 1st Two Games of the Season – Northern Illinois and Kennesaw State

        Now, are you that worried about losing a game or more excited about who the Dawgs are playing the opening week of the season.

        Do you want to be in Charlotte at 7:30 in a 50-50 enviroment or do you want 90 degrees at noon, while playing a team that did not have one player make Georgia’s recruiting board?

        Do you want Herbie and the crew at 7:30 on ABC or do you want Tom Hart and Jordan Rogers with a noon or early afternoon kick-off in the heat?

        Win or lose, I’ll take this EVERY time.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. akascuba

    Most season tickets I know want to see a stronger home schedule. I think Kirby was looking at the total picture. Creating a stronger schedule does help recruiting, makes selling tickets easier and hopefully whatever the future CFP llooks like going forward it does include strength of schedule.
    Was it a good bet only time will tell.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. RangerRuss

    There’s a lot to be said for lining up and playing stiff competition, not the least being finding out what you’re made of. If it was easy my Mom would be a starting linebacker at UGA.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. dawgman3000

    When the playoff expands to 12 teams, I still think Kirby got it right by beefing up the schedule. Our focus has always been and will always be winning the east and getting to ATL. As long as we’re in the running for winning the conference, we’ll continue to be in the running for the playoffs no matter how many teams CFP expands to.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. GruvenDawg

    Strength of schedule will be a factor, how much we will see. That exposure should help both in the committee’s and polls eyes especially if we close the deal in the next few years. We should be able to get the benefit of the doubt granted to the traditional regional powers. UGA won’t be considered a regional program after that schedule. Montana is going to know who Georgia is by the end of the decade.

    Lastly, NIL companies would probably like their spokespeople to have national exposure rather than just a regional focus. Scheduling these teams will help with that exposure for the athletes. Win/Win.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Georgia isn’t a regional program now. Look at the roster. In addition to Georgia, the following states are represented based on a review of the roster:
      Florida, Nevada, Alabama, California, North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, Maryland, South Carolina, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, and New Jersey.

      Liked by 2 people

      • This is scholarship players only. I don’t know if other states are represented by walk-ons.


        • GruvenDawg

          I agree our national recruiting has expanded under Kirby. I would say the OU/UGA and making the playoffs helped with that exposure for recent recruits. We are competing with Bama/OU/Clem for those same national recruits. I think those three teams have more exposure than us recently. The match ups vs other power 5 programs will help keep UGA in front of the class of 25/26/27 kids who might not have seen the OU/UGA matchup. Most of those games are going to be prime time games especially early in the season.


  6. I said the other day that the committee hasn’t rewarded teams for quality losses. I expect that to continue. The only way strength of schedule is going to matter is if there are two similar teams vying for the last wild card spot and one clearly has a better body of work than the other even though they have similar records.

    As a season ticket holder, I’m delighted with the upgraded schedule. I only hope that the upgraded scheduling doesn’t knock us out of a playoff spot at some point (and I don’t think Mary Beth will be happy if Kirby doesn’t bring home a playoff bonus either).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. practicaldawg

    I don’t know how much it will help or hurt us, but I do think it’s good for the “health” of the regular season overall. We are the only opponent in the top 40 on Clemson’s schedule this year. Now that the ACC has devolved into a G5-caliber conference, the regular season looks like a Globe Trotters circuit for Clemson leading up to the playoff. If that persists for the next decade, these prime time non-conference matchups will be vital.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Clayton Joiner

    IMO, without CU on the schedule this year UGA may be sitting at #14 as far a SOS in the SEC…something I saw yesterday had us at 11 or 12 currently.

    Every year will be different, and some years we won’t need the bump, but i guess we can always look at UF and Clemson in years past for SOS results if there are doubters about adding top tier games moving forward.


  9. Sweet D

    Eh. History has shown us that future games can, and have been, cancelled at the whims of coaches and schools. It seems like they’re harder to set up initially than they are to cancel.

    Liked by 3 people

    • miltondawg

      Was thinking the same thing. I don’t see how SOS isn’t part of the process (either explicitly or implicitly looking at a team’s “body of work”), but if somehow it didn’t mean anything at all then go back out of games that you don’t want to play.


  10. W Cobb Dawg

    I don’t care who we play. If we can’t make a cfp that allows 12 teams, we should shut down the football program and focus on gymnastics.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. None of us love the Dawgs because of the playoff. We love the Dawgs because of Athens, nostalgia, our friends, and the fun of Saturday afternoons playing other schools with a similar setup.

    Let the TV guys eat cake. Just bring the real Dawgs some home Saturdays against a red meat opponent with a kickoff no sooner than 2pm.

    Liked by 5 people

  12. jcdawg83

    Strength of schedule is vastly overrated. Florida under Spurrier and then Meyer figured out very quickly that the key to getting to the “championship” game was to go undefeated in the regular season and win the conference championship. Scheduling tough out of conference games and losing does nothing but give the beauty pageant committee a reason to keep you out of the playoff so they can put one of ESPN’s darlings in. Clemson has had the most pathetic schedules in the history or college football for decades and they are still near the top of the ESPN love list. They even made the playoff two years in a row with a regular season loss from their shitty schedule. Ohio State plays maybe one legitimate game a year and ESPN’s Gameday broadcast is all Ohio State all the time. Notre Dame is always in the playoff on the opening day of the season and have pathetic schedules every season and have to work to be left out. The ESPN Invitational Post Season Football Tournament is not really an event that determines a champion, it is an event that makes money for ESPN and the teams invited to play.

    Until some sort of FBS, D1, whatever you want to call it, legitimate football championship tournament that only includes conference champions comes about, the “national champion” will be a sham.

    Scheduling tough out of conference games is foolish if the goal is to get into the playoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. otto1980

    If LSU hadn’t played such a tough out of conference schedule in 2011 they may have been national champs. They had wins over WVU who was the BIg12 champs and gave Oregon the PAC champ 1 of 2 losses. If Oregon finished with 1 loss, LSU likely faces Oregon for the title not Bama.

    I have regularly posted in favor of keeping the current SEC schedule, GT, 1 P5 team, and 2 cupcakes for the reason above, money, playing a schedule that allows a team to recover from injuries, and allowing younger players to get on the field. Smart may have over scheduled in some years.


    • If you consider some of the 3rd tier SEC schools as your cupcakes, I get the scheduling philosophy. With the ability to allow redshirts to play in 4 games, you can get the experience without playing 3 cupcakes plus Candy and other SEC bottom feeders.

      Liked by 1 person

      • otto1980

        Like USCe 2019?


        • Lightning struck in that game. It took a ton of turnovers and mistakes for them to win by 3 in double OT. How many other pick 6s did Jake Fromm throw in his career?

          That game was a statistical anomaly as a loss. Plain and simple, we beat ourselves. No excuses … it was a pathetic performance.


  14. charlottedawg

    All part of Kirby’s master plan: he intends to dominate the sec east so thoroughly he’ll need a couple out of conference data points to show we’re not just beating up on cupcakes, for example Tennessee is going to be a huge drag on SOS from here on out.


  15. biggusrickus

    Whatever his master plan might be, Georgia would have been in the 12-team playoff the last three years as an at-large. Just keep recruiting at an elite level and lose no more than twice a year, and he’ll be fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. originaluglydawg

    WTF? After reading (this morning) about what damned shame it is that everything is about the playoffs, we’re now going to question CKS because he may have made a move that could hurt Georgia’s chances to make the CFP???? After groaning for years that we need to have less cupcakes and more meat on the schedule, we’re now desire cupcakes because of….you know.
    Playoffs or no playoffs, I’m glad to see some out of conference games against tough opponents.


  17. paulwesterdawg

    I think Kirby is building a schedule to make sure he’s in the playoffs period. And worrying about how far he can get later. That’s point A. And point B being I’d be plays enough big games, he’ll recruit well enough to address winning once he gets there. And I agree with that.

    I don’t think Kirby at 10-2 thinks he will beat out an 11-1 Penn State team that didn’t win their division. No matter who PSU played they will probably have a higher seed. So what.

    I think he’s trying to make sure that if he’s 10-2, he’s in no matter who else is 10-2.

    and same for 9-3. I’d there’s a 9-3 team in the playoffs he expects that it will be him with that schedule. And again I think he’s right.


    • paulwesterdawg

      To finish my thought the Q is… can Kirby get in with a 9-3 schedule against a 10-2 pac 12 team with a soft schedule that doesn’t win their division? Or a 10-3 pac 12 team that did lose their division with a soft schedule.

      And I don’t know the answer. But I think Mickey Mouse would rather have the ATL market than most non-California markets in the playoffs. So in that scenario the cynic in me remains optimistic.


  18. back9k9

    Always Be Crootin’
    These kids want to play in big games. The h&h with Notre Dame did wonders in that regard.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. paulwesterdawg

    Random observation. In the playoff era (7 years), the 4 seed had won twice. The 2 seed has won 3x. And the 1 seed has won twice.

    A 5 or 6 seed will win this thing. And I predict it will happen in the first 3 years. Heck a #1 seed didn’t win it all until Year six.


    • If all goes according to plan, the #5 will have to beat the #4, #1 and #2 (or #3) teams plus win a quarterfinal game in consecutive weeks and, unless you’re Notre Dame, all of that is after playing in a conference championship game.

      That’s the part of this that is going to make it a steep uphill climb for any team out of the top 4 to win the title. Without help from upsets, you have to beat the teams that demonstrated throughout the year that they were the best on multiple weeks in a row.


  20. ericstrattonrushchairmandamngladtomeetyou

    Cancel all those hard games and open with Western Carolina.