Nor should it. It looks like some folks are starting to catch on...
First, from the sometimes up, often down Pete Fiutak, on CFN's "Ask CFN" (March 4, 2005 entry)-
Is it just me or has the Pac 10 gone weak-kneed in the scheduling department this year? I have always been a fan of the league because, while other conferences were beating up on the small fry and talking about how great they were, Pac-10 teams were hitting the road and playing games worth watching. The Southern California and Arizona schools are keeping up their end but the northern schools are wimping out big time. Is it just a 1-year fluke, are the schedules tougher than they appear, or are Pac-10 schools trending towards softer schedules? – JAHNice work, Pete. This underlines another point I've danced around, but knew someone out there would run with it---the Pac-10 is consistently the best scheduling conference in college football.
A: Absolutely, dead wrong. The Pac 10 did a great job scheduling real non-conference games and has even better ones on tap for 2006. You’re right; USC didn’t have to schedule a landmine like Fresno State. Arizona State is going to LSU and Arizona is going to Utah and hosting Purdue. There are some great other non-conference matchups too. UCLA plays Oklahoma, Oregon State is playing Boise State and at Louisville. Stanford is playing at Navy and Notre Dame, and Washington also plays the Irish. As far as the future, none of the other BCS leagues come close to having as good a non-conference slate in 2006: Arizona at LSU, Arizona State at Colorado, California at Tennessee and against Minnesota, Oregon at Fresno State, Oregon State at Boise State, Stanford at Notre Dame, USC at Arkansas and against Nebraska and Notre Dame, UCLA against Utah and at Notre Dame, and Washington at Oklahoma and against Fresno State. Only Washington State is taking it easy.
Also, addressing another issue I raised in an earlier essay and rant (and more), Fiutak has an interesting idea about early-season games:
The NCAA (or the infamous BCS group) should enact a policy whereby wins against non-IA opponents to not count toward a team's record, but a loss would. Therefore, there's no reward for scheduling such cupcakes - only risk. It won't stop the bullies from scheduling "tune up scrimmage games" like this, but it might take away some of the motivation to do so. – DougThis isn't a bad suggestion, at first glance. I still don't understand the need to grab teams from another entire division, but I agree with Fiutak that teams would be best served with some kind of warmup game that didn't count for anything instead of early-season losses when strong and weak teams are on more equal footing costing a great team more than they should when the polls come out.
A: For everyone’s sake and for the betterment of the game, I have a different solution. Every D-I team should get one home game that doesn't count against a D-IAA team on the last weekend in August. This does two things: 1) it gives every team a tune up game. Without the preseason like the NFL has, college football teams have to rock from the opening kickoff. The result is sloppy play and uneven teams that aren’t nearly as good as the are a few weeks later. Wouldn’t you rather see Miami play Florida State in the middle of October than on opening day? If teams don’t want to risk injury, they can play their backups and develop some depth. 2) It’s an easy payday for the schools making the athletic directors happy. After that one home game, there are no more D-IAA games on the schedule.
Our next item on the scheduling list, keeping with the Pac-10 theme:
I found this amazing write-up on one of our blogs in the links section, comparing the SEC and Pac-10 out-of-conference schedules, head-to-head matchups, and several other scheduling factors. It's pretty damning against the SEC if you ask me. A lot of it is in graphical form and hard to copy on here, so just stop by the link and take a look.
For a conference whose supporters and many from within claiming outright "superiority" over other teams and conferences, they look average if not worse against what is often considered the weakest or next-weakest BCS conference, the Pac-10. Kudos to the author, who for the most part uses data in a fair way to absolutely crush a lot of pre-existing media and fan bias towards the SEC, and in a similar vein if the post had gone a little farther, the Big 12.
Year-to-year, these conferences aren't static in relative strength. Nobody is really superior, when using smart analysis, but some years one conference is really strong, and another year it's weak. That's college football. Some years the SEC is looking great, some years it's the Pac-10 or the ACC.