One issue that goes round and round is schedule and more specifically strength of schedule. Conference play is tough, no matter what conference you are in. Obviously, there are varying degrees depending on how deep and talented the conferences are. Regardless, each team has a non-conference schedule stacked with four games, two relatively tough ( you would like to think so) ones and two walks in the park. Why? Why must a team schedule a team that you know is not a challenge? Why does Florida schedule Ohio and not Ohio State? As fans, we would all like to see competitive games week in and week out. How compelling is it to a Gator fan to watch Florida roll against Ohio?
This happens for two reasons. First there is the schedule of the SEC. From top to bottom, the conference is good and arguably the best. Coaches swear that playing the SEC schedule, you need a couple of easy games. In other words, "we have to go to war eight times a year so lets pad the schedule to enhance the won/loss record."
Lets take the Gators as an example. Florida's non-conference schedule is very respectable in relation with the other football powers because they play two top five teams in FSU and Miami in addition to their conference schedule. But why UAB and Ohio? Why can't Florida schedule a home and home with a Big 10 or Big 12 power in addition to playing the 'Canes and 'Noles? How awesome would it be to have Bowden and Coker on the schedule every year and then have a two-year schedule that included home and away games with Washington, Oklahoma, Michigan or Virginia Tech. I know we will never see a brutally complete twelve game schedule. College football is experimenting with the twelve game format and I for one, think the number will stick for years to come. This means that there will be four non-conference games for now. Lets see the high powered teams schedule three big games rather than two or even one that is outside their schedule.
Second, money is a huge factor. College football and basketball fuel all the athletic departments from Coral Gables to UW. Athletic Directors cry foul in scheduling home and homes with big non-conference opponents because they will lose the gate ($$$) for one of the two contests when they play on the road. This is a big reason why teams schedule an easier opponent at home. More times than it, it is a struggling mid to lower level program that needs the paycheck. This is vitally important to such programs so they can try and keep up with the big boys. But when this happens, it usually means a lopsided win for the home team. This is good and bad for college football. It is good for the smaller program to make some money but how important is it for the big guys? They roll to a victory and play some second and third teamers. Are they compelling games? Nine out of ten times I would say no. In college basketball you can get away with it. The parity is so much greater in hoops. Just watch the NCAA Basketball Tournament every year. But this rarely happens on the gridiron. Troy State did beat Mississippi State last season. South Florida upset Pittsburgh. But the percentages of the major upset are so small.
How about a potential solution to the money problem? Lets take a look at a hypothetical situation. Say Florida wants to schedule a home and home with Michigan this season and next (Florida hosts Michigan this year and goes to Ann Arbor in '03). Neither team wants to lose the gate when traveling. Would you as a Gator fan pay more for the ticket to Michigan coming to the Swamp? In other words, bump up the ticket price for that game to make up for the loss of traveling to Ann Arbor in '03. Would you pay double the price for that individual home game in the Swamp to have a home and home with the Wolverines? I would because I want to see Florida and the other college football powers play compelling and competitive games week in and week out.
Will this happen? No. Or at least not until the NCAA and or BCS get their act together and figure out a way to have a college football playoff. That would definitely entice these programs to schedule more non-conference games that mean something because strength or schedule would be a major factor in seeding.
Below is a list of the SEC schools, FSU, Miami and other powers. Included under each school is their non-conference schedule for this upcoming season. Boy, I can't wait to see Arkansas play Louisiana-Lafayette or Georgia play Northwestern State. My calendar is circled for Ohio vs. Florida and Ole Miss vs Arkansas State. Thank god Miami is back on the schedule against Florida. Notre Dame travels to Florida State and the Irish also take on Michigan. These type of games should be played every year and each week. We should expect nothing less.
UAB(8/31), Miami (9/7), Ohio (9/14), @ Florida State (11/30)
Clemson (8/31), Northhwestern State (9/21), New Mexico State (9/28), Georgia Tech (11/30)
Louisville (8/31), UTEP (9/7), Indiana (9/14), MTSU (9/21)
New Mexico State (8/31), @ Virginia (9/7), Temple (9/21), @ Clemson (11/23)
Wyoming (8/31), MTSU (9/7), Rutgers (9/28), Miami (11/9)
@ Georgia Tech (8/31), Furman (9/7), MTSU (10/12), Connecticut (10/26)
MTSU (8/31), @ Oklahoma (9/7), North Texas (9/14), Southern Miss (9/21)
Boise State (8/31), South Florida (9/14), Troy State (11/2), Louisiana-Lafayette (11/16)
@ USC (9/2), Western Carolina (9/7), Syracuse (9/28), Louisiana-Monroe (11/9)
@ Virginia Tech (9/1), The Citadel (9/7), Miami (Ohio) (9/14), Louisiana-Lafayette (10/5),
@ Oregon (8/31), Jacksonville State (9/14), Troy State (10/12), @ Memphis (10/19)
Louisana-Monroe (8/31), Memphis (9/7), @ Texas Tech (9/14), Arkansas State (10/12)
Iowa State (8/24)*, @ Louisville (9/26), Notre Dame (10/26), Florida (11/30)
* Kansas City (Mo.)
Florida A&M (8/31), @ Florida (9/7), Connecticut (10/5), Florida State (10/12), Tennessee (11/9)
North Texas (8/31), @ North Carolina (9/14), Houston (9/21), Tulane (9/28)
@ Tulsa (8/30), Alabama (9/7), UTEP (9/14), South Florida (9/28)
Washington (8/31), Western Michigan (9/7), @ Notre Dame (9/14), Utah (9/21)
Texas Tech (8/24), Kent State (9/7), Washington State (9/14), @ Cincinnati (9/21), San Jose State (10/12)