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Old 10-30-2002, 05:30 PM   #1
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Default Strength of Schedule

What is the measuring stick for strength of schedule? It has been talked about a lot and is used, quite convincingly, as a debating tool among discussions of the "best teams."

But how do you determine the strength of schedule. Is it simply the record of the teams you have played. Should you take the teams you play and look at the records of the teams they have played as well?

In a different post, the Notre Dame schedule was broken down to show that the teams they have played are not that difficult. With all due fairness to Joey(who broke down ND's schedule), this could be said for three of the top five teams in the nation, and also for USC (I include USC because I have heard a number of times what a tough schedule it plays.)

Take Va Tech for example. #3 in the polls. Their quality wins come against LSU, Texas A&M and Marshall. Well, we can throw Marshall out the window. They only play cream puffs and we shouldn't count a team that only beats up bad teams. LSU, they beat Florida, but as we have seen this season, that's not as rare as it sounds. And he only other ranked team LSU played against was VaTech, and LSU lost. They also lost to Auburn. So can you really count LSU as a quality win when factoring strength of schedule? And then A&M already has three losses this year. Including a loss to Texas Tech and a loss to unranked Nebraska.

So the conclusion could be drawn that Va Tech has not played that difficult of a schedule.

Then look at USC. They beat Colorado, the same Colorado that had just lost to Colorado State, and whose quarterback was making the first start of his college career, its not the same Colorado team that is playing now. They beat Oregon State, but when looking over Oregon State's record, they've lost three games and it doesn't look like they've beaten anyone strong. The same could be said for beating Oregon. And USC has also beaten Washington, but the Huskies are in danger of not even going to a bowl. So when looking at USC's schedule, the only truly quality opponent USC has played was Washington State, and they lost.

Then again, what constitues a quality opponent?

Does any of this make sense? I realize there may be some gaping holes in this theory. I'm not really a big "numbers" guy, and I fear I'm wandering too far into the land of stats and averages, but I'm basically just trying to find out how you should measure strength of schedule. And maybe spark an intelligent discussion.
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Old 10-30-2002, 06:00 PM   #2
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Ok, your making some sense here noon! Actually you have some very valid points! Here is where I think the strength of schedule gets out of hand.....usually strength of schedule is first done before the season starts....and well that is really a bad idea! It is almost as bad of an idea as having pre-season rankings in the polls! Preseason rankings and strength of schedule numbers complicates the big picture!

I have said this and I will say it again....preseason rankings in the polls, and this preseason strength of schedule junk needs to be tossed out of the window....and fast!

Polls in my opinion should not be done until the last few weeks of the regular season. The BCS should also not compile strength of schedule numbers until the last few weeks of the season!

Too many times teams are ranked too highly in the preseason, and then after a team like ND beats a ranked team who then becomes terrible....then that helps ND's strength of schedule! Take for example Maryland...they were a top 25 team at the beginning of the season....but they started out like 0-3 or something...but because they were ranked so highly at the time that moved ND way up in the polls! Same goes for them playing Michigan, and Michigan State was even close to the top 25 when they played them!

So, this may not solve anything, but I say don't vote in polls until the last 2 weeks of the season as well as determining strength of schedule! I mean how tough do we acutally know a team is going to be in preseason or when the season is just getting started? We Don't!

You are right on Noon when you say Va Tech has a weak schedule....Miami had a weak schedule last season and won the National Championship as well!

But to answer your question what determines a quality opponent....a quality opponent is one, who at the end of the season has proved themselves to be a good team. Not a team who is good by word of mouth, but one who has actually done it on the field! Not by preseason rankings or polls, but by tackling and scoring touchdowns! You know who the good teams are at the end of the season....not at the beginning! So, at the end of the season I will tell you who I think had a tough schedule!

USC has had a tough schedule though! If I am not mistaken, they have not played a team with a losing record. Out of conference games include Auburn, ND, Kansas State, and Colorado....all good and decent teams! Then they play in a very tough and even conference with the likes of Oregon, UCLA, Arizona State, Washington State, Washington, California, and so on and so on! USC even though the season has not ended....has had a tough schedule up until this point! But like I told you I will reserve my final judgement on strength of schedule till the season is over and everything pans out!

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Old 10-31-2002, 11:43 AM   #3
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Let me see if I have this correct. The BCS uses several (seven I believe) powerful computers that run millions of complex computations to determine the numbers. Each computer runs different formulas against all teams. The computers then vote based on the numbers they come up with. One of the consitent elements in each formula I believe is schedule strength. The computers are able to run ridiculous computations based on the W-L records of all teams, and does the degrees of seperation thing down to each team. This process is how the computers determine strenght of schedule that is plugged into the rest of the formulas. When it is all said and done, the computers play only by the numbers.

The human polls add the intuition and cognitive judgement about these teams, some of which will never play each other directly. These elements all average out and the team with the lowest points is placed first and so on and so forth. What this does is balances out the subjective with the objective. So the quality wins and schedule strength are based with this balance. That's how the 'Two Best Teams' are supposed to play each other at the end of the season.

It's imperfect, but it is better than what used to occur with some team just being declared the best at the end of the season. A playoff would not work because there are far too many football teams in the US for a fair playoff roster to be established. It works for hoops because the nature of the game is such that it can be played day in and day out at a competitive level, therefore you can start with 64 teams in the 'dance'. Football playoffs that had that many teams would require about six weeks to determine the winner. That's far too long. If you had only three weeks of playoff games that would only allow eight teams to compete for the championship. How would we determine which eight get to go? The one's who are undeafeated? Well, then every team would create this sorry schedule so they could go undefeated. If you tried to vote teams in using polls, it would be pretty much the same thing as before the BCS with some teams just being 'declared' a playoff team. Even voting is just 'declaring' based soley on subjective opinions.

The BCS is the best we've got right now, and in my opinion it has worked fairly well so far. Of the teams that have won under the BCS system, all were viable candidates for the championship. Yes, some teams weren't selected as top two a couple of times, but the one that were still deserving in some sense.

As far as what goes into the formulas for determing the BCS rankings, we still need to work out some of the kinks, but in a several years, I believe the system will become more consistent and only a slight few will still feel unfairly treated by it.
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Old 10-31-2002, 12:59 PM   #4
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Well, I just don't see how Nebraska had a leg to stand on last season when they went to the BCS National Championship game! So, to me Nebraska was undeserving in all senses to go to that game! I mean they didn't even win their 12 team conference....why should they represent 114 teams in a National Championship game? They should not have! Not only did they not win their conference or their conference championship game....they didn't even play in the game....lol! Last season was a complete disaster!

And the season before wasn't much better! And well only one season has the National Championship game had 2 undefeated teams....FSU vs. Virginia Tech, and even then there was the arguement of Va Tech playing a lousy schedule!

The BCS hasn't worked, and will not work! I will not defend it, nor will I say this is the system we have right now and it is better than the last one! I want something that is fair and that works every season, not something that is better than what we had or works every so often!

I am not sure what is the perfect solution to this problem, but I do know the BCS is not the solution...it is the confusion!

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Old 10-31-2002, 05:40 PM   #5
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Wow, this is a subject I do love...........lol..............I just dont know where to start. Might as well start with Noon's post because he opened this topic.

Good post Noon and I do see how you would have alot of questions. When the BCS does there SOS they do it like this. Since USC was a focus on your post we will use them as an example. First they take the records of there opponents who are Auburn, Colorado, Kansas ST, Oregon St, Washington St, CAL, UW and Oregon. Then they also take the records of there opponents into consideration for the BCS formula, really quite an exhaustiing procedure. I think when you question how tough USC's schedule you should know this. USC and Arkansas are the only D-1A teams in the country to play a schedule that everyone of there opponents has a winning schedule and has played only D-1A teams. This weekend Arkansas plays Troy State who has a losing record. After this weekend SC will be the only team in the country, who has yet to play a team with a losing record, I would say that is a very quality schedule. With ASU, UCLA,Notre Dame and Stanford left, they will end the season playing only one team that has a losing record, that being Stanford. That also means they will have played a possible bowl eligible team in 11 of 12 games. If you are into rankings and polls, which as you know I'm not, every team that SC has played so far this year, except CAL, was ranked at the time they played them. Thats 7 out of 8 games and Cal at one time was ranked 2 weeks before facing SC. If there ever was a team with a quality schedule, this was it. You know, as well as I do, its one thing to go and play Auburn, Colorado, K-St and Notre Dame and another to play Idaho, East tennessee State, Louisiana-monroe, Ohio U, etc. Another factor is, just the fact of playing a quality opponent every week as oppose to playing one every other week. Its easy to be at your best and UP for a tough game every other week or every couple of weeks. But to be at your best and play your best every week is another matter in itself. SC left itself no room for error with there schedule. There first 3 games were Auburn, @Colorado and @ Kansas St. That meant they had to be at there best in every one of thsoe games. They werent for the 1st half of the KSU game and it cost them. But had they slated San Jose St there instead, they would have been afforded of having an off day and still winning the game. But the more quality teams you play, the fewer off nights you can truly have and as we all know, everyone has off games, but if they come against a weak team, the big schools are still going to win those games.

As for ND Noon, I do think they play a very good schedule. Notre Dame does every year. They always play SC, Michigan, Purdue, MSU, etc, all generally and expected to be, good programs. Really ND's slate is never weak.

Joey was very correst in saying that is rediculous to have polls and SOS' s so early in the year. How can you possibly have a SOS before the season even starts. You cant. The same with having polls before a season starts. Joey hit those areas on the head.

Clutch you are right about the complexity of the computer polls as it involves the SOS. The problem with the computers, is that it factors in 8 different polls into there equations, all of these polls are based on opinions. Thus by doing that they are overriding the SOS. Literally there ends up being more weight placed on polls then on SOS. So basically you would be better off playing a light schedule(winning all those games) and hope the pollsters love you before the season starts.

Now Clutch you said a playoff would be impossible because there being too many teams. I can understand your analogy to basketball, except in hoop there 300 plus teams eligible for the NCAA tourney. There are only 117 teams in D-1A football. 2/3rds less, that is alot. On top of that, D-1AA, D-2 and D-3 all have playoff systems in place and have more teams then D-1A has. D-1AA has just a few more teams then D-1A, I believe they have 125 while D-1A has 117. D-1AA plays a 16 team playoff at the end of an 11 game regular season. D-2 an D-3 have tons more teams, yet still manage a playoff system.

As for the BCS, like Joey noted, it really has yet to work. The last two years have been extremely bad for the BCS. We will have a playoff system with the next TV contract, the problem is, it will still have to much input from the polls and still only involve 4 teams. If we are going to use the polls, the playoff has to be bigger, therefore it will help outweigh the bias opinions that go into the polls.

But the playoof that we will have in a couple of years will be a start and just like the NCAA hoop tourney grew, this one will over time also.

I wish I could go on, although I know you guys at this point want me to stop......lol...........but the kids are waiting to go trick or treating.
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