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SCHEDULING 101: Schedule as many wins as possible.

If this is the goal, the path is games, and the non-conference opponents you beat aren't that critical.

Chris Graythen

A major item that arose during the recent bout of tug-o-war between Mike and Mike (not the ESPN tandem) involved scheduling philosophy.

Holder wants $$. That means higher profile matchups, usually against stronger non-conference opponents.

Gundy wants to pile up wins before running the gauntlet that is the Big 12 schedule.

Somewhere in the middle is the solution, and the status of your program is the starting point.

Boise State? Non-AQ conference, therefore need to play a non-conference "big boy" in order to establish credibility.

Oklahoma State? #1 or #2 AQ conference annually, so no need to take chances against "big boy" opponents. Win, or finish 2nd, in your conference, and you are likely BCS bound (poor OU found out that is not always the case). With a future playoff looming, winning the conference will be what matters, and you definitely won't want to take any unnecessary chances in the non-conference schedule.

Still, you like to play somebody of SOME substance. It does help somewhat with program recognition, but only if you win. Look at Kansas State...played Miami 2 years in a row, both marquee wins. Nobody will remember that Miami sucked those 2 seasons, but of course the Wildcats didn't know that Miami was going to suck when they made the home and home deal. But the rest of Kansas State's non-conference schedule is just like the rest...weak as hell.

So let's compare some close friends and their schedules to what OSU has done since 2002, and will do in 2013.

The list is broken up into AQ (opponents from auto-qualifying conferences), non-AQ, and FCS (formerly Div 1-AA). Opponents are listed where they fall when the game was played. For instance, South Florida was not yet a member of the Big East when it played OU and Alabama. I've put an * next to West Virginia for OSU, as that was the game that was scheduled until conference realignment voided that contract. With such short notice, I am not holding Savannah State against OSU. Holder was in charge of that, and we all know his philosophy. They did what they had to do to fill the slot, so the opponent was not completely in their control. I have also listed teams by name and the number of times they have been played, including the scheduled games for 2013.

Games againts AQ conference opponents since 2002
Michigan West Virginia * Notre Dame UCLA
Penn St Arizona Notre Dame - 2013 UCLA
Penn St Arizona Florida State Arkansas
Virginia Tech Washington St Florida State Arkansas
Virginia Tech - 2013 Washington St Cincinatti Arkansas
Clemson Georgia Cincinatti Ohio State
OU Georgia Miami Ohio State
OU UCLA Miami North Carolina
Duke UCLA Washington
Mississippi St - 2013 Washington
Games againts non-AQ conference opponents since 2002
Western Kentucky UL - Lafayette UTEP Wyoming
Western Kentucky UL - Lafayette UTEP Wyoming
Florida Atlantic UL - Lafayette Tulsa Wyoming
Florida Atlantic UL - Lafayette Tulsa New Mexico
Kent State Tulsa Tulsa Ole Miss
North Texas Tulsa Tulsa Ole Miss - 2013
North Texas Tulsa Tulsa Rice
North Texas Troy Tulsa - 2013 Rice
San Jose State Troy Ball State Rice
Tulane Troy Utah State Rice
Arkansas State Houston Air Force Rice
UL - Monroe Houston BYU Rice
UL - Monroe Houston TCU Rice
Hawaii Rice TCU Rice
Hawaii Florida Atlantic North Texas BYU
Hawaii Florida Atlantic North Texas BYU - 2013
Florida International Florida Atlantic UAB Florida Atlantic
Middle Tenn State Arkansas State Middle Tenn State Florida Atlantic
Southern Miss Arkansas State Bowling Green UL - Monroe
Utah State SMU Houston UTEP
South Florida SMU Fresno State UTEP
Northern Illinois SMU South Florida Central Florida
Wyoming UL - Monroe - 2013 Central Florida
Louisiana Tech Arkansas State
UT - San Antonio - 2013 TCU
North Texas
North Texas
North Texas
UL - Lafayette
New Mexico St
New Mexico St - 2013
Games againts FCS opponents since 2002
Western Carolina Grambling State Florida A&M Sam Houston St
Western Carolina Missouri St Idaho State
Western Carolina Missouri St Chattanooga
Georgia State Sam Houston St
Georgia State - 2013 Montana St
Chattanooga Northern Iowa
Chattanooga - 2013 Lamar - 2013
Georgia Southern

What do ya think?

Now let's add some college football ranking data to the mix.

Since the inception of the BCS in 1998:

  • Only 1 AP preseason unranked team has ever made it to the NC game...Notre Dame this think name recognition had anything to do with it?;
  • Only 8 out of 30 NC game participants started the season outside the AP top 10;
  • Only 3 out of 30 have started outside the AP top 14;
  • 50% of the NC game participants (15) started the season #1 or #2;
  • Only 1 team started outside the initial BCS top 10...LSU at #12 in 2003;
  • Only 2 teams outside the TOP 2 in the AP have lost a game and still made it to the NC game...LSU in 2003 (#6 AP when they lost) and Florida in 2008 (#4 AP);
  • Nobody outside the TOP 2 in the initial BCS poll has ever lost a game after that and made it to the NC game;
  • 11 out of 30 NC game participants suffered a loss during the regular season. One of those lost twice...LSU in 2007...but that was a bizarre season. Four of the top 5 teams in the final BCS rankings had 2 losses;
  • Only 2 NC game participants have EVER lost a game in September, and they were both conference games;
  • Only 1 NC game participant has EVER lost a non-conference game...Florida St lost to Miami in 2000;
Those last two bullet points bring home my point. If you want a shot at playing in the NC game, don't lose in September and don't lose to a non-conference opponent, EVER. If you aren't #1 or #2 in the initial BCS standings, you have to run the table. PERIOD.

What matters is winning games. Even high profile programs can't absorb early losses and make it to the NC game. TV and administrators drive the high profile non-conference match ups, but coaches want wins. Winning a high profile non-conference match up early in the season is not NEARLY as important as just plain WINNING. The risk is EXTREMELY high. Only teams who expect to annually compete for a NC are comfortable with this.

Only two "non-traditional" football powers have competed for the BCS NC...Virginia Tech in 1999 and Oregon in 2010. Neither won, but they got there by beating 4 patsies out of 6 non-conference opponents. At the time of the games, neither Tennessee nor Clemson were scary opponents. The patsies...James Madison, UAB, New Mexico, and Portland State. Notice that includes 2 FCS opponents. Neither Clemson nor Tennessee were the first games of the season.

And as we can see from the above schedules, this is not a HUGE departure from what the "big boys" do.

If you are not a marquee program starting the season very highly ranked, then you need to win games early. No rocket science involved in that, and who you beat is not that important if you are part of an AQ conference.

Berry, I strongly disagree, and I'm definitely on Gundy's side with this. Winning games in September is more important than who you beat.