Through two weeks of college football, the average margin in FBS games is 24.2 points!
As the College Football Playoff begins, there has been a deeper analysis (and often criticism) of non-conference scheduling. Forget the complaining for a minute, and let’s get down to the real data.
The average margin of FBS vs. FCS games is 29.3 points. Only 39 of 129 games have been determined by a touchdown or less. Through two weeks, Power 5 conference teams have played 83 home games and 27 true road games.
For the sake of the exercise, Notre Dame will count as a Power 5 Conference team to make that total 65 teams. While a very good BYU is not counted in this data, California, Texas, and Virginia are all facing them. Also note that not all Power 5 teams are created equally, and there a few Group of 5 teams who are pretty darn good (Boise State comes to mind). The data is not perfect, but the intent in scheduling is telling.
- 55 of 65 (85%) Power 5 Conference teams are playing an FCS team this year. So far, only Iowa State has lost. The 10 teams who didn’t schedule an FCS team are Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Texas, UCLA, and USC.
- 11 of 65 (17%) Power 5 Conference teams are not playing another team from a Power 5 Conference. They are Arizona, Baylor, Colorado, Mississippi, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, Oregon State, Penn State, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, and Wake Forest.
- The SEC and Pac-12 will play no non-conference games against one another.
- The most common conference matchups are ACC vs. SEC (5) and Big Ten vs. Pac-12 (5).
- 13 of the games between Power 5 teams are being played at a neutral site.
|Teams||NC Game||G vs FCS||% FCS||G vs P5 + ND||% P5||G vs Gof5||% Gof5||vs ACC||vs Big 12||vs Big Ten||vs Pac 12||vs SEC||vs ND|
*-Note: Washington is playing 13 games by virtue of their exempt game at Hawaii.
ACC: The ACC’s scheduling agreement with Notre Dame adds four quality non-conference games this year and even more in future years. Defending ACC champion Florida State is the only Power 5 team to play three non-conference games against Power 5 teams, including two at home. Three of the four ACC schools playing more than one Power 5 team are part of the Notre Dame scheduling agreement this year.
- Scheduled 0 FCS Schools (0):
- Scheduled 1 FCS School (14): Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami-FL, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
- Scheduled 0 Power 5 Schools (2): North Carolina State, Wake Forest
- Scheduled 1 Power 5 School (8): Boston College (USC), Duke (Kansas), Georgia Tech (at Georgia), Miami-FL (at Nebraska), North Carolina (at Notre Dame), Pittsburgh (Iowa), Virginia (UCLA), Virginia Tech (at Ohio State)
- Scheduled 2 Power 5 Schools (3): Clemson (at Georgia, South Carolina), Louisville (Kentucky, at Notre Dame), Syracuse (Maryland, vs. Notre Dame)
- Scheduled 3 Power 5 Schools (1): Florida State (vs. Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Florida)
Big 12: At 10 teams and nine conference games, the Big 12 plays the fewest non-conference games of any Power 5 conference (30). As a result, the Big 12 plays only 8 FCS teams, but the 27% rate at which they play them is the highest of any league. 33% of their non-conference games are against Power 5 conferences, also the highest of any league. They have essentially replaced a Group of 5 game with a conference foe. Baylor is the only team not playing a Power 5 team, their non-conference schedule featuring SMU, Northwestern State, and Buffalo.
- Scheduled 0 FCS Schools (2): Oklahoma, Texas
- Scheduled 1 FCS School (8): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, West Virginia
- Scheduled 0 Power 5 Schools (1): Baylor
- Scheduled 1 Power 5 School (8): Iowa State (at Iowa), Kansas (at Duke), Kansas State (Auburn), Oklahoma (Tennessee), Oklahoma State (vs. Florida State), Texas (vs. UCLA), TCU (Minnesota), Texas Tech (Arkansas)
- Scheduled 2 Power 5 Schools (1): West Virginia (vs. Alabama, at Maryland)
Big Ten: The Big Ten is the only Power 5 conference to not play a conference game through Week 2 (that will change with Penn State at Rutgers in Week 3). For better or worse, the non-conference slate is controlling the entire narrative as long as that is the case. 20% of non-conference games are vs. FCS teams, while 30% are against Power 5 teams. 11 of the 17 games vs. Power 5 teams are on the road or at a neutral site. The Big Ten plays 11 games vs. the MAC, with 10 coming on Big Ten campuses.
- Scheduled 0 FCS Schools (3): Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State
- Scheduled 1 FCS School (11): Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin
- Scheduled 0 Power 5 Schools (1): Penn State
- Scheduled 1 Power 5 School (9): Illinois (at Washington), Indiana (at Missouri), Michigan State (at Oregon), Minnesota (at TCU), Nebraska (Miami-FL), Ohio State (Virginia Tech), Purdue (vs. Notre Dame), Rutgers (at Washington State), Wisconsin (vs. LSU)
- Scheduled 2 Power 5 Schools (4): Iowa (Iowa State, at Pittsburgh), Maryland (West Virginia, at Syracuse), Michigan (at Notre Dame, Utah), Northwestern (California, at Notre Dame)
Pac-12: The Pac-12 is one of two conferences playing nine conference games. The Pac-12 has more teams (4) not playing an FCS than any other Power 5 conference. Arizona and Colorado are the only two FBS teams to play all their non-conference games against teams from the Group of 5.
- Scheduled 0 FCS Schools (4): Arizona, Colorado, UCLA, USC
- Scheduled 1 FCS School (8): Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Utah, Washington, Washington State
- Scheduled 0 Power 5 Schools (3): Arizona, Colorado, Oregon State
- Scheduled 1 Power 5 School (7): Arizona State (Notre Dame), California (at Northwestern), Oregon (Michigan State), Stanford (at Notre Dame), Utah (at Michigan), Washington (Illinois), Washington State (vs. Rutgers)
- Scheduled 2 Power 5 Schools (2): UCLA (at Virginia, vs. Texas), USC (Boston College, Notre Dame)
SEC: The SEC has the lowest rate of games against Power 5 conference opponents (20%) and the highest rate of games against teams from the Group of 5 (55%). 9 of the 14 games against FCS teams will come after October 11. The SEC is playing in 9 of the 13 FCS games after that same date. It’s called scheduling strategy – the SEC has made a decision to spread their games out. They are the lone conference doing so. Spreading out the non-conference games is clearly helping an already powerful conference.
- Scheduled 0 FCS Schools (0):
- Scheduled 1 FCS School (14): Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
- Scheduled 0 Power 5 Schools (4): Mississippi, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
- Scheduled 1 Power 5 School (9): Alabama (vs. West Virginia), Arkansas (at Texas Tech), Auburn (at Kansas State), Florida (at Florida State), Kentucky (at Louisville), LSU (vs. Wisconsin), Missouri (Indiana), South Carolina (at Clemson), Tennessee (at Oklahoma)
- Scheduled 2 Power 5 Schools (1): Georgia (Clemson, Georgia Tech)
In a vacuum, determining the quality of each conference is truly inconclusive. We’re dealing with a total of 38 head-to-head games (and 10 of those include Notre Dame) by which to rank these conferences. These games aren’t even necessarily one conference’s top team vs. another conference’s top teams. They are scheduled far in advance and are often mismatches (the average margin is 12.6 PPG through 10 games, with six of 10 games decided by 10 points or less).
There are two main reasons why teams have reduced scheduling power teams:
- A team must get six wins to reach a bowl game: In order to hit that number, teams have scheduled wins. What if bowl selection criteria also rewarded strength of schedule? There were several 5-7 and 4-8 teams in 2013 that were ranked better in the KPI than some 6-6 teams due to more difficult schedules. Bowl eligibility rewards wins regardless of the opponent.
- Schools insist on seven home games: Neutral site games are becoming more prominent for bigger schools. A true home and home series is becoming less financially fruitful. 44 Power 5 conference teams played seven or more home games in 2013. The only schools to play six true road games in 2013 were five Pac-12 schools (Arizona, Oregon State, UCLA, USC, and Washington State), two ACC schools (Boston College, Wake Forest), and one Big 12 school (Iowa State). Six of those eight played nine conference games.
A selection committee was a big step in the right direction to compel teams to play better opponents. Rewarding strength of schedule and win quality for bowl selection rather than “six wins” is the other part to the equation.
Top 10 Games in Week 3, ranked by G-Score (Note: G-Score data from the 2013 is also factored for now). The full TV schedule can be found here.
- Georgia at South Carolina: Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
- Central Florida at Missouri: Saturday 12 p.m. ET/11 a.m. CT, SEC Network
- UCLA vs. Texas (Arlington, TX): Saturday 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT, FOX
- Tennessee at Oklahoma: Saturday 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT, ABC
- East Carolina at Virginia Tech: Saturday 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
- Rice at Texas A&M: Saturday 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT, ESPN2
- Nebraska at Fresno State: Saturday 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT, CBS Sports Network
- Texas-San Antonio at Oklahoma State: Saturday 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT, FSN
- USC at Boston College: Saturday 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
- Houston at BYU: Thursday 9 p.m. ET/7 p.m. MT, ESPN
Conference Rankings (as of September 11, 2014)
- SEC (22-4/.846 Overall, 19-1/.950 Non-Conf), .109
- ACC (22-5/.815 Overall, 20-3/.870 Non-Conf), .066
- Pac-12 (20-4/.833 Overall, 19-3/.864 Non-Conf), .051
- Big Ten (20-7/.741 Overall, 20-7/.741 Non-Conf), .041
- Big 12 (13-5/.722 Overall, 12-4/.750 Non-Conf), .010
- Conference USA (12-13/.480 Overall, 12-13/.480 Non-Conf), -.029
- Mountain West (11-13/.458 Overall, 9-11/.450 Non-Conf), -.031
- Sun Belt (11-8/.579 Overall, 9-6/.600 Non-Conf), -.032
- American (7-12/.368 Overall, 6-11/.353 Non-Conf), -.121
- MAC (11-14/.440 Overall, 10-13/.435 Non-Conf), -.121
Week 3 is littered with 14 Power 5-Power 5 games (5 of which are conference games), seven FBS-FCS games and a slew of matchups between Power 5 and Group of 5 teams (37 to be exact). Enjoy the weekend!