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Schedule complaints might have been premature

Oct 27, 2009, 7:30 AM EDT

I’ve been quietly keeping an eye on Notre Dame’s strength of schedule ever since it became socially acceptable to blast the 2009 slate. From the beginning, I never really saw the issue with it. Taken game by game, the Irish may have avoided a schedule packed with top five teams, but as we’ve seen as this season has played out, every single team on the schedule could beat Notre Dame, a statement that not many top 25 teams can make.

Sure enough, as the schedule actually plays itself out, my hunch has turned out to be correct. Jeff Sagarin, scheduling guru for USA Today, has the Irish schedule ranked 17th hardest in college football. In this week’s BCS standings, Notre Dame has the seventh most difficult schedule among the BCS top 25. The Notre Dame sports information department points out that five teams in the BCS top 11 have a schedule ranked 61st or lower. In other words, those cupcakes Notre Dame allegedly had scheduled? They haven’t been so soft after all.

Again, I’m not saying that this Notre Dame schedule has been the minefield that Irish teams have had to navigate in the past, I’m just saying that frankly — it doesn’t pay to navigate them. Today’s college football landscape dictates the type of teams you need to play if you want to compete for BCS bids. While supporters of teams like Florida may point to the upcoming meat-grinder that is SEC conference play, consider the road ahead for the Irish.

I’m not going to even try to make a case for Washington State, but you shouldn’t have to apologize for playing a team in the nation’s deepest conference in a neutral site. And ask Ohio State or Wake Forest if they should underestimate the Midshipmen. Pitt sits at 7-1 and looks as dangerous as they have been in years, while UConn and Stanford both present more than just a challenge for the Irish as they go down the stretch. Away games at Heinz Field and the Farm looking to be critical late season games for the Irish, and if the Irish win out, there should be no apologizing for accepting a deserved BCS bid.

This isn’t a post to validate Notre Dame’s new scheduling philosophies or to subtly defend newly schedule games from teams that hail from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Rather it’s just a reminder that in today’s college football landscape, it doesn’t pay to make assumptions about a team’s schedule.

(Even if there’s nothing else to talk about all summer…)

  1. Todd Maloney - Oct 27, 2009 at 3:55 PM

    EVERYBODY, with the exception of maybe Lou Holtz, was talking trash about Notre Dame’s cupcake schedule. Good Article. Its about time someone spoke up about this.

  2. Sharkey - Oct 27, 2009 at 6:59 PM

    This is what the BCS and has done to college football. Instead of teams playing each other to prove themselves, politics and people’s opinions (voting who is the best) has replaced competition.
    Why would someone schedual a competitive team outside their conference? They need the weaker conferences to pad their stats for the computer. They, the schools and AD’s, won’t take the chance of a loss outside what they have to play. The risk of loss of rank and potential money provided by bowl games is just too great. Every team is now padding their scheduals with easy wins. #1 Florida has 3 1A schools and only one Division 1 school (Fla. ST) this year outside the SEC.
    Bowl games should return to exhibition games where sponsers invite teams people want to see, not what this system and sports casters say/vote what is best.

  3. Mike - Oct 27, 2009 at 7:08 PM

    Great post. If only the “powers that be” had your common sense.

  4. paul - Oct 27, 2009 at 10:47 PM

    Sharkey nailed it, and then just blew it. “bowl games should return to exhibition ……..”. Continue with your logic. You were almost there.

  5. paul - Oct 27, 2009 at 10:50 PM

    Sharkey nailed it, and then just blew it. “bowl games should return to exhibition ……..”. Continue with your logic. You were almost there. there needs to be a playoff. Then who cares about who writers think are the best, as it will be settled on field. Just like in all other levels of college football, where the players are even more student, and less athlete(the too much class time missed argument is a joke).

  6. Rob - Oct 28, 2009 at 8:52 AM

    I think anyone who is critical of the schedule needs to get with the times. Like some of the other commenters said, the currect BCS system mandates that teams are not rewarded for taking risks in scheduling difficult games outside of conference play. While the Irish don’t play in a traditional “conference” they do have traditional opponents that they play pretty much every year that are a very good line-up and would compare favorably to a line-up of conference opponents from, say, a Big 10 perspective. Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Southern Cal, Boston College, Stanford, Navy, and Pittsburgh are all very good programs who are for the most part regular participants in bowl games over the past 10 years. Since the majority of games are scheduled far in advance, it makes it difficult to predict who will be good in 5 years. I’d be willing to be that when the Irish signed up for the series with Washington, they expected that program to be fairly solid, not the mess created by Ty. The Irish can’t be responsible for the mismanagement of other programs. I’m all for scheduling the occasional cream puff to build confidence, especially in the season opener, and sprinkled through the regular schedule as well. Nothing wrong with winning 49-7 every once in a while.

  7. gregizzo - Oct 28, 2009 at 10:02 AM

    This article is great! To anyone who reads this post would a win over Pitt be considered a quality victory for Charlie? They are in the top 25 and 7-1 I think.

  8. Geetah - Oct 28, 2009 at 3:49 PM

    I cannot endorse this article. It is definitely not over-caffeinated. I own my own business so I can tell you that in order to have people respect your writing, you better be prepared to spread misinformation (all through anonymous sources) and muster up as much pomposity as you can.

  9. Chase Bigham - Oct 28, 2009 at 11:50 PM

    I love this article!! Thank you for speaking what has been on my mind all season. Enough of the schedule bashing, Notre Dame does not have a cupcake schedule at all.
    Every team they play this year (with the exception of Nevada and Washington State) are nationally respected programs hailing from power conferences. As Arnold pointed out, even WSU belongs to a loaded Pac-10. Navy is an independent, but they are one of the strongest opponents ND must face in my opinion. They might not all be BCS-tier teams, but they are certainly quality opponents not to be overlooked by ANYONE.
    Good article.

  10. Planning and scheduling - Dec 7, 2009 at 2:19 PM

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