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Never, Ever Schedule Good Teams

By Jim Johnson
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Georgia announced today that it will play a home and home with Florida State in 2027 and 2028, and confirmed a second home and home with Clemson in 2032 and 2033.

Georgia announced today that it will play a home and home with Florida State in 2027 and 2028, and confirmed a second home and home with Clemson in 2032 and 2033. That means the Bulldogs’ non-conference schedule over the next decade-and-a-half will include:

2022: Oregon, Kent State & GT
2024: Clemson (in Atlanta) & GT
2025: at UCLA & at GT
2026: UCLA & GT
2027: at FSU & at GT
2028: FSU, at Texas & GT
2029: Texas, at Clemson & at GT
2030: Clemson & GT
2032: Clemson & GT
2033: at Clemson & at GT

That doesn’t even include the second leg of a home and home that will see Notre Dame travel to Athens in 2019. For fans, this is a good thing. For the media, this is a good thing. For UGA (and Oregon and Clemson and UCLA and Florida State and Texas), this is stupid.

With programs like Georgia and Clemson, and programs that Oregon, Florida State, and Texas used to be and hope to be again, the goal is national titles. In order to win national titles, one must first make the College Football Playoff. Now, the CFP selection committee has been inconsistent in their actual criteria, intellectually dishonest in their actions relative to their stated goal, and by and large lives in a house of lies, however, they have been consistent in one thing: non-conference schedules don’t matter.

They say they pick the four best teams every year. They don’t. I’m not even sure they pick the four most deserving either, though. In reality, it seems to be some nebulous combination of the two that changes from one season to the next.

Sometimes conference championships matter, which they shouldn’t beyond serving as another data point, like when TCU and Baylor were left out in 2014, but sometimes they don’t, like when Ohio State was selected in 2016, or Alabama in 2017.

All they actually seem to care about is records, in spite of the abundance of information and proliferation of more nuanced college football analysis, like it’s 1919, not 2019. Well, unless it’s an unbeaten Group of Five school. They don’t care about those records at all.

Here are the non-conference schedules of every CFP team so far:

2014 Alabama: West Virginia (7-6), FAU (3-9), Southern Miss (3-9), FCS Western Carolina
2014 Oregon: FCS South Dakota, #5 Michigan State (11-2), Wyoming (4-8)
2014 Florida State: Oklahoma State (7-6), FCS The Citadel, Notre Dame (8-5), Florida (7-5)
2014 Ohio State: Navy (8-5), Virginia Tech (7-6), Kent State (2-9), Cincinnati (9-4)

2015 Clemson: FCS Wofford, App State (11-2), #11 Notre Dame (10-3), South Carolina (3-9)
2015 Alabama: #21 Wisconsin (10-3), Middle Tennessee (7-6), ULM (2-11), FCS Charleston Southern
2015 Michigan State: Western Michigan (8-5), #19 Oregon (9-4), Air Force (8-6), Central Michigan (7-6)
2015 Oklahoma: Akron (8-5), #22 Tennessee (9-4), Tulsa (6-7)

2016 Alabama: #5 USC (10-3), #23 Western Kentucky (11-3), Kent State (3-9), FCS Chattanooga
2016 Clemson: #22 Auburn (8-5), Troy (10-3), FCS South Carolina State, South Carolina (6-7)
2016 Ohio State: Bowling Green (4-8), Tulsa (10-3), #5 Oklahoma (11-2)
2016 Washington: Rutgers (2-10), Idaho (9-4), FCS Portland State

2017 Clemson: Kent State (2-10), #10 Auburn (10-4), FCS The Citadel, South Carolina (9-4)
2017 Oklahoma: UTEP (0-12), #5 Ohio State (12-2), Tulane (5-7)
2017 Georgia: App State (9-4), #11 Notre Dame (10-3), FCS Samford, Georgia Tech (5-6)
2017 Alabama: Florida State (7-6), Fresno State (10-4), Colorado State (7-6), FCS Mercer

2018 Alabama: Louisville (2-10), Arkansas State (8-5), Louisiana (7-7), FCS The Citadel
2018 Clemson: FCS Furman, #16 Texas A&M (9-4), Georgia Southern (10-3), South Carolina (7-6)
2018 Notre Dame: *technically every game is a non-conference game for Notre Dame since the cowards won’t join a conference so we will just ignore them even though it helps my argument because their schedule was a breeze*
2018 Oklahoma: FAU (5-7), UCLA (3-9), #19 Army (11-2)

So, in the five years since the institution of the playoff, the 20 different selections have played a total of 70 non-conference games. Just 13 of those were against teams that finished the season in either the AP, Coaches, or CFP committee’s top 25. Since the committee doesn’t seem to acknowledge G5 schools, it’s also worth noting that only 25 of the 70 were against fellow power conference programs, less than half of which were ranked. Basically 17% of all of the CFP teams’ non-conference games have been against P5 teams that finished the season ranked, less than one per year per team. And merely three of the 70 came against top ten teams.

Plus, some of those games aren’t even up to schools, like FSU or Clemson’s games with Notre Dame because of the Irish’s ACC ties, or some of the annual cross-conference rivalries like Georgia-Georgia Tech.

As superficial as it may be, the committee primarily looks at wins and losses. They may say otherwise, but actions speak louder than words. They have, thus far, selected six undefeated teams, 14 one-loss teams, and no two-loss teams.

It’s hard enough to go unbeaten, or even to lose only once, in college football. Why make it more difficult than it needs to be?

If the selection is going to keep lying about picking the four best teams while they actually do the laziest thing ever and just pick the four power five teams with the best record, teams ought to return the favor.

Don’t work hard against other contenders just to go 10-2 and get left out, even if you are one of the four best teams in the country, coast through a joke of a non-con, take care of business in league play, and go compete for a title.

It’s great for me that Georgia is going to play Florida State, Texas, and Clemson over a two year span a decade from now. It’s great for you that Georgia is going to play Florida State, Texas, and Clemson over a two year span a decade from now.

The only folks it’s not good for are the teams themselves.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP