As we prepare to spend the next 14 weeks listening to ESPN (et al.) talk about how brave Boise State is for scheduling two (TWO!!) BCS conference teams, I thought it'd be worth looking to see how their scheduling stacks up to, say, our schedule. I pulled the Sagarin predictive numbers for the season so far (doesn't include the VT/Boise game, I don't think), so we could do a little comparing.
If we just look at averages (which includes our game against 244th ranked Georgia State), the average Alabama opponent is around 62nd, while the average Boise State opponent is around 79th. Of course, averages are notorious for being able to be dragged away by outliers, and two of the ways to get rid of those are with trimmed means (only averaging the middle X%) and medians. In this case, rather remarkably, the 90% trimmed mean and the Median are actually identical for both teams: Alabama's is 34 while Boise's is 62. (Which goes to show you that the Georgia State game kinda kills our strength of schedule).
Of course, it's so early that those numbers are pretty worthless (for example: Mississippi State is ranked #18 while Penn State is only 23rd and Arkansas is 46th), so I thought a more fun way to measure would be strength on strength! I sorted the teams by their sagarin rating so we can see how they compare down the stretch. These are also somewhat skewed by the rankings, but as you'll soon see, it hardly matters:
- South Carolina -- Virginia Tech
- Florida -- Fresno State
- LSU -- Oregon State
- Mississippi State -- Idaho
- Penn State -- Utah State
- Tennessee -- Nevada
- Auburn -- Hawaii
- Arkansas -- Louisiana Tech
- Duke -- Wyoming
- Ole Miss -- San Jose State
- Georgia State -- Toledo
So, if you take a look at that, you can see some places where the sagarin right now doesn't match reality, but outside of the Georgia State game, I'm not sure there's a single time the team on the left wouldn't be a tougher match up than the team on the right.
Virginia Tech might have the edge over South Carolina, although after tonight's game I doubt it.
I'll keep the list up to date from week to week since the numbers will get significantly more accurate as the season progresses, but, gosh, if you can't go undefeated with Boise's schedule, do you even deserve a crappy bowl game?
It all serves to illustrate one of the more frustrating points of schedule arguments: people looove to toss out the conference schedule as unimportant and focus on the 3-4 games a year that aren't written in stone, which is silly, because your conference slate comprises 75% of your games.
PS: Next time you hear someone say "It's not boise's fault they have a crappy conference" ask them this: if they can't be blamed for being a part of the WAC, how can they be given credit for "moving up" the MWC? Bottom line is that Boise was in the WAC by choice, so, yeah, you can blame them for playing a crappy schedule.