Fremeau Efficiency Ratings
College football power ratings and analysis

FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

by Brian Fremeau

The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) was introduced to Football Outsiders last season, and the details of its principles and methodology can be found here. Like DVOA, FEI rewards playing well against good teams, win or lose, and punishes losing to poor teams more harshly than it rewards defeating poor teams. Unlike DVOA, it is drive-based, not play-by-play based, and it is specifically engineered to measure the college game.

This 2007 college football season preview will not include an analysis of the percentage of offense your favorite team lost to last year's NFL draft. It will not include a discussion of coaching changes or hot seats. It will not appear on your local newsstand featuring a regional Heisman hopeful. And it will not cast a single vote in a preseason poll.

The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), in fact, was never designed to preview college football before the bands take the field. According to its principles, the best teams in college football can best be determined by collecting and weighting the Game Efficiency results of games played in a given season. Such a retrodictive rating may very well help predict the outcome of late-season games and bowl games, but given the cycle of recruiting classes and coaching changes that seemingly shift the balance of power in college football every year, how reliable could FEI be in forecasting next-year results?

As it turns out, one of the most significant differences between the NFL and major college football is precisely the nature of their respective balances of power. The NFL deliberately fosters parity through the salary cap, scheduling, and the draft. In college, the elite of the BCS conferences fiercely feed their own power through recruiting prowess, lucrative television contracts, and control over scheduling. College rosters may include new starters at virtually every position every two years, but the correlation of year-to-year wins in college football (.59) is far stronger than that in the NFL (.24). Even stronger in college football are the year-to-year correlations of Pythagorean wins (.67) and FEI (.76).

Given the consistency of FEI ratings year to year, how much faith can be placed in previous-year FEI data to forecast next-year game outcomes in college football? Calculating the percent of next-year games won by teams with superior previous-year ratings (Forecasted Winning Percentage) produces the results found in Table 1. As a reference point, the accuracy of the weekly wagering line in picking game winners over the same period is also provided.

Table 1: Forecasted Winning Percentage, 2004-2006
Season Weeks 1-7 Weeks 8-14
PYTH Y-1 67% 69% 65%
FEI Y-1 69% 71% 67%
Weekly Line 75% 76% 74%

Forget depth charts, returning starters, coaching vacancies, off-field incidents, injury updates, new coordinators, and redshirts for now. There won't be many questions as to who will populate the top of the national scene until the season's second half. The games themselves, however, will be noticeably impacted from the outset by two significant rule changes made this past off-season.

The first change retracts last year's controversial rule dealing with the game clock and changes of possession, one that aided clock-killing situations for teams in the lead, left many coaches scratching their heads in critical situations and spurred fan angst all season long. The biggest knock against the 2006 rule was the apparent loss of football. Indeed, the average game lost approximately 14 plays and 1.5 possessions last season. The 2007 rule change should restore those plays and possessions, but will it actually improve the games themselves? The average margin of victory in games was reduced by almost four percent from 2005 to 2006, and the total percentage of games decided by 16 points (two possessions) or fewer increased by three percent last year. The 2006 rule may have caused more confusion for coaching staffs, but it also seems to have created more competitive contests. College football fans may get more football in 2007, but more of it may be garbage-time football.

The most significant new rule change moves the kickoff in college football from the 35-yard line to the 30. Undoubtedly, the number of kickoffs downed in the end zone will drop dramatically this season, likely resulting in more exciting returns and better average starting field position for offenses. Scoring across the country will likely get a boost from this rule, and not exclusively from the receiving teams. More kickoff returns will contribute to more turnovers on kickoff returns, too, giving opponents more opportunities for short field possessions going the other way. The average starting field position for offensive drives in 2006 was the 30-yard line, and Figure 1 illustrates the success rate of scoring in college football from every starting position on the field last season.

Figure 1: Offensive Efficiency from Field Position (2006)
Efficiency = ( Points / 7 ) / Possessions
Figure 2: Offensive Efficiency from Field Position (2006)

I will be keeping track of the effects of the new kickoff position on my site throughout the season. Fans in the stadium may be swept up in the excitement of the returns themselves, but should pay even more attention to the resulting field position. Game Efficiency and FEI are built on individual drive success, and the new kickoff rule may dramatically impact those results in 2007.

Preseason Forecasts

As mentioned above, FEI is not interested in casting a vote in a preseason poll. The judgment of voters in late-season polls is often too heavily influenced by preseason poll position, and the tendency of voters to anchor teams to positions throughout the season aggravates the problem. That said, like FEI forecasts, the AP and USA Today preseason polls tend to reinforce the power balance in college football at the top rather than challenge it, and thus project pretty much the same teams for elite success in 2007. To produce the FEI forecasted records for 2007 listed below, I combined FEI data from the past two seasons to project the game outcomes for the first half of the season. This projection method produced a 72.8 percent record in selecting winners over Weeks 1-7 in 2005 and 2006.

The top eleven teams in the country according to the AP and USA Today polls are expected to perform well over the first half of the season, losing only games scheduled against other top-eleven teams.

(Alphabetically, with projected record on Oct. 14):
Florida (4-1)
Louisville (7-0)
LSU (7-0)
Michigan (7-0)
Ohio State (7-0)
Oklahoma (6-1)
Texas (7-0)
USC (6-0)
Virginia Tech (5-1)
West Virginia (6-0)
Wisconsin (6-0)

Outside of the top eleven, however, FEI disagrees with the preseason polls about the likely fortunes of several ranked or unranked teams:

Auburn (No. 18 AP, No. 14 USA Today)
FEI Forecasted Record on Oct. 14: (6-1)

BYU (Unranked AP, Unranked USA Today)
FEI Forecasted Record on Oct. 14: (6-0)

Notre Dame (Unranked AP, Unranked USA Today)
FEI Forecasted Record on Oct. 14: (5-2)

UCLA (No. 14 AP, No. 17 USA Today)
FEI Forecasted Record on Oct. 14: (3-3)

Penn State (No. 17 AP, No. 18 USA Today)
FEI Forecasted Record on Oct. 14: (4-3)

Florida State (No. 19 AP, No. 21 USA Today)
FEI Forecasted Record on Oct. 14: (3-3)

The first published FEI Ratings for 2007 are scheduled to appear here on Football Outsiders in mid-October, at which time it will be open season on these FEI forecast hits and misses. Until then, feel free to drop me a line here at FO, or visit my site for drive efficiency data throughout the first half of the season.


84 comments, Last at 16 Oct 2007, 2:42pm

1 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

Too much cupcake nonconference scheduling really drives down my interest in college football, and the trend towards talented teams having more home games than road games, despite a 12 game season, just aggravates the problem. For the life of me, I can't understand why someone who really enjoys the game of football would have high interest in seeing their favorite team hammmer a team with no hope of having comparable talent 63-7. It's worse than the NFL preseason; at least those games will feature a couple of series of comparably talented players competing.

A well designed playoff system, which seeded conference champs, with an emphasis on non-conference strength of schedule, would be great for college football, at least for folks who prefer legitimate competition.

2 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

I think that most of the problem goes to the idea that the top team in the nation must be undefeated or, at worst, have one loss. That is highly improbable for any team facing a legitimate schedule, as some close game is bound to go the other way on occasion. But unless every team simultaneously stops the practice of scheduling 3 or 4 cupcakes at home per season, none will really have an incentive to, as strength of schedule considerations will always look less appealing than a higher win-loss record.

3 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview


I agree with you in the abstract, but without a playoff system, what incentive do top teams have for risking a BCS Championship slot by playing anyone good other than those they must in their league?

5 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

I'm surprised to see that Auburn is one of the teams forecasted to perform well, given that they were outgained in conference games last year. I haven't done, and don't have time right now to do, a detailed look at how Auburn did on each drive, but I would guess the Tigers were a good example of a good record/low DVOA team that benefited from non-predictive and unlikely to repeat events in close games.

6 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

They don't Purds, which is why it can be accurately stated that those who oppose a playoff system prefer extremely noncompetitive football. Yeah, there will be a few teams which occasionally avoid deliberate cupcake scheduling, but absent a playoff system, noncompetitive games in which the outcome is never in doubt, from the moment the schedule is made, will comprise a huge percentage of the college football season. Yawn.

7 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

Adding the 12th game isn't exactly helping things either since the 5 BCS conferences that didn't use it to add a conference game are almost all using it to play a 1-AA team or a team like Buffalo, who would probably be soundly beaten by some of those 1-AA teams. It's just making OOC schedules look even easier.

8 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

By the way, thanks for doing this, Brian. I think a lot of people (myself included) have been itching a bit for an FO-esque equivalent to college football. However it works, it makes for an interesting read.

9 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

A couple things I'm thinking about in terms of explaining non-competitive non-conference games.
1) The history of college football, as with other sports, is that the talent disparity between the very top and the middle was tremendous, such that even the backups at the bigger schools were just as talented, if not more so, than the starters at the bigger schools. Thus, the number of truly competitive potential opponents, even on a national basis, was quite small. Now, though, the P(loss) is increased across the board, and creates a greater sense of job risk. Schedule non-conference opponents thus is an attempt to regain some of those near-guaranteed wins and create a sort of baseline level of job security for coaches and ADs (call this the Glen Mason Hypothesis, if you wish, 8-4 (4-4) +/1 and a mediocre bowl every year).

2. It's all about the money. There are a couple things that go into this factor. If we see BCS v BCS non-conference games, this necessarily means we see more BCS v non-BCS non-conference games. Generally speaking, BCS teams have larger stadiums and sell more tickets than do non-BCS conference teams. BCS teams are able to pay non-BCS teams enough money to make it worth their while that from a monetary perspective both the BCS and non-BCS team are better off playing at the BCS stadium. This leads to greater revenue for both teams. This creates a powerful cross-subsidization effect, particularly given that at the lower half of I-A, football is not necessarily a money-making sport. This way, the Buffalo's and Florida International's of the world can remain I-A teams. This also helps build the quality of the game of football overall, and thus should have positive long run effects for the BCS teams at the top of I-A.

Seeing more BCS v BCS non-conference games means that (i) you loss the cross-subsidization effect, (ii) the individual BCS schools lose money compared to scheduling a non-BCS school, given the requirement for home-and-home, and (iii) college football as a whole loses from a revenue perspective. The ticket demand for Ohio State is big enough that people will pay full price for Appalachian State to get Michigan tickets. Playing Texas instead means just that there are additional rents being collected in the secondary market--playing BCS conference opponents doesn't really benefit the BCS athletic departments, but instead only benefits the season ticket holder (and John Q. Fan, but we're not necessarily that big a factor).

What this suggests, then, is that we should see BCS schools play mostly non-BCS schools who don't pose a serious threat, but we should also see a leavening of BCS v BCS matchups. I think the ideal schedule is something like what Ohio State has-2 non-conference games most years against BCS opponents, 1 of them on the road.

One other thing to keep in mind is that the addition of the 12th game was generally as a bye during the conference season. There's a classic prisoner's dilemma here w/r/t scheduling quality BCS teams for this week-it makes some sense if everybody is doing it, but if nobody's doing it, you can put yourself at a big risk by doing so.

Personally, my preference would be for 10-team conferences playing a full round-robin, with 1-2 non-conference games each year against BCS teams and the other 1-2 against non-BCS I-A teams. I'd also like my own pet unicorn.

10 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

NTT, my preference, in addition to the unicorn, would be to have an eight team playoff, comprised of conference champs only, the first playoff round played at the home fields of seeds 1-4, and seeding determined by, in order, 1) the highest quality non-conference wins, 2) highest quality competitive non-conference losses, with 3) huge credit subtracted for a loss to a low quality nonconference opponent.

Start the playoff the first or second Saturday in December, play the semifinals at traditional bowl sites on Jan. 1, with the big game seven days later. The conference games would be even more important than they are now, and teams would try very, very, hard to schedule high quality non-conference opponents.

11 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

Yeah I cannot enjoy college football at all for exactly the reasons Will stated. I like o read a synopsis of whats going on each week and thats about it.

This FEI stuff is making my 10:1!!!!!!!!!!! bet that Wisconsin makes a BCS bowl look rather good :)

Lots of interesting predictions. I will enjoy checking them on Oct. 14th.

12 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

I think a 4 team playoff is the only one that would work in the long run.

I think most teams are willing to avoid "cupcake" schedules. The addition of the 12 game sent some teams scrambling to add another game as it came at a later time-I think Alabama quickly got a one game deal with Duke. Though I do not agree with the idea that nonconference opponents should lessen a team's "seeding". The SEC is loaded this season, Vanderbilt is probably the 10th best team in the conference this season and honestly if it was placed in any other conference it would probably be in the top 5. Why should a SEC team weaken its chances at a national championship going through its conference week in and week out, if the other conferences are weaker.

I mean really who cares about the one or two nonconference games that are blowouts...they usually are not televised for the general public, they are usually a chance for a fan of lesser means to go see there favorite team live, the other team gets the chance to either play spoiler (see Northern Colorado) or add to its athletic department more money to make it better. For the most part SEC schools do schedule one or two solid non-conference games.

13 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

I dunno, lionsbob, but looking at the 2007 Florida schedule, for instance, and seeing that 25% of the schedule is comprised of games which are by design extremely noncompetitive, is not a strong selling point to me. Why not have more good football, instead of more bad football?

14 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

This projection method produced a 72.8 percent record in selecting winners over Weeks 1-7 in 2005 and 2006.

Can we please get away from using "prediction percentage" as a gauge of how good a metric is? It's not a good measure. At all.

Why? The best you can ever do with a single-order metric in football in college, long term, is about 75%. You can show this pretty easily by looking at the number of loops in a directed acyclic graph (something like if the game itself can't produce an ordered list ("A is better than B is better than C") without throwing out around 25% of the games, you definitely can't.

But ranking systems can tell you more than just "A is better than B." They can tell you how much better A is than B, and therefore what the chance is that A will beat B.

The point is this: one ranking system (R1) could predict 70% winners. One could predict 65% winners (R2), but the R2 metric could actually be better than the R1 system.

How? Easy. Imagine that the R1 metric said that the 30% losers had a 100% chance of winning. Imagine the R2 metric said that the 35% losers had a 51% chance of winning. The R2 metric is more accurately representing reality.

A better measure for a metric is probably mean error - that is, the predicted chance of the winner winning minus the actual winning percentage of the predicted winner. In this case, the R2 metric would have a significantly smaller error (assuming the error for the predicted games was the same).

15 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

Why not have more good football, instead of more bad football?

For the same reason the NFL needs preseason. The bad football produces good football.

16 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

Pat, I would hate it if the NFL cut back to a 12 game schedule, and I would hate it if the NFL teams played games which were designed to be noncompetitive after the regular season began. Why would that be a good state of affairs?

18 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

I see 3 "non-competive" games. Though Troy almost knocked off Florida State last year and has beaten Missouri a couple of years ago. Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic are bad as well. But hell the Florida-Ohio State game was a no contest either, USC-Oklahoma in 2004. If 2 bad games are going to upset you from watching college football (despite the fact that those games will not be televised on any major station) I am not sure what there is to be upset about....

19 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

Schools that play weaker skeds are punished by voters and computers. Wins over FAU and WKU not the same as OU and TxAM, for instance.

Secondly, the beauty of college football is that EVERY. GAME. COUNTS.

Tenn v Cal. Okla v Miami. LSU v Va Tech [wait, you mean there are strong OOC games?]

The loser is most likely out of the race. With a playoff, the game is much, MUCH less important.

Most of us like an exciting regular season where all 12 games really matter. That's an advantage CFB has over NFL.

Even with a unicorn, the 8-team playoff has the same weaknesses and biases. You could have 1-loss USC, CAL, UCLA, OSU, PSU, Mich, VaT, Miami, FSU, Ark, Fla, LSU, Okla, UT, Nebraska, ND, undefeated Boise and Utah, LVille, WVa, Rutgers.
B10 and P10 and BE don't have Conf Champ games at all. Do Utah and Boise get auto-invites over a 1-loss Mich or VT or USC teams? Ha.

20 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

"NTT, my preference, in addition to the unicorn, would be to have an eight team playoff, comprised of conference champs only, the first playoff round played at the home fields of seeds 1-4"

First, many teams do try their hardest to sked tough OOC opponents. It takes two to dance, and someone has to give up a home game.

Aside from students, fans, and alums not being able to sked on go on 3 trips cross-country, at the last minute:

Does ND get an invite? How?
Do Boise/Utah get autobids for their conference? Why them and not MAC/CUsa, etc?

What about conferences with no Conf champ game, how do you pick among 3 1-loss teams where A beat B beat C beat A?

Are you really taking a 9-3 team that beat an 11-0 team in the Conf title game? Why? Doesn't that invalidate the whole regular season in that conference? [And some of these end up being home games for a few lucky teams!]
Should Auburn have to win at GA, then do it again in the SEC title game? That makes no sense if you have 12-0 Auburn v 9-3 GA, for example.

"There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong."

21 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

#16, #17: I disagree, and I do think the situations are similar.

Does it suck that college football has such a short competitive schedule? Yeah, sure. But the teams insist they can't do any more. So fine, whatever. That's immaterial to the point of the schedule.

The need for a preseason, however, is, I think, independent of the length of the season. If college football tried to schedule 12 competitive football games, the first few would be bad (well - the powerhouse teams would look bad).

If the argument is "having only ~8 balanced games in a season sucks"... yeah, kinda.

22 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

Yes, Lionsbob, and 25% of the schedule is three games. Also, if you can't see the difference between trying to find noncompetitive teams to play, and greatly outperforming the Big Ten champs in the last game of the season, I guess I am not sure what you enjoy about football. I'm not "upset" about anything, I just don't like athletic entertainment as much when competitors purposely seek noncompetitive situations. If the NFL scheduled games with CFL rosters after September 1st, and those outcomes were included in the final w-l records, I wouldn't care for it much, and I think the talent gap between the typical CFL team and the typical NFL team is narrower than in the typical cupcake game that the major college football powers schedule.

23 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

I think that the 1-AA games should go (and at one time a team could only count a win over them like once every 4 seasons if they were in danger of not being bowl elgible...that rule has changed).

But the games against the Troy's and Directional Michigans of the world should stay. I am not sure how this hurts anyone involved or cheapens the game/outcome. I do see a difference between Florida smacking Troy around and Florida smacking Ohio State around, I don't think its enough to make me care about who a team schedules.

Though for the most part its the schools trying to make themselves into "big" programs that are notorious for this-look at Rutgers this year, Kansas State in the Bill Snyder years.

24 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

First, miami, by playing the first round at the higher seed's home field, there wouldn't be all that many tickets available for fans who wanted to travel in the first round, and selling them wouldn't be a problem.

Next, screw Notre Dame. They can join a conference or have their season end in November.

I'm quite happy to have conferences choose their champions in whatever manner they wish, and with only the champ advancing, I'm pretty sure that the alumni will demand that it is done as well as possible.

If somebody is unhappy that only eight conference champs make it, because it leaves out three conference champs, fine, let all 11 in, and have one at- large bid, with seeds 1-4 getting a bye in round one.

25 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

Pat, why would the football played between Wisconsin and Arkansas in early September be more bad than the football between played between Wisconsin and Southern Illinois in early September? Why is the latter game preferable to the former?

26 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

I actually think the early games between contenders are worse than those played later in the season. I see much more sloppy play early on than later.

27 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

Sure, but why would you prefer a game between a contender and a team without talent early in the season to a game between two contenders early in the season?

28 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

We do get this: we get LSU-Virginia Tech, we get Cal-Tennessee, we get Oklahoma St-Georgia, we get USC-Nebraska, etc.. Should all BCS teams play only BCS teams for their non-conference schedule? That would be pretty crappy to me, half the fun is seeing the Maine's of the world beat Mississippi State or Northern Illinois beat Alabama (Ok that was not fun..)

29 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

lionsbob, the fact that there are 50 blowouts for every big upset kind of keeps it down below "half the fun". I'll trade thirty or forty games with a chance to be competitive for a single unforseen upset.

30 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

Will, you have some good points, and you obviously feel very strongly about this so I won't argue too much. I do want to point out that when you say things like "why have non competitive football in the regular season," one (not the only, but one) answer is that college has no preseason. Many of the cupcake games are early in the year and are treated as preseason games by the coaches of the power program--starters get a tune-up, position battles are settled, 3rd stringers get to see the field some. Of course, not every power program plays cupcakes and not every cupcake game is early in the year. The ncaa really screwed up adding the 12th game; only the pac-10 did something useful with it and turned it into a 9th conference game. Most others use it as a revenue generating home cupcaker (the small schools are happy to take their 500,000 dollar check and the beating, too).

Anyway, this is already longer than intended, but some good news is though the change is slow I think we are seeing a move towards non conference schedule strength being more and more important. It cost unbeaten Auburn a shot at the 2004 title. Florida, who you mentioned earlier as an example of overloading on easy games (and this year, it's true) plays Hawaii at home and Miami on the road in 2008.

....I guess what I'm saying is, you can always find an example of an 8 game home schedule like Florida or Michigan this year, but that's becoming less and less "acceptable" to voters, I think (hope).

A side note, the list of quality non-conference games this year is amazing to me. A few off the top of my head:

31 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

For the life of me, I can’t understand why someone who really enjoys the game of football would have high interest in seeing their favorite team hammmer a team with no hope of having comparable talent 63-7.

Because we want to see our teams win?

32 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

#31, would you then favor your team playing junior colleges? Better high school teams? Nine-man teams?

I should clarify a bit. I'd feel less strongly about this if the typical talent gap between the best and worst teams within each conference was narrower. That gap is often very wide, however, so after you factor 3 nonconference cupcakes, now you are often down to six games where there is something approximating competitive talent, spread out over three months. That seems pretty sparse to me.

34 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

Not much, as far as entertaining athletic competition. Look, unless one is simply enthralled by laundry alone, it seems to me that having entertaining athletic competition begins with the talent levels of the competitors being within shouting distance of each other. Otherwise, ya' may as well just be watching soap operas.

35 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

or an Oakland Raiders game.

talent level is important in college football. But really Wake Forest won the ACC last year and I would say in terms of actual talent they were above Duke. Is every team going to be Wake Forest. No. are there going to be some blow outs yes. Hell USC beat Arkansas 50-14 last season....I am not sure where they rank on your "comparative talent" ranking while Florida State had to stage a comeback to barely beat Troy.

I do think the 1-AA games have to go, but other then that its free game. And I do think teams get penalized in the long run for who they play non-conference wise (see Auburn 2004)

36 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview


Whats that supposed to mean? Maybe you haven't heard, but this is 2007 now. Raiders not worst team in divsion. anymore. Chiefs now wosrt team in AFc West. Broncos also maybe worse. but definitely Raiders passed Chiefs.
Maybe you can say Falcons and Lions, Chiefs, Bills, Browns, Giants, and some other teams are like watching soap operas.

I got news for you. Draft Raiders players for your fantasy team. Wr R Curry going to have huge season. D Culpepper going to put up great numbers.
Raiders probably be 10-6 this season and compete for SuperBowl in 2008.

37 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

Hey, I'm all for freedom. I just like to have the right incentives in place. I'm not an antitraditionalist, either, which is one reasom why I want to make winning the conference championship so important; the real traditions of college football for the most part are comprised in the conference races. Fifty years ago, winning the Big Ten or SEC was everything, and if you happened to have the AP sportswriters vote you national champs as well, well, that was a terrific add-on.

Now, the demands of revenue procurement means that post conference schedule games are going to be the most important, thus it seems to me that college football may as well maximize December and January t.v. revenue with a playoff, while keeping the conference races extremely important, while giving extremely strong incentives for teams to have as difficult a nonconference schedule as possible. In terms of attracting eyeballs, which really is the best comparative measure of how well you are entertaining people, it seems to me that my proposal would easily win out over what exists now.

38 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

I don't think the talent difference between Vanderbilt and Florida last year was any greater than the difference between, say, Oakland and San Diego.

Also, one reason that powerhouse schools mostly schedule cupcakes at the start of the season is that while the games may function as a preseason, they also count. Besides, early season matchups between good teams are usually blowouts or slopfests; neither is more edifying than a cupcake bashing, and both are much more likely to knock out a quality contender before it gets its feet wet.

39 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

peachy, the SEC last year, in terms of disparity of talent between top and bottom was very atypical for a BCS conference, and even then I think the spread in talent between Vanderbilt and Florida was larger than between the Chargers and the Raiders, who really are quite talented on defense.

Yes, I undertand the incentive to schdule cupcakes. That was the point of my posts; the incentives are poorly designed. I'm trying to understand why a football fan would prefer to watch inferior talent.

40 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview


Difference bettween Vanerdbilt and Florida much greater than difference between Raiders and Chargers. Raiders almost beat Chargers in second game they played in 2006. Raiders easily could have been 6-10 or 7-9 last year with a couple of breaks. Really played most of their opopnents tough, just some bad breaks here and there,. Didn't even try in final game against Jets. Raiders at that point wanted to secure #1 pick so they could draft LSU QB Jamarcus Russell who Al Davis said going to be next John Elway.
Jets wouldn't have made playoffs if Raiders tried in week 17 last year, cause Raiders were better team than Jets last year.

Final word for this post is that difference between Raiders and Chargers not great. Difference between Vanerd ilt and Floirida pretty big.

41 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

Vanderbilt almost beat Florida 2 years in a row (probably should have beat them in 2005..) and Vanderbilt would have won more games last season if a few more breaks (They lost a game to Ole Miss where they outgained them in yards 3 to 1).

and the only football fan who likes watching a game against a team with inferior talent-is when its their team with the most talent. no one else has to watch those games, they are not televised nationally-they are there to be an "easy" win for one program and gives money to the lesser program.

42 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

I guess my point, lionbob, is that it is not in the long term interests of the NCAA and conferences to design schedules with games that have such extremely narrow appeal. Why sell to a million people, when you can sell to 10 million people?

It really is a mistake to view Vandy from last year as a typical BCS conference cellar-dweller.

43 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

I don't understand how adding a playoff system of the sort you favor would counteract the powerful monetary incentives that encourage BCS v non-BCS non-conference games I describe in #10. We already have a playoff of a sort, and I have a hard time imagining 4, 8, 12 or 16 team playoff would increase revenues over the existing bowl season so dramatically as to offset all those gains.

44 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

Sure, but why would you prefer a game between a contender and a team without talent early in the season to a game between two contenders early in the season?

Because I'd prefer that games between contenders only occur late in the season, when both teams are playing well.

45 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

NTT, I think you entirely underestimate the revenue potential of a college playoff, along with the increased rights fees that come with Wisconsin playing Arkansas instead of Southern Illinois.

Pat, why not have teams with talent play throughout the season? Why do you suppose that watching untalented players is better than watching talented players on certain dates? Do you suppose that watching talented players on September 1st somehow precludes you from seeing talented players on October 15th? Or that watching untalented players on September 1st increases your odds of seeing talented players on October 15th? The conference schedules are what they are, and scheduling talented nonconference teams instead of untalented ones isn't going to affect the conference schedule at all.

Similarly, is there some reason to think that scheduling of nonconference opponents is somehow dependent? That is, that talented teams which have strong incentives for scheduling each other in the nonconference matchups won't be able to do so, if they first play a good nonconference game on September 1st?

46 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

Vanderbilt has played Florida fairly tight for much of the recent games. Their defense often over-performs, while Kentucky's offense recently has kept games with Florida tighter than you might think. I think the weakest teams in the SEC often reside in Mississippi, although I do not remember how they fare against Vandy and Kentucky. According to Sagarin, Vandy (63) was about 40 spots lower than the closest team in the East, but was still about 10-15 spots better than the Mississippi teams. (Western Kentucky finished at #141)

A playoff will not discourage playing cupcakes. It could very well encourage playing cupcakes in the current BCS system. The most important aspect, without a doubt, is going without a loss or no more than 1 loss. A playoff system with the current BCS system might encourage this more for teams that are perceived to be strong.

Previous versions of the BCS ranking system placed more weight on strength of opponents and allowed margin of victory to be included. That would mean that Florida winning by a field goal against Western Kentucky would NOT be a good thing for Florida, but would be a good thing for Kentucky, despite the loss. Personally, I think the weighted BCS system (including Margin of Victory and Strength of Schedule, with the greatest weight on wins, combined with the Polls) is actually a better representation than just Wins and Losses. Who gets into the playoffs and who gets byes and home field advantage might rely on playing starters and doing well. Preseason games in the NFL could be used to feed the original rankings, while not counting towards the ending wins and losses.

Personally, I think the College System is a hair away from having a Bowl + 1 game. All of the normal bowls can be played, including Big 10 vs. Pac 10 in the Rose Bowl. Then a week or so later, we see the #1 and #2 teams (likely having played and won a major bowl game against an out of conference opponent) face off. The site could be moved each year. There would be a small advantage should the Rose Bowl winning team play the Championship Game in the Rose Bowl that year (no extra travel, more advantageous for LSU in Sugar Bowl or USC in Rose Bowl, obviously). However, I think this would satisfy all of the historical matchups and give an even more relevant Championship Game. Non-BCS conference teams migth still be seen in major bowls and might have a chance to play in the Championship Game.

47 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

One of the things that tends to get forgotten is that these are young men. And young men have bodies that are still developing. So while fans want to see every game be some titanic match-up I think a "mismatch" every so often works for all involved. The "lesser" team gets to test its mettle against a superior foe while the "greater" team gets something of a respite in anticipation of the real grind that may lay ahead. A live contact practice where they beat up on someone not a teammate.

Now folks can talk about how the lesser team still has its own conference schedule to face, etc. But does anyone think that facing I-AA competition inflicts the same level of abuse than playing an SEC schedule? Yes things are all relative and players still get injured but I just can't help but think that a series of "big" games would take a serious toll on young frames.

And that's not even trying to broach the mental fatigue of such a schedule.

I know the Wisconsin players have mentioned how they miss that weekend off before the league added a game.

Playing big-time football is stressful both physically and mentally. Having some "cupcakes" every so often isn't a terrible thing. And should one of those pushovers jump up and "bite someone" who is going to complain about THAT?

48 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview


The 2 Mississippi schools has the "poorest" athletic departments in the SEC (well Vanderbilt does not have one..). As well, while the state of Mississippi produces solid talent-its school system is so poor that I think the past couple years of the annual top 12 players only half qualify. Ole Miss overrecruits because many of its players do not qualify. One of their top prospects in 2004 Jerrel Powe still has not quailified.

49 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

Pete, if teams ruin their chances of getting a home playoff game by playing cupcakes, and losing competitively to high quality nonconference opponents helps the chances of getting a home playoff game, while not hurting the chances of making the playoff, teams will try hard to avoid cupcakes. If you really want to put the right incentives in place, have all 11 conference champs get in, with one at large bid, with the seeding, and first round bye, dependent solely on beating or playing a high quality nonconference opponent competitively, with a loss to a low quality nonconference opponent ruinous. Heck, give the sole at-large bid available to the 2nd place conference finisher with the best nonconference criteria as outlined, and I can guarantee you that schools will really work hard to avoid cupcake nonconference schedules.

People do respond to incentives.

50 Re: FEI 2007 College Football Season Preview

Badger, I'd be more inclined to agree with you if the typical talent gap between the best team in a conference and the worst was more like the gap between Vandy and Florida last year. That simply isn't the case. With the typical talent gap between the best and worst teams in a conference, if the best team schedules two or three nonconference cupcakes, it might only face an opponent with talent within shouting distance of it's own six or seven times. If it really is too much of a grind to have barely half the games against opponents with anything approaching comparable talent, it's time to shorten the season.