Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Dec 2010

2010-11 College Football Bowl Schedule

Here's the 2010-11 college football bowl schedule. Oregon and Auburn will play for the national title on January 10, and the rest of the BCS bowl lineup is as follows: TCU vs. Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, Virginia Tech vs. Stanford in the Orange Bowl, Ohio State vs. Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, and Oklahoma vs. Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl.

I have to say, I'm excited about quite a few of these games. The national title game could be really fun, and I'm very much looking forward to TCU-Wisconsin and Ohio State-Arkansas.

Other really interesting matchups on first glance:

  • Independence Bowl: Air Force vs. Georgia Tech (run, run, run)
  • Music City Bowl: North Carolina vs. Tennessee (Vols have improved and now have to play the team they backed out of playing a few months ago)
  • Sun Bowl: Miami vs. Notre Dame (too many "Catholics vs. Convicts" references on Twitter to count)
  • Chick-Fil-A: South Carolina vs. Florida State (two teams better than they showed in their last game)
  • Capital One: Alabama vs. Michigan State (Spartans get a chance to prove just how good they might be)
  • Gator Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Michigan (absolutely, positively no idea what to expect in this one)

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 05 Dec 2010

51 comments, Last at 09 Dec 2010, 10:09pm by dbostedo


by Mike Y :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:50am

Too bad it's all an exhibition and we don't truly know who would be a champion in a playoff.

by David :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:19am

Mmm, piss in my punchbowl, deeee-lightful

by deep64blue :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:24am

We do have a play-off, this year it's in Glendale and, unlike most of the other sports, we have the two best teams in the Championship game, no wild card winners or any of that nonsense.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 11:04am

Yeah, because if you had a playoff, you'd have to have wild card winners. Oh, that's right, you wouldn't have to have wild card winners...

Man, would it ever just suck to see, next Saturday, Connecticut travel to Auburn, Virginia Tech travel to Oregon, Boise State travel to TCU, and Oklahoma travel to Wisconsin. College football fans would have been leaping off bridges at the prospect of having to view those games in six days. And really, we just know that TCU isn't as good as Auburn and Oregon; it's like one of the laws of thermodynamics.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 11:13am

To add on a little, in a sincere attempt at inquiry; do you really think that a 12 game schedule allows you to know which are the two best teams out of six to eight conferences?

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 10:19am

We know who would be champion in a playoff: Some random good team that is very unlikely to be the best team in college football.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 10:41am


by Bnonymous (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 10:42am

Thank you so much for that contribution. I feel so much more enlightened by those two keystrokes. The insight they offered - so profound. I find myself re-assessing my original position on the subject, and quite frankly, probing the inner depths of my psyche with the intent to change my priorities in life. You have helped me grow as a person. May the kind folks at Bud Light salute you in commercial.

by dbostedo :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 11:31pm


by Dean :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 5:01pm

Maybe if you actually had something to say you woudln't have gotten ripped on.

by dbostedo :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 10:09pm

OK, ok...I'll put a real comment up this time. Maybe I didn't think an innocuous +1 showing support for another posters idea was worthy of any kind of ripping or the time it took. (I didn't.) And maybe I thought the "-1" was funny. (I did.) Anyway - I'm not in favor of a playoff generally - although I'm sure I'd enjoy it - as I think the current system gives a chance to force the best two teams over the course of the whole season to play; Whereas a playoff often leads to a "hot" team, or team that has improved over time but wasn't very good early, the chance to win it all.

In other words, referring to the initial posters comment : +1

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 11:03am

Yeah, having eight conference champs play three rounds of playoffs, starting at the home fields of Auburn, Oregon, TCU and Wisconsin would be just like a random good team winning it.

by huston720 :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:12pm

Exactly! That is why the NFL will never be as popular as college football, bacause of random Super Bowl champs like the '01 Patriots or the '07 Giants who were merely random good teams. If only the NFL could just get some writers together along with DVOA and select the two best teams for the Super Bowl like college, then the league could really become popular and definitely make more money. /end sarcasm

by Bill Connelly :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 10:51am

I know myself well enough to know I'll get into a playoff if/when it eventually happens ... but five four-loss teams had a chance at the FCS title as of Saturday morning. DO NOT WANT.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 11:08am

What's the difference between Auburn blowing their season against Connecticut, or Oregon doing so against Oregon State? Does that prospect really outweigh giving an opportunity for TCU to prove itself?

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:33pm

In conferences that participate in the FCS playoffs, there are two one-loss teams and five two-loss teams. So it's not surprising that there are 4-loss teams in the FCS playoffs.

And most FCS teams have a pretty much unavoidable (Richmond-VT notwithstanding) loss to an FBS team on their records.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 10:49pm

Much as I hate to think about this, it was James Madison, not Richmond, that beat VT.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 12:20am

Brain fart on my part. I'm an Orange fan. I may have irrational twitches related to Richmond for some reason :).

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 11:10pm

Well, there's an easy solution for that: ban I-A vs. I-AA games. There would have been only one four-loss team in the second round, and that would be North Dakota State, the team that upset Kansas back when we thought it was an upset.

I'm not really sure judging teams only by their record is a good idea, either ... according to Massey's ratings, three of the four clearly-weakest playoff teams (none higher than 50th in I-AA; the next-worst team is ranked 23rd, although this does include the second-round games) have two or fewer losses. Strength of schedule is just as much a factor in I-AA as it is in I-A.

Besides, part of what makes tournaments exciting is the possibility of a stunning upset, and you can't have that unless you have big underdogs. AQ School #1 vs. AQ School #8 is not going to produce a big underdog. Sure, there are going to be blowouts, but there are blowouts now in what some people mistakenly refer to as "playoffs" (obviously the regular season isn't a playoff because most teams have no chance of being invited no matter how many games they win), and that doesn't reduce people's enthusiasm for the bowls.

by libelec (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:29pm

How would that work for the students?

The consensus about the playoff format has been a 16-team playoff system, one that includes all eleven conference champions (regardless of their level) and 5 at-larges.
That would mean that the future champion and runner-up would have to play a 16/17 game schedule for the year: 12 regular season games, 1 possible championship game, and 4 playoff games up to the Championship Game.

Wouldn't that be too much punishment for 18/22 year old kids? Isn't within the lines of the 18-game NFL schedule that the NFLPA has been battling against? All in the name of so called "fairness"?

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 2:40pm

16-17 games (depending on a conference championship game or a 13th regular season game by virtue of playing @Hawaii) is possibly one more game than the FCS champions will play, or the finalists in many states' high school playoffs. It's 6 to 8 fewer games than the Super Bowl particpants play in the NFL.

If athletes who are younger and/or less talented can play 16 games, and pros can play 23-25, then FBS athletes can play 16 or 17. Though if you want to ditch conference championship games and go back to 10-team or smaller conferences and an 11-game schedule (which was common even a decade ago, and nearly universal 20 years ago) to make room for the playoffs, I'm game.

And football playoffs on weekends mostly over winter break are certainly less disruptive to classes than basketball playoffs on weekdays late in the semester that are almost certain to disrupt finals.

by libelec (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 3:33pm

Well, yes, that's what I was thinking: a round robin on 10-team conferences. Then at least you would have the certainty (or better chance) that the team that leaves the champion is really the best in the conference and not one team that caught a lucky break and misses, say, Oklahoma-OKState-Texas and plays a poor North Division as what happenned in the Big XII.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 4:07pm

I think a 16 team tournament greatly reduces the signifigance of the conference races, which is the oldest, and in my view, best tradition of college football. Nothing's perfect, but I'm o.k. with the thought of the ninth highest ranked conference champ being left out, because I think it very unlikely that such a team will have gone undefeated against any credible competition. I just really dislike the idea that people just "know" that TCU isn't as good as Auburn or Oregon, or in a year that only one team is undefeated, people just "know" which of the one loss conference champs is best.

by Kal :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:16pm

Okay, so why allow just Oregon? Why not Nevada, or Miami (Ohio), or any of the other FBS champs? There are 11 leagues, after all.

And next year do you include the WAC? How about the MWC? The Sun Belt winner? How about Notre Dame or BYU, both of whom are independent?

The problem with doing it by conference winner is that (as this year has shown) conferences are very mutable. It's not like the NFL where the NFC West is the NFC West; Seattle can't just say that them and Tampa Bay are going to join the NFC North. But in college you can, and you can do it very quickly. Conferences aren't created equal, and if you have a system that rewards conference champions I guarantee you that conferences will work it to make sure their conference has the best chance of making it through. They do far shadier stuff already.

And that leaves out the also-rans, those who didn't get the title for some obscure reason. I mean - you're okay with Wisconsin going in but Michigan State (who beat Wisconsin) not? Realistically if you want to be able to pick the 'champion' from teams that can compete, you need more than 8 teams in the mix.

TCU wasn't allowed to compete for the title because there were two teams that showed through the course of the season that they deserved it more due to their schedule. If TCU wants it more, they can move to another conference and prove it to everyone there. OH WAIT, THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:07pm

And if TCU went undefeated in the Big East this year, they still would have been left out. We know this because Cinci did that last year, when the undefeated title game participants from the Big 12 and SEC were much less impressive.

Now, TCU in the Big East will not get left out if they're one of only one or two unbeatens, whereas in the MWC they might well get jumped by a 1-loss SEC team. And they'll get to a BCS game if they win the Big East no matter what their record is.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:12pm

Which does exactly nothing for many of the players on TCU this year. Look, it's quite simple. Each conference can determine it's best team in any way it wishes. If a conference has decided, by the means they chose, that a team is not it's best, then it doesn't advance. This puts a premium on winning the conference, which is what the real roots of college football are.

I have no idea what your third paragraph means. If you mean to say that a conference will do what it can to have the best teams possible, why, yes, I suppose that may be true. So?

I have no real problem with an 11 conference champ tournament, and I suppose if you started the season on the last weekend in August, you could have a bye week for top seeds, and still get the quarterfinals played by the 2nd Saturday in December. Like I said, however, the chance that the ninth seeded conference champ will have won enough games, against enough competition, to have a legitimate beef, is pretty remote.

Frankly, we need to have fewer conferences, and fewer teams playing big revenue, or I should say, "big cost" college football. It's a good business for about 50 to 100 teams (it's hard to say with precision), but almost certainly not past 100.

by Kal :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:35pm

No, Will, I mean that putting a premium on playoff spots when the conferences are very easily changeable and can add/subtract members on a year-to-year basis is a bad thing. It works (somewhat) in the NFL when you can't change the conferences around. Even there, you get things like the NFC West not only having a playoff berth but actually hosting a playoff game.

So it's very easy for a team like, say, Boise State or Texas or Ohio State - a team that perennially wants to compete for the national championship - to basically do what Miami did with the Big East - be the only player that mattered, and always be going to a big bowl game every year. Win their 'conference' of a bunch of scrubs and then go for the playoffs. Why not? That's where the big money is. As Texas showed this year, if you are good it doesn't matter what conference you're in - you can actually get TV contracts just for your team alone.

Each conference deciding how it picks the winner is a good reason why you shouldn't have conference champions get auto-bids. That heterogeneous set of rules that doesn't apply to everyone equally makes things bad.

I do agree that fewer conferences that mattered (say, AQ vs non-AQ) and fewer teams that mattered would make things better. You'd get more connectivity (as in a division of 50 teams the chances are that you played someone that played one of the other 50 increase significantly). You could reasonably have a 12 or 16-team playoff and expect to have gotten all the good teams and even weather a couple bad ones. Unfortunately that means that you'd likely leave out teams like Boise State and TCU and the like. In fact, that system would look remarkably like what the BCS already looks like.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 10:27pm

There isn't any reason why changing conferences has to be easy, and I agree it damages the sport. Another reason why the current paradigm stinks; I really am beginning to believe that the old way of doing things, with specific conference champs designated to specific bowl games each year, was better.

Why is getting all the good teams important? If leaving conferences is made difficult, what would be so bad about a tournament of conference champs?

This whole mess is going to end up in court, or in Congress. It just isn't tenable to have a bunch of heavily Federally subsidized educational institutions with very unequal opportunities at the largest paydays, as a result of their own inter-institutional dynamics. If big time football adds value to a educational institution (and if does not, they shouldn't be playing big time football), and all of these institutions benefit from Federal subsidies, then there is no basis to have a student, be it a quarterback, or a member of the marching band, or a female volleyball player, or a student who just goes to games, to have such widely varied benefits as a result of their school's decision to devote capital to a football team, which then competes with other schools with capital-intensive football.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:56am

Miami won or shared a league title fewer than half the years they were in the Big East.

I do agree with your point though...that's why I thought it would have been smart for Boston College to stick with the Big East...or for Notre Dame to jump in now. Easier conference to win.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 12:45pm

I'd point out here that BC has been in contention for the ACC title far more often than they ever were for the Big East title, and that FSU in the ACC pretty much really did what the guy up-thread thought Miami did in the Big East.

by dbostedo :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 11:28pm

According to Wikipedia it was actually 9 of 13 years that Miami won or shared the Big East title. (1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003) So I guess it depends on how you define "shared". Wikipedia seems to be only looking at record with no tie breakers factored in. With tie breakers they actually won 6 of those times, which is slightly less than half.

by dryheat :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 11:47am

Our numbers actually match up. The website I was using didn't have anything prior to 1993 for some reason. That and in my head, I had Miami in the Big East for a few seasons after they actually left. Put those two together, and my previous posting was off a bit.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:02pm

Why? I mean, the most commonly-proposed 16-team format is 11 conference champions + 5 at-large. Wouldn't that almost by definition increase the value of winning your conference (especially in the unlikely event ND gets good again and so sucks up an at-large spot) if the winner gets a guaranteed playoff spot when there are only a small number of at-large bids?

I mean, if you filled the at-large spots via the BCS formula (which you wouldn't; you'd use a selection committee, but the results would be similar), you'd get 2 at-large teams from the Big Ten (the other two co-champs), two 2-loss SEC teams and the only other one-loss major conference team (Stanford). And the SEC teams in no way had their spots locked in.

by Kal :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 8:42pm

It would absolutely increase the value of conference victories. What it would highly discourage is teams sticking in said conferences. Why stay in a competitive Pac-12 team where you play 9 games against hard opponents AND a championship game when you can go to the WAC and almost guarantee a playoff spot and a ton of money for that conference?

Why would Ohio State stay in the Big-10 when they could go to the Sun Belt and continually compete for the playoffs?

Again, the problem is that conferences are mercurial. They don't stay the same and they don't require other conferences to agree to their breaking up. That's why 11 teams as conference champions doesn't quite work. It just encourages breaking of existing conferences.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:22pm

If you can win a national championship without winning your conference, then by definition winning your conference is no longer a necessary prerequisite to become a national champion. I would prefer a system where a season without a conference championship cannot result in the highest level of success.

by Kal :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:41pm

Here's another question, Will Allen - what happens if a bunch of teams decide to make another conference? Or, say, the Pac-12 and Big-10 split up into three conferences?

Does the new conference get an auto-bid for their champion?
Does it get nothing?
Does it get one after showing for a few years that it's good enough?

If the two conferences change size, do they still get an auto-bid? If you adopt more teams (or lose some) do you get one? If you have a conference of, say, 16 teams does it get two auto-bids? How about 20?

Conference champions make sense when the conferences are about equally likely to gain talent and value and people can't just run in and out of conferences as they choose. It's an arbitrary and ultimately poor way to gauge who should play in a playoff. It works in basketball because of a higher number of slots, a higher number of open slots and the connectivity of basketball allowing for better knowledge of who played who (and encouraging teams to play hard teams to increase their chances even if they lose).

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 11:19pm

Assuming the playoffs would be run by the NCAA and not some jackanapes who are nearly as clueless as Matt Millen (and yes, while the NCAA doesn't do many things well, managing playoffs is one thing it does well), generally speaking, the conference would qualify for an automatic bid after a certain number of years (two or three) providing that it met certain criteria, which I'm guessing would be a minimum number of members during that time (this is based on how auto bids for the basketball tournaments seem to work).

Each conference would get one and only one automatic bid; usually, a new conference would mean one fewer at-large bid, but beyond a certain point, the tournament would likely expand so that there were an adequate number of at-large bids.

Given that the I-AA playoffs allow 20 participants with almost exactly the same number of teams in the division (124 vs. 120 in I-A), I'd guess that a I-A playoff would eventually include 20 teams, and there'd be two reasons for that: one is to allow "enough" quality teams (just as for men's basketball: 32 - with fewer conferences - was occasionally squeezing some good teams out, 64 to 68 means it's never been an issue, the teams on the bubble are bubble-quality teams), and the other is to minimize the likely number of games played.

Almost all I-AA teams seem to play 10 or 11 regular-season games; a I-A team could play 14 if they played at Hawaii and in a conference championship, although most conference champs will play 13. Giving byes to the top 12 teams (as I-AA does) would cut down on the chances that a team would play 18 or 19 games.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 10:21pm

It's not a prerequisite in the current system. 2001 Nebraska, 2002 Ohio State (due to Big Ten tiebreaker rules at the time, Iowa earned the 'Rose Bowl' bid), and 2003 Oklahoma all played in the BCS title game despite not being the recipient of their conference's automatic BCS bid. 2002 Ohio State even won the thing (though since they were undefeated and Iowa was not, it's not like the Hawkeyes or anyone else got the short end of the stick there -- it's just the Big Ten's tiebreaker rules were not set up to deal with that kind of situation, and that's why they were later revised).

I'm much to lazy to check this out, but I'm almost certain that prior to widespread automatic bowl bids for conference champions, lots of schools that were nominal co-champs of their conference ended up AP #1 or UPI #1 or Coaches' Poll #1 (when it replaced the UPI poll as the second major poll) at the end of the year and lots of conferences didn't have formal tie breaking procedures.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 10:29pm

Yeah, I know. That's another thing I dislike about the current system.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 5:09pm

There are no major college or pro sports in the US that limit the championship to conference / division champions only (last holdout was baseball, and they added a wild card quite some time ago).

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 6:22pm

Yeah, I know.

by Kal :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:03pm

Because playoffs always, no matter what, tell you who the best team that year is, right?


All systems for determining winners have their issues. This is College Football's. Can't you just enjoy the actual games?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 9:16pm

Can't you just enjoy about four more games, on one more Saturday? Look, if it would just be entirely too painful to see Oklahoma play in Madison on a Saturday in December, go ice fishing or something.

by Snow Bowl (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 11:04am

Mmmmm, Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl.
Sounds delicious.

by Jeff M. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 12:14pm

A big thank you goes out to the Insight Bowl and Alamo Bowl for both picking lower-finishing schools over higher-finishing ones, forcing the Huskies and Huskers to play 3 times in one calendar year. I'm sure everyone's excited about this bowl matchup as well, considering that Nebraska beat Washington by 35 in Seattle just a few months ago.

by glemmn (not verified) :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:42pm

That's what happens when your school leaves the conference. You get a rump bowl game. Have fun getting tickets to road games at Columbus and Ann Arbor, Cornholer fan!

by lionsbob :: Mon, 12/06/2010 - 6:20pm

Silly me I was coming on here hoping to talk about college football but like usual we have the same old arguments for and against the playoffs. I am hoping next we get to hear about how college football is not an amateur sport anyway and how that should be fixed, I don't think that has been beaten to the ground any either.

hey how about those coaches salaries! Almost makes me want to pull out a Dee Finley twitter feed comment.

by Mike Y :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 1:13am

This column outlines a playoff system that makes a lot of sense - http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/news?slug=dw-playoff120610

Instead, we have several meaningless exhibition games. The way college football conducts it season and postseason makes it a terrible product that could be so much better. Enjoy the Beef O'Brady's Bowl.

by Bill Connelly :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 12:02pm

And yet, college football gets more popular and makes more money every single year. Nobody has any motivation to change anything about the current system when they are doing as well as they are with it.

by Mike Y :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 1:26pm

Bill, how does college football's popularity compare to the NFL's popularity growth? While I don't know the numbers, I would bet that NFL's growth in popularity for any time period in the last 20-30 years far exceeds college football's growth in popularity. Also, do you not think the playoff system proposed in the link above would not be an improvement over the current system? Right now the top teams almost never play each other. I would like to see, say, Wisconsin play Auburn in a national quarterfinal or semifinal.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 6:25pm

That's the fun that is being missed. An elimination game in December, between two teams that rarely face each other. What a blast that would be.