The beauty of college football is the tradition, the rivalries, the notion that every game matters. And while the first two I would wholeheartedly agree with, the third has always been one that has been up for debate. This has played itself out with teams losing early still being able to be right in the championship chase while teams that lose late don’t even though they may end up with the same record.
Also in this is the notion of “cupcake games”. BCS schools scheduling games against mid major or even scheduling games against FCS (1-AA) teams. In a non-playoff scenario and with no penalty for it, there really is no reason for schools to schedule tougher games. I don’t fault the FCS or outside schools for taking these games, I fault the BCS schools for scheduling them. They want to say the best team is the national champion but if that team doesn’t schedule the top teams & there is no playoff how can one really decide that?
As a comparison, here is the non-conference schedule of the last 7 national champions and their records, and rankings if ranked or if FCS school (regular season, *=played in a bowl game):
2011 Alabama: Kent State (5-7), at #23 Penn State (9-4)*, North Texas (5-7), Georgia Southern (FCS school)
2010 Auburn: Arkansas State (4-8), Clemson (6-7)*, Louisiana-Monroe (5-7), Chattanooga (FCS school)
2009 Alabama: (neutral site) #7 Virginia Tech (10-3)*, Florida International (3-9), North Texas (2-10), Chattanooga (FCS school)
2008 Florida: Hawaii (7-7)*, Miami (7-6)*, The Citadel (FCS school), at #23 Florida State (9-4)*
2007 LSU: #9 Virginia Tech (11-3)*, Middle Tennessee (5-7), at Tulane (4-8), Louisiana Tech (5-7)
2006 Florida: Southern Miss (9-5)*, Central Florida (4-8), Western Carolina (FCS school), at Florida State (7-6)*
2005 Texas: Louisiana-Lafayette (6-5), at #4 Ohio State (10-2)*, Rice (1-10)
So out of the the last 7 national champions here the breakdown of stats of non-conference opponents:
*.500 or better records(not counting FCS schools): 10 out of 21
*Went to a bowl game: 10 out of 21
*FCS schools played: 5
*Ranked opponents when played them (not counting FCS schools): 5 out of 21
*Neutral site/Road games (including FCS schools): 6 out of 27
As you can see, most times the national champion didn’t exactly play tough non-conference competition. If you take out in-state rivals (i.e. Florida-Florida St, Tulane-LSU), then there were only 3 neutral/road games.
The striking stat (besides the number of FCS schools being played) is the lack of home & home matchups. Out of the last 7 national champions, the number of home & home match-ups (not counting in-state rivals) 3 (Penn State, Ohio State, Clemson). None of those involving mid-major or FCS schools.
So here’s my radical idea which would never happen but probably should. To give greater incentive to scheduling tougher opponents and less “cupcake games”, if a BCS school is going to schedule a mid-major or FCS school, it has to be a home and home match up. For example, Wofford (an FCS school) is going to play South Carolina this year in Columbia. Under this plan, if South Carolina is going to schedule Wofford to come to Columbia, they have to be willing to go up to Spartanburg and play at Gibbs Stadium and play Wofford on the road. This of course would never happen as the BCS schools wouldn’t be willing to go on the road and play these games but I think it would greatly cut down on the cupcake games. It would make strength of schedule better and would go a long way to really deciding who the best team is in a given year (especially going into a playoff system).
Will it ever happen? Probably not but it’d be a good thing if it ever was implemented.