True story: For more than 20 years the Major League Baseball schedule — that massive, 162-game nightmare of logistics — was made by a husband and wife team working out of their Staten Island home. Henry and Holly Stephenson, with the help of a computer, handled the MLB schedules from 1981-2004, until being outbid by a “scheduling firm” out of Pittsburgh. The NBA has its own in-house guy, Matt Winick, handling everything. The NFL has Howard Katz and an entire team of workers.
Point being: No matter how sophisticated you think the schedule-making process might be for a league, it’s still largely a human process. The computers help, a lot, but there are still some problems that require a human touch.
Say, for instance, moving from an eight-game conference schedule to a nine-game conference schedule, adding two teams or realigning the divisions. The Big Ten has done all of those things recently, which might help explain why Nebraska fans, and presumably others, were scratching their heads when the 2018 and 2019 schedules were released Wednesday.
It’s not just that the Huskers got a pretty rough schedule in 2018 with road games at Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Ohio State and Iowa. At least it shouldn’t be. Nine-game conference schedules are going to be tough. But if you’re a Nebraska season ticket holder, there are some bizarre home-road splits worth examining.
For example, say you went to every Nebraska home game from the start of the Big Ten era (2011) through 2019. You will have seen Indiana and Maryland in Memorial Stadium exactly as many times as Michigan and Penn State, once each. Rutgers will visit Lincoln at least twice before the Wolverines are Nittany Lions are back.
Over that same stretch, Nebraska will have gone to Ann Arbor and State College three times each. And the odd thing is you’d think Nebraska would get that unbalanced home-road split back somewhere else, but the Huskers really don’t. Nebraska’s most unbalanced home-to-road series is with Michigan State — four games in Lincoln, two games in East Lansing. Everything else is within one game either way.
I’m not saying it’s an easy job, just that there are some eyebrow-raising results right now, but it could all change before we even get to those games.
The College Football Playoff selection committee was officially announced yesterday with no surprises as every name on the list had basically been leaked at one point or another. My feelings on the group haven’t changed; there’s no arguing the football credentials of the committee, but it’s a very old school group tasked with an entirely new method. I’d like to see a few “new ideas” people on the committee, but it’s going to be a hard job no matter who is making the picks.
What was interesting, however, was the fact sheet the CFP folks put out offering a closer look at the selection process. At least it was intended to be a closer look, but there’s still a lot of mystery here.
We know that the committee will consider conference championships, strength-of-schedule, head-to-head results, common opponents and “other relevant factors” when making its selections, but we have no idea how those things are weighted. Under the “Metrics” section — a category near and dear to my heart — the only explanation offered is this: “No one single metric will be identified as paramount over all other data.”
Hmmm. I can already see this is going to be a game of “which teams can we most easily eliminate.” Take 2013 Wisconsin for example. I wrote about them a little bit yesterday, but I really feel that the Badgers could be one of the six or seven best teams in the country this year. They’re 25th in the AP poll and unranked in the coaches at the moment. Why?
Not based on a careful reading of results but because they’re easy to eliminate. Wisconsin has two losses — one a touchdown loss on the road to Ohio State and the other the result of a bizarre, and admitted, officiating blunder — thus the Badgers are basically Notre Dame in the eyes of the voters. Fewer people notice, and thus are less likely to speak-up, if they see 4-2 Wisconsin hanging around on the fringes of the polls rather than in the top-15 where it probably belongs.
Will that change with a selection committee? I think many hoped it would — I definitely did — but I’m very skeptical of that actually happening.
The Grab Bag
Randy York writes that Tom Osborne is uniquely qualified for his new job on the CFP selection committee. … Bo Pelini says that Taylor Martinez is getting closer to returning, but he still was in a walking boot yesterday. … Irving Fryar, along with his mother, was indicted Wednesday on charges of allegedly conspiring to steal more than $600,000 via a mortgage scam in New Jersey. … This Kliff Kingsbury bobblehead is pretty cool. … Ameer Abdullah is on the list of Midseason Offensive MVP candidates over at ESPN’s Big Ten blog.