UCLA played 30 road games the last 5 years. If it had played 21, like Arkansas, Neuheisel might still have a job. — Chris Huston (@Heismanpundit) (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Chris Huston @HeismanPundit wrote an interesting set of tweets in the wake of the decision to shelve what we’ve known as the BCS and institute a playoff system in college football ((H/T BRO).
The entire twitter conversation is too long to elucidate every detail here (I wished he’d blogged it instead of tweeted it), but the main point Chris seemed to be making is that even with a playoff system, regular season schedules skewed, so deciding who makes the "Final Four" (as opposed to the "Final Two" we’ve had in recent season) is still going to be an issue.
Huston did a lot of research (Thanks Chris!!!) regarding scheduling. Here is some of what he discovered:
The Pac-12, as currently comprised, has played a combined 337 road games in the last 5 years, or 5.6 road games per year, per team.— Chris Huston (@Heismanpundit) June 21, 2012
The SEC, as currently comprised, has played 322 road games in the last 5 years, or 4.6 road games per team, per year.— Chris Huston (@Heismanpundit) June 21, 2012
Of last 10 BCS title participants, 9 have come from either the SEC, Big Ten, or Big 12, and those schools averaged 4.6 road games per yr.— Chris Huston (@Heismanpundit) June 21, 2012
The last 6 BCS title game winners played a total of 26 road games, or 4.3 per team, per title-winning year.— Chris Huston (@Heismanpundit) June 21, 2012
UCLA played 30 road games the last 5 years. If it had played 21, like Arkansas, Neuheisel might still have a job.— Chris Huston (@Heismanpundit) June 21, 2012
Now, I'm not 100% sure about that last point. Rick Neuheisel would likely have been fired as UCLA head football coach if we played all our games on Spaulding's 80 yard field.
But Huston's overall point is very interesting. (You'll have to comb through his whole Twitter feed to find all his research). Check out this concluding tweet:
CFB went to 12 game sked in '06. Since then, the BCS champs have & all come from same conf & avg just 4.3 road games per year. Coincidence?— Chris Huston (@Heismanpundit) June 21, 2012
The point he's making is obvious: Scheduling fewer road games has been part of the formula for winning a national championship. And even though we now have a playoff system of sorts, "making the playoffs" is still a function of your regular season schedule and playing fewer road games appears to be a real advantage.
Huston's tweets prompted discussion. Some noted that SEC teams are able to schedule more road games because they were able to schedule weak teams that didn't ask for a home and home and they were able to do that because they sell out their games regardless of who is coming in to town.
UCLA clearly can't do that. We didn't sell out Texas last year and probably won't sell out Nebraska this year (and those are two teams that bring in thousands of their own fans.) So we can't ask a directional school to come in for a payday without the return trip because we need the big name teams to come in to sell tickets. And the bigger name teams require a return visit.
The conference difference in scheduling might also have something to do with the conference schedule. Pac 12 teams play nine conference games (plus the conference title game). Other conferences only play 8, meaning they can pick up an extra home game.
I'm not sure at this point UCLA is in a position to dictate their schedule to the point where they can discontinue the big name home and homes (and I wouldn't want them to give them all up anyway). But if the team improves under Jim Mora, we might be able to be more judicious in who and where we schedule our games.