The Key Is Manipulation

Schedule management vitally important for championship contenders

May 14, 2008

By Trev Alberts

Special to


Trev Alberts is a football analyst for CBS College Sports and

You've got college football questions and CSTV football analyst Trev Alberts has answers and opinions. Each week Alberts will be answering questions and queries on the world of college football. So if you've got a question for Trev? Just ask him.


If you were the ACC, would you want to play nine-conference games instead of eight? - Chris, North Carolina


I've read many of the reactions from the coaches and you can see pretty easily why any coach playing in a competitive league, trying to play for a national championship, would say no to that.


I understand their position because who wants to play another tough conference game when you could schedule an easy non-conference game. From a fans' perspective, I appreciate what the Pac-10 has done. I appreciate that they play all their opponents so there's no need for a conference championship game. Even the ACC, SEC and Big 12 having these conference championship games, it's not like you're playing everyone. In theory, you have a conference champion, but you never know what would happen if everyone played each other.


I see every side of the issue and I think in the end the coaches weren't in favor of it and it's a dead issue. I would like to see every team play each other to crown a true conference champion. And to me, what the Big Ten does doesn't make any sense. How can you crown a conference champion with a team that potentially doesn't have to play Michigan or Ohio State?


What would it take for a defensive player to win the Heisman? - Tim H., Alabama  


Hugh Green came the closest, but I think it's extremely unlikely you'll see a purely defensive player win the award. When you have a talent like Charles Woodson you find ways to get him involved offensively and Michigan obviously did that, along with his special team prowess.


I think the only way that it would happen is if you had special teams involved and if you're scoring a lot of points defensively. If you had a situation where a defensive back returned four or five interceptions for touchdowns and you had an unusual year where nobody stood out offensively, then maybe. But the award is not built to have a defensive player win it.


That being said, it clearly is, according to the strict interpretation of what the Heisman Trophy is - the most outstanding player in college football - that definition could easily fit a defensive player. The problem is with all these highlight shows is that you just don't see another great tackle by Tom Smith. He's not why people show up to the games.


With USC-Ohio State and Florida-Georgia on the schedule this year, can you remember seeing such huge marquee matchups? - J., Georgia  


I think it's great and I'll throw in Nebraska-Virginia Tech into that mix and don't forget about Georgia-Arizona State.  


The teams like Georgia, once you get stability in-state, it just makes sense for them from a recruiting perspective to every year take at least one trip far away. You don't want to have three or four of those games. But Ohio State knows to get to a BCS game, especially playing in the Big Ten conference that has not played up to par the last few years, they at least need to combine one quality win with their conference play. Beating a Texas, like they did a few years ago, obviously gives them a much better argument.


I think in Georgia's case, they have the in-state recruiting wrapped up and now you sprinkle in some recruiting from the West Coast with your trip out to Tempe. You then get the fans energized. It's good for boosters, good for alumni and good for your school to get some recognition out in some new areas of the country. That's why you see teams like Notre Dame trying to get back to their roots of scheduling games around the country as long as they can manipulate where the game's being played.


It's healthy, it's good, but you certainly don't want to schedule these games at the expense of your core rivalry. Even if you lose those games, you learn a lot about your team really, really early. If you win that game, you lose and you realize where your weaknesses are. It makes a lot of sense to play a game against a team you have more talent than first. Second game you should play a really difficult opponent, gain some national television exposure. Come back and have your third game at home against an easy opponent before conference play begins.


But more than anything, I'll say this: Schedule manipulation has as much to do with national championship contenders as anything else.

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