It’s never too early to talk college football. Never.
Even if the calendar say it’s barely summer, fall cannot get here fast enough. So over the next two weeks or so, Kermit the Blog will count down the 10 Easiest Schedules of the 2007 College Football season. We’re aiming for one a day (weekday), but we’re lazy, so it might take longer. Thankfully we’ve got time.
#10 Notre Dame
With two of their first three on the road at Ann Arbor and Happy Valley and a mid-season stretch that includes at UCLA, before coming home to Boston College and USC, the Irish have their traditional cake walk to another undeserved BCS bowl invitation.
Okay, that’s just a teensie bit of sarcasm, but the Irish got abused for their 2006 schedule seemingly because it had all three academies on it, as well as some craptastic North Carolina and Stanford teams.
So there’s likely to be some piling on in 2007 again simply because two of the three academies are on the slate again along with Duke. And Duke is bad (0-12 in 2006). What makes it look even worse is that those are back-to-back-to-back opponents and happen to be at end of the seasons. So if and when it gets to bowl talk, the cupcakes will seem freshly consumed by Weis and Co., and the talk will start again.
But in defense of ’06, Navy was a bowl team—one of seven on that supposedly easy schedule—and, if not for some bad play calling and a turnover, would have beaten Boston College in said Forgotten Corporate Sponsor Bowl. Army was the add when the NCAA permitted a 12th game. Weak yes, but that Army team A) did almost beat Texas A&M on the road in September and B) isn’t nearly as weak as say, Texas, picking up I-AA Sam Houston State for it’s 12th game add. Stanford usually isn’t that gawdawful. And neither is North Carolina. Additionally Notre Dame picked up Carolina when Michigan backed out of its home-and-home with the Heels. Worse for the Irish, the return trip isn’t this year, but next when Butch Davis has had a couple of seasons to work with the recruits he pilfered from ND.
And compared to, say, a Wisconsin team—the one that some people were rumbling got screwed out of a BCS bid because of the Irish—were the bottom feeders of the Irish schedule worse than the Bowling Green, Western Illinois, San Diego State, and Buffalo teams that the Badgers played?
In fact it’s not even close. You don’t schedule Western Illinois and Buffalo thinking they’ll be competitive.
The point isn’t that ND deserved the BCS bowl over Wisconsin (BCS rules precluded the Badgers from going once OSU and Michigan were in). They didn’t. The point is that every team not named USC is scheduling at least a couple of non-conference patsies. Some are scheduling four. Then, when combined with the conference doormats that have to be on the schedule, nobody is running the gauntlet they might think they have. Even in the mighty SEC.
Notre Dame doesn’t have one of the 10 easiest schedules in college football this season. So, this is kind of a lie. Oops. Sorry.
In fact, the Irish are probably in the upper quartile of the more difficult ones (The Sporting News actually has them as the 2nd toughest) and, given the loss of every skill player at every skill position, will be lucky to be 4-4 heading into the cushy rear of the schedule. But at the end of the season when they do play Navy, Air Force and Duke in a row before finishing up with Stanford (who might be much improved with Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines, but probably won’t) people will think they have had an easy go of it, all the while forgetting about the patsies Chowan and Slippery Rock that their alma mater played in September when the Irish were on the road at Michigan and Penn State.
So this is something to think about for numbers nine through one. Unless you are USC and you are trying to get out of your game with Idaho because it’s going to be too easy, don’t gripe too much about how easy you think another team’s road to January is. Yours was probably just as easy. And for nine others, embarassingly so.
The Rest of the List
[Ed. Note: Full disclosure. The author of this blog is an alumnus of the University of Notre Dame. This might seem like blatant homerism, but if you look at the numbers, the amount of crap the Irish took was totally unwarranted given the schedule. Did they deserve the BCS bid? Probably not. But, after the title game, the BCS has little to do with "deserve" and more to do with ratings. If you were a bowl commissioner and Notre Dame was eligible and available and you didn't take them, you'd probably lose your job. Trust me, I'd rather not have been embarassed by LSU on national television.]