Let's be honest, many FBS (I-A) teams do not challenge themselves in their nonconference schedule. And by "challenge themselves" I'm being generous. This is no secret, right? Most fans are aware of it. Look, one tough game does not a challenging nonconference slate make. When it comes time to pick bowl games and have a discussion about rankings and national championships, the process of evaluating teams is largely subjective. We don't need to settle for subjective. We can do better than that. It is virtually impossible to discern the best teams at the end of the regular season when they do not even play everyone within their own conference, much less an inspiring nonconference schedule with serious challenges in true road games. Read that sentence again.
I'm not suggesting that all schools do this, and applaud the programs who do beef up their schedule. However, this creates even more imbalance, as teams arrive at the pinnacle of the regular season with wildly divergent criteria. Again, how do we assess teams under such lopsided conditions? Answer: we don't. But, in Ideal we do.
One result of this madness (madness, I say!) is that we regularly have weekends in November with a paucity of big games on the schedule. "Paucity", the first of our fancy $20 words. There will be more. But seriously folks, how can any major sport arrive at the apex of its regular season with a dearth of meaningful games on its schedule?! (a couple more $20 words there -- I'm on a roll.) I can guarantee that won't be the case with Ideal College Football. There will be a wealth of big games and traditional rivalry games as we near the climax of the regular season. And you'll be able to test your knowledge and skill picking as many games as you like. Cash and prizes, who doesn't like cash and prizes? [Rhetorical question - everyone loves cash and prizes. I tend to ask a lot of rhetorical questions, you'll get used to it.]
So how does Ideal solve the scheduling issue? Answer: balanced scheduling. What exactly is that? Great question. I love a great question as much as I love ice cold beer on a warm summer day. In this case, balanced scheduling means that teams primarily play other teams at their level, i.e. good teams play good teams, average teams play average teams and bad teams play bad teams. I say "primarily" because there is some crossover. Let's get into a bit of specifics on this point.
First of all, let's establish the size of conferences in Ideal College Football, as this is an important factor in determining the nature of the scheduling. All conferences in ICFB contain 10-12 schools. No exceptions. Conferences must contain at least 10 schools, and cannot exceed 12 schools. Secondly, let’s establish how many nonconference games any given team will play in any given season, and the answer is seven…for most schools. Some schools will play eight nonconference games (and a small handful will play nine). This depends on the number of teams in their conference, as well as the conferences they’re matched up with. Schools in 10-team conferences tend to play more nonconference games, in order to fulfill the scheduling requirements of the larger conferences. In general, teams play four group games, two division games and one non-division game (explained below). This is in addition to their full conference slate, of course. Thus, doing the math (and we all love doing the math), every school is going to play a regular season of 16-18 games in Ideal College Football.
You’ll notice that there are three conferences per group and three groups per division. Every team plays two teams from each of the other conferences in their group, one high seed and one low seed, or two middle seeds if the team in question is a middle seed. Capeesh? Every team also plays one team from one conference in each of the other groups in its division. Finally, every team will play a game from a conference in a completely different division. Don't let your head spin, it's really not that complicated. The best way to illustrate this is to use an example: the Southeastern Conference. The SEC is in Division 1 Group I, so every member school in the SEC will play two games each against the SWC and ACC. They're matched up with the Big 10 from Group II, resulting in single match-ups; with the American South from Group III, also creating single match-ups. Finally, the SEC’s non-division games are against the Sun Belt (Division 2, Group IV), creating a final single match-up. This will all become more clear when we begin play. So, let’s look at the division crossovers:
The left-hand portion of the above equations refer to Ideal College Football; the right-hand portion to its analogs among real-life NCAA/NAIA designations.
One note about the seeding for the initial season of Ideal College Football: while doing the extensive research in putting this together, I decided to look at programs long-term. Therefore, teams are generally going to be seeded where you would expect them to be within conferences, though perhaps not exactly where they would be if we were only looking at the most recent season. Some programs have fallen behind where we traditionally expect them to be (ex. Nebraska, Miami), while other programs have recently emerged from decades of obscurity (ex. Baylor, TCU). Programs in Ideal College Football are not going to be exactly where they were from the most recent real-world season; nor are they going to be as they were five or 10 years ago; they are going to be an amalgamation of many seasons. As I put this together, it became apparent that this was the approach that would work best. These teams are going to perform as you would expect them to perform, yet perhaps not exactly as they were during the most recently-completed real-life season. Surprises are undoubtedly in store.
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