Well, this just tears it. About a week ago we got out first glimpse at the much-awaited 2012 NC State football schedule. This obviously sparked a lot of good (and bad) conversation. I was personally outraged! (I mean, I wasn’t “outraged”, but that’s going to make this article a lot more exciting.) An FCS opponent, and two other teams that didn’t even make a bowl last year? Tom, you IDIOT!
Just to prove how smart I was, I was determined to prove exactly how pathetic Tom O’Brien’s NC State schedule looks compared to our “peers”. I looked up all the FBS teams with 8-5 records and started doing some sifting, sorting, and just because I was feeling frisky I did a tab bit of crunching. It was so great I had to go out and get a smoke.
HOW MANY FCS TEAMS ARE YOU PLAYING?
I took a look at the OOC schedules for all card-carrying members of the 2011 8-win club and tried to see who else had two FCS opponents, Tom obviously being personally responsible for both South Alabama and Liberty being on our schedule.
There were 13 teams total in our magnanimous club:
1. NC State
3. Georgia Tech
4. Missouri (can’t read, but can play football)
5. Texas (don’t mess with ‘em)
7. Southern Methodist (still has a football team)
8. Wyoming (nice to hear people still live in Wyoming, by the way…)
9. San Diego State (not a state)
11. Auburn (colors are not auburn)
12. Florida International (enough foreigners in FL to have their own college)
13. Louisiana Tech (not responsible for the levies, damnit)
Among the 13 members of our club, only 1 other school decided to schedule 2 FCS opponents: Wyoming. To be fair, very few people have ever actually met someone from Wyoming so I can see how FBS opponents would be hesitent to schedule a school from a place they aren’t sure exists. Wyoming does, however, have 6 OOC games on their schedule compared to NC State’s 5, so maybe having 2 FCS teams on their schedule is acceptable.
Screw it; let’s put it in excel.
On the bottom axis, you can see the percentage (0.00-1.00) of each team’s schedule that is composed of OOC games. You see, knowing the pathetic excuses of the Tom O’Brien sympathizers, I am anticipating that someone might try to suggest that this somehow matters in our selection of IAA opponents. POPPYCOCK! NC State, similar to all other ACC schools in our club, represents the most moderate participants in OOC game-play during the fall season. Despite being square in the middle of our club, you’ll see that we still relied far greater on these powder-puffs to elevate our 8-win season compared to the other 8-win greats. Tom, you crafty old kook, you almost had me thinking you were actually a good coach. Obviously your success hinges on your pathetic schedule!
BOWL ELIGIBLE VS NON-BOWL ELIGIBLE
Now that I have undoubtedly proven to everyone that Tom O’Brien schedules entirely too many IAA teams (2? 2? Outrageous.), let me prove to you how even when he is right… sadly he is horribly wrong. Just because you schedule a D1A team doesn’t mean they are any good. For that reason, it is necessary to see how many teams NC State played that were actually bowl eligible compared to everyone else.
Look at NC State down there! I mean, we’re barely within a standard deviation from our club’s “average” number of scheduled bowl eligible teams! I mean… yeah, you could say that we are par with the rest of the teams that won just as much as NC State in the ACC and you could point out that statistically we are ‘pretty close’ to the average… but then you would be supporting that rapscallion, Tom O’Brien! Plus, if you convince yourself that NC State isn’t actually doing that bad, the terrorists win.
AND THE NAIL IN THE COFFIN: HOW MANY OF THOSE OOC GUYS DID YOU BEAT, ANYWAY?
Even if we assume everything is honky-dory with O’Brien’s horrible scheduling, a simple look at how many OOC wins come from bowl eligible opponents compared to non-bowl eligible opponents is just nauseating! Just look for yourself…
Tom, you’ve been revealed! NC State’s OOC wins coming from bowl eligible team only accounts for about 25% of our total OOC wins. Laughable. This proves that O’Brien’s 2011 4-1 record OOC record wasn’t impressive… it was cowardly!
In case you haven’t noticed, this is all said tongue-in-cheek. I’m not so much taking a position for or against any of the scheduling as much as I think its interesting noting (a) how dumb extreme comments can be on either end of an argument and (b) how there is always a little truth to every crackpot opinion.
A Couple Things To Get Straight Up-Front…
I probably need to state up-front that scheduling last season and even this season, have a lot to do with the lingering affects of athletic administrations gone by and less (actually almost nothing) to do with Tom O’Brien. As was stated in our forums, Tom believes in scheduling a big-name opponent, a respectable but not overbearing opponent, a mid-major opponent, and a powder-puff. That’s pretty sound and honestly the 2012 schedule seems to have been put into place with a similar mentality (Tennessee being a big-name program traditionally, UConn having been a solid team in the recent past, and Citadel being a powder-puff… where South Alabama comes in I’m not sure).
A massively glaring flaw in all this number sorting is the fact that with so few games in a season, it’s hard to say whether that one game is “a significant part of the season with major implications” or if one game “is just one out of only a few games so you can’t really draw conclusions if we throw in ‘just one more’ easy opponent”. What the number “means” is even a subject for debate.
The only other big issue is that I kind of unfairly singled out last year’s schedule because it was easy to pick on. It does a really good job of helping me make my final point, though (hang on, you’re almost there). Even though this is a “flaw” it’s worth noting that it “did happen”. Similar to the 2009 season, Tom had a team that had a perfectly reasonable excuse for under-performing (mainly injuries), but it “still happened”.
From item “b” above saying that there is always some truth behind every crackpot opinion, as it applies to scheduling, you do have to be a little sympathetic to those frustrated at what they may or may not perceive as being a weakness of scheduling in 2012… after all, 2011 did happen. Really 2011 wasn’t a “bad” year, aside from the South Alabama deal. But looking at the second graphic, you can see that NC State IS towards the bottom of the “club” in terms of how many ‘quality’ OOC opponents we’ve scheduled. The question shouldn’t be whether the “crackpots” complaining about quality scheduling have a valid point (because it might appear that they do compared to our national peers); rather the question should be whether NC State is in a position to really be concerned about where it is in comparison to programs like Utah and Texas.
So How Is NC State Seriously Doing in the ‘OOC’ Picture Compared To It’s “Club”?
In terms of our performance, honestly, NC State is hitting about average for other programs of our own size. In the first plot, NC State may have “more” FCS opponents than anyone else, but that is where the “value of one game” debate comes into play. Is this really something to complain about or is it because we have “one” botched deal? (The answer is the latter explanation, by the way.) Anyone seriously complaining about having two FCS opponents last season would be hard pressed to blame it on anything other than a single botched home-and-home with South Alabama and certainly has no room blaming it on Tom O’Brien. Then again, when you consider that the “one botched game” accounts for 1/5 of the season’s OOC games, can you really blame anyone for being all that upset? “There is always a little truth to every crackpot opinion…“
In terms of bowl eligible teams, it is true that NC State was below average last year (even when you take out the extra FCS opponent we played), but as I mentioned in the article, we are really on par with the rest of the ACC, and we’re still within a standard deviation of the mean for our “club”. I have looked at it every way I can to form a valid complaint against how many “quality” OOC opponents we play, but at the end of the day, until we can prove we dominate our conference, we probably shouldn’t be too concerned about scheduling 4 bowl-quality OOC opponents.
Finally, when it comes to “who we beat”, which refers to the last graphic, NC State is actually doing very appropriately when you consider who it is that is out-performing State in this category. Texas is a big-time program with a strong history of success on the grid-iron. Utah is also a team that is frequently sniffing the top 25. Auburn doesn’t really need introduction. Regardless, this falls to the same point as in the previous paragraph: until we can prove we dominate the teams we are already scheduling, especially considering the [percieved by some as] ”terrible” scheduling in 2011, what can anyone really complain about? Beat who you’re suppose to beat, THEN worry about scheduling teams you shouldn’t beat. That’s how you grow as a program.
The Real Thing The Numbers Suggest: NC State Is Scheduling Exactly Who They Should Be
The bottom line is that NC State being in the position it is right now, we can’t get wrapped around the axle with who we schedule until we are beating the people we SHOULD be beating. Only then can we schedule some people we have no business beating. Just to further make the point, I will throw one more graphic out there. I wanted to ask myself “how many of the bowl eligible teams that we played (i.e. “good teams”) are we actually beating?”
Applying this sort of “percentage” based interpretation on whether a team wins one of them two or three bowl-eligible OOC games may seem silly (as may the graphic), but it tells a story, at least during last season it did. What it says is that last season, NC State had two “really good” OOC opponents and beat one of them, that one obviously being the bowl game against Louisville. NC State didn’t beat every team that it came in contact with, but it took one away. Personally that summarizes how I felt at the end of the season. I felt we had done “good”, but that we could do better. When you compare that to schools like Texas and Utah, of which NC State isn’t even close to swimming in the same waters as, we still have room to improve.
However, until we make that improvement, when the schedules come out or when we are debating whether to get in our cars and drive down to see NC State play another FCS team or powder-puff D1A team, let’s just keep in mind that right now, we are at the stage where we are focusing on beating the teams that we should be beating. At that, we’ll worry about scheduling home-and-homes with LSU and signing that 5 year contract with Alabama.