College football schedules need to improve

sports@macon.comMay 27, 2014 

PigskinPreview

Georgia head coach Mark Richt cracks a smile while speaking with a member of the media during the 11th Annual Peach State Pigskin Preview.

JASON VORHEES — jvorhees@macon.com

If you love college football, you have to be excited about the new playoff system that starts this year. We’ll have four teams battle it out Jan. 1 and then the winners will meet 12 days later to crown a true national champion.

A 13-member committee will select the teams and one criterion will be strength of schedule, which is already bringing up a great debate around the sport.

Should the teams in FBS play teams in the FCS? Should the bigger teams clog their schedules with potential guaranteed wins against schools that are simply there to pick up a big paycheck?

Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way. Georgia Southern, in its final game in the FCS, beat Florida in Gainesville last fall. And we all know the Michigan loss to Appalachian State years ago that established no game is a guaranteed win.

But will games against weaker opponents hurt teams that might be in contention for a spot in the playoff? The answer is yes. Certainly they will. Why wouldn’t games like that hurt a team’s case for a place in the semifinals?

It’s going to happen eventually. There will be a team with a good record that will have two games against weak opponents and the committee will knock it out. It’s inevitable, and when it happens, you can bet we’ll start hearing the case for an eight-game playoff instead of having just four teams in the mix.

This week at the SEC meetings in Destin, Florida, the topic already has come up. Florida head coach Will Muschamp says the Gators will avoid games against FCS opponents from now on. That’s probably a good idea considering what happened against Georgia Southern.

But Georgia head coach Mark Richt said the Bulldogs will continue to schedule games like the one they will have this Nov. 22 against Charleston Southern.

Richt told reporters Monday his reasoning is the smaller program in the FCS need the big money deals to get beat (at least usually) in order to make their budgets for their entire athletics department.

Richt is right that many times when a team gets paid close to $1 million to go fill out another team’s schedule, it helps the bottom line. But why should he care? Why should Richt be concerned if a program like Charleston Southern survives financially or not?

His main job is to get Georgia in position to win a national championship, and if a game against a team like Charleston Southern puts that possibility in jeopardy all because Richt wants to help the Buccaneers, he’s going to regret that stance.

What is the value for Georgia to host a team like Charleston Southern? Is it for the fans’ benefit? Oh, yeah, like they’re going to flock to Athens to watch that. They might, but they won’t enjoy it like they would if the Bulldogs played a more relevant team.

Let’s be honest, fans don’t like those games. Who is a better opponent at Sanford Stadium -- Charleston Southern or a team from one of the other big FBS conferences that will make Georgia’s schedule look better? Even if it is a weaker team from one of the big five BCS conferences, wouldn’t that look better on paper than a game against Charleston Southern?

These games are usually sold out, since most tickets are bought in season ticket packages, but that doesn’t mean the seats will be filled. In fact, the attendance at these games has been horrible the past few years, in Athens and all around the country.

And administrators are wondering why people aren’t showing up for games? Well, people can’t always make it to every single game, and when they look at the schedule, they’re more likely to skip the game against Charleston Southern than a game against Clemson, Tennessee or Auburn.

Usually, it only takes one team to get burned before other teams fall in line with what programs like Florida are going to do. And Richt better hope it’s not Georgia that gets left out of the party for playing a game that brings zero value to the table.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at www.twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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