It’s nearly a month before the college football season begins and that means no one has anything better to do than call in to sports talk radio and complain about the difficulty of their team’s schedule.
It’s the same story every summer: Auburn is playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation.
For the past three seasons, Auburn’s schedule has featured both of the previous season’s national championship participants. In addition to a grueling SEC schedule that culminates with games against Georgia and Alabama, Auburn is not shy about selecting tough non-conference opponents. In the past five seasons, Auburn has played Kansas State, Louisville, Clemson (twice) and Washington as a part of their non-conference campaign. This season Auburn continues the trend with a game against a potential top-10 foe in Oregon.
We get it. Stop the name-dropping. No one is debating you.
It’s not a bad thing either. In 2017, Auburn’s schedule afforded them the opportunity to be a two-loss team in the playoff. If it wasn’t for a defeat in the SEC Championship, Auburn would have been the first two-loss team to make the playoff.
Auburn’s 2019 schedule makes the 2017 schedule look like child’s play. With the season opener against Oregon, there is little margin for error if the Tigers want to have a shot at the playoff. Starting the year off 0-1 before conference play isn’t necessarily the best recipe for success. The conference schedule is Auburn’s toughest of the century. Never before has Auburn had to play Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU, and Texas A&M in the same conference schedule.
Nonetheless, if Auburn can make it to the month of November undefeated or with one loss, it will have the same opportunity it had in 2017 to make the playoff because of the difficulty of its schedule.
Something I have never understood is why fans would prefer for their school to play an easier schedule. History has illustrated that a weaker schedule can hurt teams instead of helping them.
For example, in 2014, Baylor and TCU were left out of the playoff in favor of Ohio State because of the cupcakes the two schools played in the non-conference. Northwestern State isn’t the ideal competition you should want on your schedule if your team is trying to break a tie for the last spot in the playoff.
Additionally, Ohio State won its conference championship, a feat that was impossible for Baylor and TCU considering the Big 12 Championship didn’t exist yet. Big 12 teams and Notre Dame have suffered from a lack of one extra opportunity to put a defining win on its schedule.
In response, the Big 12 created a conference championship game. Notre Dame, on the other hand, has to go undefeated to make the playoff. In short, a difficult schedule means there will be more grace afforded to your team when selection time rolls around. A weaker schedule means the committee will be less forgiving of that 31-point loss to Iowa.
With Auburn’s 2019 slate of games, Tiger fans will know that Auburn is one of the four best teams in the country if they come away with one loss. Similar to 2017, Auburn could be one of the four best teams and have two losses. At the end of the day, Auburn has the opportunity to prove it on the field. I would rather my team have the opportunity to prove it than have weak or false claims when the committee has to make a decision.