Illini Football: 2008 Season - Roster Information - History - Future Schedules
Illini Basketball: 2008/09 Season - Scholarship Chart - Depth Chart
NCAA Football: Preseason Rankings - Bowl Tie-Ins
Other UI Sports: Volleyball - Soccer

Friday, June 18, 2010

What the 2011 Schedule Should Look like.

In my not-really-read-by-anyone rant before this, I argued for non-geographic divisions, arguing that the Big Ten must emphasis group cohesiveness, and at the same time reinforce rivalries.

now that we will almost assuredly have 12 schools for 2011, the Big Ten will need to, in the next month or two, redo the league schedule.

What follows is how I think they should do it. The result is an 8 game league schedule that protects almost all key rivalries, fits into the existing non-conference slate for each school, and creates two balanced divisions.*

* I know some will argue the "balanced" side when they see the final product, keep in mind I also believe that divisions should be frequently reset

Step 1: Create 2 Divisions

First off, teams are split into 3 Pots. Each pot is a cluster of 4 geographically linked schools.

They are:
Pot 1 Pot 2 Pot 3
Wisconsin Illinois Michigan
Iowa Indiana Michigan State
Nebraska Purdue Penn State
Minnesota Northwestern Ohio State

In order to split the league into two groups of 6, two schools from each pot should be put in each division. So for example if Illinois and Indiana are in one division, then Purdue and Northwestern must be in the other.

The next task is to rank all of the schools from 1-12. The format I used below I multiplied the number of wins for each of the last 5 seasons by a "weight factor" for each season. The weights add up to 100, with 30% of the score being the 2009 record, 25% being 2008, and so on down to 10% for 2005.

The results are below (go Illinois!)

30 25 20 15 10
Ranked 1-12 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 TOTAL
1 Ohio State 11 10 11 12 10 1080
2 Penn State 11 11 9 9 11 1030
3 Wisconsin 10 7 9 12 10 935
4 Nebraska 10 9 5 9 8 840
5 Iowa 11 9 6 6 7 835
6 Northwestern 8 9 6 4 7 715
7 Michigan State 6 9 7 4 5 655
8 Michigan 5 3 9 11 7 640
9 Purdue 5 4 8 8 5 580
10 Minnesota 6 7 1 6 7 535
11 Indiana 4 3 7 5 4 450
12 Illinois 3 5 9 2 2 445

The basic rules I used are as follows:

- The top school is in group A
- The next best school is in group B
- Alternate into group A and group B until 2 teams from one pot are in a group, then the remaining schools go into the group.
- After that, rearrange schools, keeping 2 from each pot in each division, to try and create divisions with equal "scores" (from the total column above)
- Where possible, split primary rivals (Michigan/Ohio State, for example) into opposite divisions, to allow for a championship game between them.

Long store short, here's the final result:

Division A 4,370
1 Ohio State 1,080
2 Wisconsin 935
3 Northwestern 715
4 Michigan State 655
5 Minnesota 535
6 Indiana 450

Division B 4,370
1 Penn State 1,030
2 Nebraska 840
3 Iowa 835
4 Michigan 640
5 Purdue 580
6 Illinois 445

For practical purposes, the division is perfectly balanced (I agree, seeing Northwestern over Michigan in seeding is a bit to swallow, but its also been the fact the last few seasons). I will again reiterate, my plan calls for divisions to be reseeded every two years. Division names could be geographic (Great Lakes and Plains) or honorary (Zuppke and Yost, rotating every year to other legends of Big Ten football)

Step 2: Competition Format
Now, I know what what you are thinking, you've been thinking it since I first split up Ohio State and Michigan State in an opposite league from Michigan... "How the hell can you put TWO of Michigan's rivals in another division?"

well, here's the answer:

Remember the Pots of 4 teams? Those are your geographic rivals. In addition to 5 division games (which would include 1 geographic rival), you play 2 games against the remaining two geographic foes. That makes 7 games. (I would propose a traveling trophy to the winner of each geographic subdivision, to further reinforce rivalries and add a layer of complexity to the league, and have a permanent system of regional rivalry). The remaining game is a free-for all. 3 schools of each division would have 2 division home games, 3 schools would have 3 division home games, the schools with only 2 division home games would host one of the remaining 3 other schools in match ups made by the committee. These match ups should be made to balance strength of schedule, create TV matchups, or reinforce regional rivalries. They should also be used to balance out schools that have not played for a while.

Again, you are wondering: "Ok, that's great, you play 3 schools from your region each year, and 4 other division schools, so there are 4 random schools you can only play 1 of each 2 year cycle?"

I will say again, this is why divisions are fluid. Regional competition can be reinforced via my 3 traveling trophy proposal. Divisions are meant to spread out games, allow rivals to meet in the finals, and ensure geographic distribution of games each week. You play 3 schools EVERY year, and you play 5 of the remaining 8 schools every 2 years. In rare cases to make divisions even schools might go 4 years without playing, but that should only be for geographically far-flung opponents, and avoided at all costs (if we go to 16 schools, it will be more often, which is the nature of the beast).

So... scheduling

Step 3: Idealized Schedule.
There are 8 rounds of play, and 13 weeks in the season (schools play 12 games) between Labor Day Weekend and Thanksgiving Weekend. Because you don't want to have a "dead" week midseason, and you don't want have week 2 or 3 Bye's, the league schedule should be spread out. Spreading out as far as 10 weeks (from week 4-13) allows for league games to be split fewer ways each week, allow for focusing of advertising dollars and less use of overflow channels. Schools also currently have non-conference games for 2011 scheduled as late as week 13 (Northwestern hosting Rice on thanksgiving weekend).... so matchups will have to be pushed around.

What follows is an "idealized" schedule for the league. It is comprised of 8 weeks of play (the
actual league schedule will be spread across at least 9, and preferably 10-11 weeks of play.

The following basic tenants were followed:

  • Schools from each division are paired by their key rival (Illinois/Northwestern, Indiana/Purdue, etc. When one school has a home game, the other has an away game. This is to reduce having competing games in any region (for example, fans in Illinois will have 1 home game to go to, and ideally teams won't play opposite one another).
  • The schedule follows the following format:
    Week 1 Out of Conference Opponent (random)
    Week 2 Division Game #1
    Week 3 Division Game #2
    Week 4 Division Game #3
    Week 5 Secondary non-division Rival
    Week 6 Division Game #4
    Week 7 RIVALRY WEEK (primary non-division rival)
    Week 8 Division Game #5

Week Away Home
1 Ohio State Nebraska
1 Wisconsin Illinois
1 Northwestern Penn State
1 Purdue Michigan State
1 Michigan Minnesota
1 Iowa Indiana
2 Ohio State Wisconsin
2 Indiana Michigan State
2 Minnesota Northwestern
2 Michigan Iowa
2 Illinois Penn State
2 Nebraska Purdue
3 Wisconsin Northwestern
3 Michigan State Minnesota
3 Indiana Ohio State
3 Iowa Purdue
3 Penn State Nebraska
3 Illinois Michigan
4 Michigan State Ohio State
4 Minnesota Wisconsin
4 Indiana Northwestern
4 Michigan Nebraska
4 Iowa Illinois
4 Purdue Penn State
5 Illinois Indiana
5 Purdue Northwestern
5 Penn State Ohio State
5 Michigan Michigan State
5 Iowa Wisconsin
5 Nebraska Minnesota
6 Northwestern Ohio State
6 Minnesota Indiana
6 Michigan State Wisconsin
6 Purdue Michigan
6 Nebraska Illinois
6 Penn State Iowa
7 Northwestern Illinois
7 Indiana Purdue
7 Ohio State Michigan
7 Michigan State Penn State
7 Minnesota Iowa
7 Wisconsin Nebraska
8 Ohio State Minnesota
8 Wisconsin Indiana
8 Northwestern Michigan State
8 Penn State Michigan
8 Nebraska Iowa
8 Illinois Purdue

Step 4: Fitting it into the Calender
Below is my proposed 2011 league calender. All out-of-conference games are preserved. the light green cells (two TBA's and Eastern Michigan for Penn State) reflect games that are not scheduled

League play is mostly concentrated in weeks 5-13, although a couple games are played in weeks 3-4. The "idealized" schedule was broken up quite a bit to create bye's midseason and fit around non-conference games that are already scheduled. For example, Illinois and Northwestern both have home league games on one day.

Unless I made a mistake (which i spent a freaking hour tweaking this) no school plays 3 games home or away in a row, although a couple schools do have a travel heavy stretch (which happens). Probably the biggest violation is that I moved Minnesota/Iowa and Indiana/Purdue to earlier in the season to make things fit. This is regrettable, although when schools have a better idea of what they are dealing with, "rivalry week' can be better protected( and in Iowa's case, they do finish against their new rivals Nebraska at home).

Click Here or on image to enlarge


No comments: