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Football: Myth destruction

Sports post; political/transportation readers feel free to skip.

Once again, all over the stupider parts of the PSU sports internet, apologists are claiming that the Big Ten schedule is still stronger than what we'd have ended up with had we stayed the course with our old eastern independent pals plus intersectional games, or that Pitt is equivalent to Temple and should thus not warrant a 1-1 long-term deal, or whatnot. A particularly odious thread at BWI included an attempt to talk about the old schedules as "playing Temple and Syracuse every year". This is a really useful way to look at it, as it turns out! Thanks, homer!

Below, you find a table (old school HTML is all I know) comparing the current Sagarin rankings (using his combined rating of the brain-dead BCS formula and the far better predictor) for the teams contained within our 1982 MNC schedule (regarded as quite strong in retrospect), our 1986 MNC schedule (regarded as quite weak at the time and in retrospect), and our current year schedule. Sorted by Sagarin rank, so you can see strength against strength.

What this shows you, in a way, is what this year would have looked like if, instead of being in the Big Ten, we had played the same teams we did in 1982 and 1986.

Rank1982 opponent (rank)1986 opponent (rank)2009 opponent (rank)
1Alabama (3)Alabama (3)Iowa (8)
2Pittsburgh (17)Cincinatti (7)Ohio State (19)
3Notre Dame (22)Pittsburgh (17)Michigan State (51)
4Boston College (28)Notre Dame (22)Minnesota (56)
5West Virginia (40)Boston College (28)Temple (61)
6Nebraska (43)West Virginia (40)Michigan (67)
7Rutgers (55)Rutgers (55)Northwestern (93)
8Temple (61)Temple (61)Syracuse (94)
9NC State (80)East Carolina (71)Indiana (95)
10Syracuse (94)Syracuse (94)Illinois (102)
11Maryland (103)Maryland (103)Eastern Illinois (124**)
12  Akron (146)
Top 10111
Top 30442
Top 50662

** - 1-AA team (FCS); ranking likely inflated due to problems with the algorithm on non-1A teams.

Observe what I'm going to call the Temple/Syracuse line. In the 1982 schedule (with current rankings), 3 of the other 10 opponents have ratings this year worse than Temple's (and remember, 2009 has been a very strong year for Temple!). In the 1986 schedule, also, 3 of the 10 other teams are worse than Temple; 7 are better. In the 2009 schedule, however, 7 of the remaining 11 teams are worse than Temple.

With Syracuse, it's even worse. 1982 schedule? One team worse than SU. 1986 schedule? Ditto; only one team worse than the Orange. In the 2009 schedule, however, 4 teams are worse than SU, and one is only one spot better.

And those who would bitch about putting Pitt back on the schedule? Pittsburgh would be the second strongest team on the 2009 schedule.

Hey, you're welcome.

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Hi M1ek, you start by flagging this post as a "non-sports post." I think you meant to either call it a "sports post" or a "non-policy post." It's a minor quibble, I know.

Also, I think your use of an HTML table for tabular data is totally appropriate. It's when people use tables for layout that usability folks get upset.

First, a couple of minor corrections: the '86 schedule has 2 top 10 & 5 top 30.

While, generally I agree with what you say here, I wanted to add that I think it would be harder to schedule as many of those teams today. For the same reasons that we schedule so many cupcakes, the Alabamas, Nebraskas, etc. would be less likely to schedule us every year now than in the past. Another point is that I'm guessing that if you looked at the rankings for Big Ten teams from a couple of years ago or in a couple of years from now, they would be better than this year.

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