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I-AA Scheduling as it relates to ACC-SEC Rivalries

Kirk Herbstreit sparked an interesting discussion on timing of I-AA opponents. I looked in to the scheduling tendencies of Florida State-UF, GT-uga, and Clemson-USCe and found that the SEC has obviously decided to relocate I-AA teams to the end of the season.

SEC versus I-AA! Beware Georgia Southerns!
SEC versus I-AA! Beware Georgia Southerns!
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
On gameday this past weekend, Herbstreit stated that the SEC scheduling of I-AA teams at the end of the season is a disgrace because teams should be bolstering their shot at a playoff spot but instead the SEC has perfectly laid out the week before Thanksgiving as cupcake week. For example this week, 8 teams in the ACC were locked in conference play and two other teams were playing out of conference I-A level opponents while the SEC slate featured 5 I-AA opponents and 3 conference games. I want to particularly focus on the 6 teams in the ACC and SEC that play an annual Thanksgiving weekend game: FSU-UF, Tech-uga, and Clemson-USCe.


The chart above shows a trend amongst these six schools in increasing I-AA opponents on an annual basis since the expansion of college football seasons from 11 to 12 games in 2001. FSU was a relatively good apple until 2006 and then fell to the dark side.

Back to Herbstreit's point. We're seeing an uptick in these I-AA games amongst the teams but we're also seeing strategic scheduling. The ACC teams haven't really caught on to the trend while the last three years have seen a I-AA opponent for georgie, Florida, and USC(east) the week prior to their ACC rivalry games. And it's working pretty well. These three SEC teams have gone 7-2 in their ACC games immediately following cupcakes the last three years. Obviously, coaching stability, team talent, and other factors contribute but having essentially a scrimmage instead of a game prior to your biggest rivalry doesn't hurt. Below is a graph of the three year trend for FSU, GT, and Clemson's I-AA date (ACC); UF, georgie, and USCe's I-AA date; and the three year rolling ACC win percentage in these games. It's not pretty.


Herbstreit said this scheduling strategy is despicable but this is conference warfare. The SEC wants to win and assists their intrastate rivalry teams immensely by lining up these games. I want to see Tech line up bye weeks or I-AA's prior to every georgie game forever until we see a Power 5-wide ban on I-AA opponents or similar rule. What do you all think?