Florida State or Not, Georgia's 2016 Strength of Schedule Will Be Strong

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Florida State or Not, Georgia's 2016 Strength of Schedule Will Be Strong
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Scheduling has become a hot-button issue, especially during this age of re-alignment.

Will there be a nine-game SEC schedule? Will Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) games be eliminated from the schedule of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams?

Those questions remain unanswered, but Georgia is apparently ready for whatever scheduling curveball comes its way.

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Georgia head coach Mark Richt

News broke from the ACC spring meetings about a potential 2016 neutral-site game between the Bulldogs and the Florida State Seminoles, according to Coley Harvey of the Orlando Sentinel.

My B/R colleague Ian Berg wrote about the holdup of an official announcement, which is being caused by the uncertainty surrounding the SEC's future scheduling format.

Whether the SEC stays at eight games and the Florida State-Georgia game happens, or the potential neutral-site game falls victim to a nine-game schedule, Georgia's 2016 schedule will be attractive to the playoff selection committee.

The Bulldogs already have their traditional intra-state rivalry with Georgia Tech on the slate for 2016, as well as a game with Georgia Southern, according to FBSchedules.com. Toss in a neutral-site game against Florida State and an eight-game conference schedule, and Georgia will earn the benefit of the doubt no matter what cross-division games come its way.

If the SEC chooses to add a ninth conference game, Georgia's potential matchup with Florida State will go away and it will stick with Georgia Tech.

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Georgia head coach Mark Richt

Either way, those are rocky waters to navigate. Sure, Georgia Tech is by no means a powerhouse these days, but you never know where the program will be three years from now.

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity should be applauded for being proactive about his future scheduling and having options, despite not knowing exactly what the future holds. College football was a beauty contest before, and it's only going to be more of one now that access to the playoff will be doubled from two to four teams starting after the 2014 season.

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Unfortunately, though, Georgia's flirtation with Florida State does speak to a problem with a nine-game conference schedule.

With one less non-conference game on its schedule, a conference team may be forced to pass on playing an attractive non-conference foe such as Florida State in favor of maintaining a traditional rivalry with another non-conference foe.

So where would the Georgia-Florida State game take place? Florida State athletics director Randy Spetman suggested that it would be played at the Georgia Dome, which means it could be part of the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff. That event, which started in 2008, has featured five SEC vs. ACC matchups and will pit Alabama versus Virginia Tech in the 2013 edition.

The nine-game conference schedule will make it harder for these kickoff games to get quality matchups involving programs with traditional out-of-conference rivalry games. That's a shame, because the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff and the Cowboys Classic have established themselves as can't-miss events in recent years.

One solution could be to move traditional out-of-conference rivalry games to Week 1 neutral-site kickoff games every now and then, in order to get teams that suffer from logistical scheduling headaches into the rotation.

 

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