When the notion of an “ideal” college football schedule emerges, it’s easy to think about better matchups and fewer cupcakes. True enough. However, for purposes of this season-long series, we’re focusing on time-slotting for games so that fans get to see more fourth quarters of more games, thereby gaining access to more of the day’s most important moments.
Here’s the week-two edition of the ideal college football schedule, measured against the actual start times and game windows on the docket.
Every scheduling issue for week two is confined to Saturday.
The first issue comes right out of the gate, as the South Florida-Florida State game — moved up to 11:30 a.m. Eastern due to ESPN’s broadcast of the U.S. Open women’s singles final — could stand to be moved up even more, to 11 a.m. What if a long delay occurs, or the game has a lot of incomplete passes, timeouts, and penalties? Commercial breaks will be reduced in number, yes, so a 3.5-hour window probably won’t lead to a problem, but an extra cushion couldn’t hurt. Can you imagine Serena Williams’s date with history being pre-empted for anyone in the United States? Yikes.
Next on the slate, Houston-Louisville stands out as an intriguing game in the noon window. If that game could have been moved back to 1 p.m. Eastern, a lot more people would be able to focus on that contest. It’s no longer a conference game with Louisville’s move to the ACC, but a Tom Herman-Bobby Petrino chess match? That game is buried at noon with other more mediocre offerings, relegated to a streaming-only viewing option. That’s poor.
You can watch Army-Connecticut on a TV, but not Houston-Louisville. Sigh.
At 3 Eastern on Saturday, FOX Sports Net shows UTEP at Texas Tech. Yet, Fox Sports 1 shows UTSA at Kansas State in the noon window. Wouldn’t it make sense for FS1 to move UTSA-KSU to 11:30 Eastern so that there’s no overlap (or at least, a lot less) with the start of UTEP-Texas Tech?
However, Fox Sports Net definitely scores with this next move, one worth celebrating: The Iowa-Iowa State game — a rivalry contest and a comparatively high-profile game in an afternoon window bereft of many headliners — is a 4:45 Eastern time kickoff, neatly inserted between the 3:30 Eastern kickoffs and the 6 Eastern start of Oklahoma-Tennessee. That’s the kind of progressive scheduling we need to see more of in college football. When Sooners-Vols goes to halftime around 7:30 Eastern, fans can go to Hawkeyes-Cyclones in the fourth quarter. See how this can work when done right?
One of the best things ESPN does with its scheduling every year is the 6 Eastern/9:15 Eastern double-stack. Yes, the game window should be 3.5 hours and not 3.25 (3 hours and 15 minutes), but the less traditional start times create a clean stagger relative to other games. Oregon-Michigan State will very probably start at 8:07 Eastern (though possibly not until 8:22), and LSU-Mississippi State will begin at around 9:20. Then, Boise State-BYU comes on the air at 10:15, with a kickoff around 10:20.
This schedule is a little flawed on the front end, but from 4:45 Eastern and onward, there are a lot of staggered start times, which make this a model for how the sport ought to schedule on a weekly basis. We’re not likely to get Saturdays this good in terms of time-slotting in the future, so appreciate them while you can.