UMass Georgia Football

Georgia coach Kirby Smart is a leader of a trend that recognizes the value of strength of schedule in the future of college football.

Good news, college football fans! There are now fewer than 100 days until the new season starts.

The bad news is you still have to wait 96 more until that first tailgate and kickoff.

While gazing into the future of college football this past week, something stood out far off in the distance. Even though it feels as if you might need a telescope to see it now, when it arrives its impact could be tremendous.

Rarely do I find myself excited about the announcement of future scheduling in college football, especially when it’s 5 or 10 years out. It’s usually enough just to keep straight the teams Virginia, Virginia Tech, JMU, and others are playing this upcoming season. Plus, in full disclosure, as the parent of a 1-year old, it’s hard just keeping things straight on an hour-by-hour basis, never mind something coming up in a decade.

However, it was certainly eye-catching to see the University of Georgia recently announce an upcoming home-and-home with Oklahoma. They will play in Norman in 2023 and in Athens in 2031.

The story becomes even more eye-catching when you pair it with the news that last month the Bulldogs announced a home-and-home with Florida State for 2027-28, only after adding series with UCLA (2025-26), Texas (2028-29) and Clemson (2029-30 and 2032-33).

In 2028 alone, Georgia will host Florida State, travel to Austin, and host rival Georgia Tech, then a year later host Texas, and visit Clemson and Georgia Tech.

“We want to go play these type of teams, and we’re looking for those types of games,” Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart told Paul Finebaum last week on the SEC Network. “I think that’s where college football is going. I think that’s where TV is going. We want to be the center of attention. We want to play in those big games.”

Go big or go home?

In Georgia’s case, it’s go big and schedule a home-and-home.

Smart is a visionary. His projection of where college football is going includes looking down the road after the 2026 season when the ESPN CFB Playoff contract ends. Smart, like many, sees an expansion of the postseason from four to eight schools where not only wins, but strength of schedule, will be a major factor in deciding the field.

Currently, scheduling top-ranked contenders of college football comes with risk and reward. Losing one in your nonconference slate leaves little margin for error when only four schools can be selected.

Yet what happens if the field doubles?

Smart, while not planning to lose, is projecting that a defeat or two, possibly even a 9-3 record, could still get a school in the playoff field if it has the strength of schedule to back up its body of work.

Georgia’s schedule will not only benefit the Bulldogs and the SEC, but also the fans.

By scheduling from the top tier, Georgia is giving college football fans the Saturday marquee matchups we want to see, and by lining up home-and-homes, they’ll be played right in front of both sides of their dedicated fan bases as opposed to the one-off matchups played in a NFL stadium.

If your school is lucky enough to square up with Auburn, Michigan or Notre Dame, you want to experience Toomer’s Corner, The Big House, or “the echoes,” not have to travel to Dallas to see the game in the home of the NFL’s Cowboys.

The attendance decline in College Football in 2018 was the largest in 22 years. Even with the popularity of the sport, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to sell season tickets.

Giving levels dictate seating, the at-home experience has become more convenient and cheaper, and the millennial audience expects more than just “buy a ticket and enjoy the game.”

Georgia knows it needs to give their fans games worth watching in their stadium.

Smart is making the play that he knows where college football and television is going. In the meantime, I like where Georgia is going and hope other schools in the Power Five are taking note.

Recommended for you

Commenting is limited to Times-Dispatch subscribers. To sign up, click here.
If you’re already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.