2011 As 1981: Week One

So it's time to have some fun. The end of the season kicked my butt enough that Study Hall kind of got put to the side a bit. But in the void of the next couple of weeks, it's time to start playing the What If... game. Rock M Nation readers know how I like to dabble in What If... from time to time (I'm getting ready to kick off the "What If Mizzou Were Already In The SEC?" series there as well). With the tools at my disposal, I like to go back and, as realistically as possible, project what might have happened in an alternate history, Back To The Future II style.

Two pieces came out this week and served as the genesis for this particular What If. First, the great Paul Myerberg projected how the pre-BCS bowl structure may have played out in 2011. Next, my F.O. colleague Brian Fremeau once again talked about connectivity, and the lack thereof, in college football. I felt it would be interesting, then, to play out the 2011 college football season with a completely different schedule. I randomly selected 1981 because it was an even 30 years ago, but once I checked out that schedule, I realized it would work pretty well. The 1981 season played out before schools broke the NCAA's monopoly on televised games (and before the concept of independent college football teams fell apart).

So that's what we're going to do: we're going to play out the 2011 season with 1981's schedule. That means...

  • 11-game schedules.
  • 16 bowls -- Fiesta, Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Bluebonnet, Hall Of Fame, Peach, Liberty, Gator, Sun, Tangerine, California, Holiday, Garden State and Independence.
  • 9 conferences -- ACC (7 teams), Big 8 (8), Big 10 (10), MAC (10), Pac-10 (10), PCAA (6), SEC (10), SWC (9), WAC (9).
  • 24 independents -- Army, Boston College, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Memphis, Miami, Navy, North Texas, Notre Dame, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, South Carolina, Southern Miss, Syracuse, Temple, Tulane, UL-Monroe, UNLV, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

Now, some notes are necessary.

  • In 1981, the 1-AA subdivision was still young, and not all soon-to-be 1-AA teams had taken the step down yet. Teams from the Missouri Valley, Southland, Southern and Ivy were still technically 1A teams. I began to try to figure out a way to make projections with those teams involved, too, but it gave me a headache. They're out.
  • In 1981, Boise State was, to say the least, not a 1-A program. Meanwhile, Pacific, Fullerton State and Long Beach State were. They no longer have football programs. So we're replacing Pacific with Boise State, Fullerton State with Nevada and Long Beach State with Idaho. Why those three (and not New Mexico State or others)? Why not?
  • Some teams still played 1-AA opponents. Instead of trying to project how, say, Baylor would have played versus Lamar (a 1981 opponent), I just decided to replace 1981 1-AA opponents with their 2011 equivalent. So Baylor plays Stephen F. Austin, Cincinnati still plays Austin Peay, etc. (Fun tidbit: Clemson actually played Wofford in 1981, just as in 2011.)

Finally, here is the process for projecting results. It is messy, but the point really isn't to be perfectly precise; that's impossible.

  1. If the two teams played in 2011, that result is used, whether or not it took place in a completely different part of the season. If the home-road status is flipped, then I apply a seven-point shift in the score to account for that. For instance, Tennessee and Georgia play in Week One. In real 2011, the game took place in Knoxville (Georgia won, 20-12). In the 1981 schedule, it's in Athens. So after an adjustment, the new score is 24-9. As with everything else here, it is imperfect. But oh well.
  2. If the two teams didn't play in 2011, then I will use week-specific Adj. Scores to determine the result. I was originally going to use full-season F/+ scores, but that's too easy. Teams change from week to week. The Auburn and TCU teams that existed in Week One are completely different from the ones that existed in November, so we're going to use week-specific teams. (If, say, a team had a bye in Week Four in real 2011 but not 1981, then I will use the closest applicable week instead.)

So yeah, this is messy, semi-unrealistic, etc. But it's also fun. (For me, at least.) And it will allow us an opportunity to see if "the old way" was better or worse than the current way. Does higher connectivity among major conference teams result in a more fun season?

Week One results are after the jump. Only 37 games took place -- two pitting ranked teams versus ranked teams (with one incredible marquee game leading things off), seven others pitting major conference team versus major conference team.

College Gameday Location: Baton Rouge. Obviously.

RANKED VERSUS RANKED
No. 4 LSU 9, No. 2 Alabama 3 (in Baton Rouge)
No. 23 Auburn 40, No. 14 TCU 28 (in Auburn)

So we start the season with what ended up being billed as the "Game Of The Year" in the real 2011. It takes place in Baton Rouge, so LSU wins by a little more. Meanwhile, an iffy Auburn squad pulls away from an iffy TCU squad.

MAJOR CONFERENCE VS MAJOR CONFERENCE
No. 8 Texas A&M 37, California 23 (in Berkeley)
No. 6 Florida State 36, Louisville 11 (in Tallahassee)
No. 12 South Carolina 32, Wake Forest 28 (in Winston-Salem)
No. 19 Georgia 24, Tennessee 9 (in Athens)
No. 22 Florida 35, Miami 17 (in Coral Gables)
Illinois 36, Pittsburgh 31 (in Pittsburgh)
Rutgers 19, Syracuse 16 (in Syracuse)

Two teams that ended up disappointing in the real 2011, start with solid wins -- A&M whips Cal on the road, and Florida State whips a weak Louisville squad (that got a lot stronger later in the year) at home. Georgia starts their Richt-on-hot-seat season with an easy win over Tennessee instead of a loss to Boise State.

FBS VS FBS
No. 3 Oregon 35, Fresno State 20 (in Eugene)
No. 5 Boise State 32, Central Michigan 18 (in Boise)
No. 20 Mississippi State 59, Memphis 14 (in Jackson)
BYU 38, Idaho 10 (in Moscow)
Houston 35, New Mexico 26 (in Houston)
Kentucky 25, North Texas 12 (in Lexington)
Ole Miss 27, Tulane 26 (in New Orleans)
Southern Miss 29, UL-Lafayette 16 (in Hattiesburg)
Tulsa 34, Kansas 31 (in Tulsa)
UNLV 33, San Jose State 23 (in San Jose)
Utah 31, Utah State 28 (in Salt Lake City)
UTEP 20, New Mexico State 7 (in El Paso)

Ole Miss wins!

FBS VS FCS
Baylor 48, Stephen F. Austin 0 (in Waco)
Cincinnati 72, Austin Peay 10 (in Cincinnati)
Clemson 35, Wofford 27 (in Clemson)
East Carolina 31, Western Carolina 17 (in Greenville)
Louisiana Tech 48, Central Arkansas 42 (in Ruston)
N.C. State 35, South Alabama 13 (in Raleigh)
SMU 40, Northwestern State 7 (in Dallas)
Temple 42, Villanova 7 (in Philadelphia)
UL-Monroe 35, Grambling State 7 (in Monroe)
Wyoming 35, Weber State 32 (in Laramie)

NEW TOP 25
1 Oklahoma
2 LSU (1-0)
3 Oregon (1-0)
4 Boise State (1-0)
5 Florida State (1-0)
6 Alabama (0-1)
7 Texas A&M (1-0)
8 Stanford
9 Oklahoma State
10 Nebraska
11 South Carolina (1-0)
12 Wisconsin
13 Virginia Tech
14 Arkansas
15 Notre Dame
16 Michigan State
17 Ohio State
18 Georgia (1-0)
19 Mississippi State (1-0)
20 Auburn (1-0)
21 Missouri
22 Florida (1-0)
23 TCU (0-1)
24 West Virginia
25 USC

So Alabama starts with a conference loss, LSU jumps to No. 2, and not much else changes. Honestly, aside from the game in Baton Rouge (and an Auburn-TCU matchup that would have been incredible a year earlier), this week is kind of a dud. But we're just getting started, obviously.

Next Week: No. 2 LSU heads to South Bend to take on Notre Dame (!), No. 12 Wisconsin hosts Michigan, No. 25 USC hosts Tennessee, and No. 1 Oklahoma opens up against Wisconsin.

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