Dec 29, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban looks on in the 2018 Orange Bowl college football playoff semifinal game against the Oklahoma Sooners at Hard Rock Stadium.


Tim Brando: Alabama’s schedule is an embarrassment, pathetic

Brando made his assessment discussing the state of college football

Seth Dunlap
August 22, 2019 - 8:02 pm

This is Part 1 of our two-part discussion with Tim Brando, national commentator and play by play voice for Fox Sports, on the problems facing college football.  Find Part 2 of our discussion here.

There is growing concern across the country that imbalance in college football scheduling among Power 5 conference programs is reaching a breaking point.  Under the microscope are Alabama and Clemson, the two powerhouse programs of this generation.

Both have benefited from schedules that include only eight conference games, one shy of the total conference games teams in the Pac-12, Big Ten, and Big 12 play each season.  The conventional argument goes something like this:  Teams from those conferences are playing an extra conference game, but are almost always left out of the College Football Playoff if they have even one blemish on their resume.  Meanwhile, teams from the SEC and ACC (see: Alabama and Clemson) are usually granted a one-loss mulligan on their path for college football’s final four. 

For example, Alabama was given a berth into the Playoff in the 2017-18 season despite being a one-loss team that didn’t play in the SEC Championship game.  Wisconsin went undefeated in the regular season that year, with their only loss coming in the Big Ten Championship to Ohio State, by less than a touchdown.   The Badgers watched the Playoff from home.  Clemson was a beneficiary in that season also, losing to perennially moribund Syracuse in mid-October only to find themselves in the Playoff ahead of Wisconsin. 

Defenders of Alabama, Clemson, and their respective conferences will point out to their dominance during the Playoff and bowl season.  Those two programs have split the past four national titles.  It’s an easy, shallow, clap-back to schedule nitpickers.  SEC fans can also, rightfully, say their conference has been the best in college football the past decade.  One less conference game serves to level their playing field, or so those fans argue.

But it’s not just the in-conference slates that are highly imbalanced.  Alabama’s non-conference games the past two seasons — remember, a slate that includes four out of conference games per year, one more than teams in the Pac-12, Big Ten, and Big 12 — is littered with cupcakes.  In 2018, they played Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, The Citadel, and a Louisville team that went 2-10.   This season the Crimson Tide will play Duke, New Mexico State, Southern Mississippi, and Western Carolina.  Not exactly murderer’s row of college football powerhouses.

One person who is tired of the scheduling imbalance is Tim Brando, play-by-play voice and national commentator for Fox Sports.  Brando was blunt in his assessment of Alabama’s schedule when interviewed on “The Last Lap” on WWL Radio in New Orleans.

“Alabama’s non-conference games this year, for the second consecutive year, are an embarrassment nationally.  To trot that kind of competition out there to play, and even one of those games in late November, is just pathetic.”

Strong words from one of the most passionate, educated voices covering college football the past four decades.   Brando was quick to add context to his criticism.

“Now, look.  Are they one of the most dominant program in the last decade?  Absolutely.  Is Nick Saban arguably the best head coach of all time? No question about it.  But is his program that much better than everybody else that he can schedule anybody and get away with it?  I don’t think so.  But the system we have in place has now allowed for that.  If you have a big enough brand — and certainly Alabama is the biggest, Clemson is right there with them — you can apparently not only have a bad schedule, but lose a game against that bad schedule and get a mulligan.”

The lack of parity in college football has been a hot-button topic over the past few seasons, as has been the deference showed to the country’s premier programs.  Is there any college football analyst who believes either a one-loss Clemson or one-loss Alabama team, regardless of which team that loss is to, would be left out of the College Football Playoff this season, or any other? 

Brando believes fans across the country are becoming cynical and losing interest in a system seemingly rigged to benefit the elite.

“There’s a lot of Alabama-Clemson fatigue out there,” Brando said, before quickly correcting himself.  “I probably should restate that.  Clemson-Alabama fatigue because they’re the superior team right now and the reigning champions.  Chapter five of that matchup is not something that’s in the best interests of college football.  Now, it’s great for Clemson.  It’s great for Alabama.  And they’ve earned it.”

All indications are the two programs are on a collision course to meet in January yet again.  Alabama-Clemson V may be inevitable, but so, too, should smart, responsible changes to college football’s scheduling. 

Brando elaborated more on his belief that college football is experiencing a relevancy crisis across the country, outside of what he describes as “The Sun Belt” — an area encompassing central Texas east to the Carolina’s, south of the Mason-Dixon line.   Tomorrow, we’ll feature Brando’s passionate argument for systemic college football reform.

Listen to part one of Tim Brando’s discussion with Seth Dunlap on “The Last Lap” in the podcast below.


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