Of the 128 FBS head coaches who led their team into the 2016 season, 83 (65 percent) had a career winning record coming off a bye. It makes a statistical case for the widely-held belief that teams benefit from a week off.
What’s often overlooked is the timing of the break. Ideally, the open date is scheduled for after the halfway point of the season, but not too late to prove ineffectual.
The following programs will play the upcoming season handicapped with a way-too-early or way-too-late bye. In one case, it’s so extreme that the team will technically play the entire regular season without a break.
It’s yet another under-the-radar caveat of scheduling.
Bye: Week 2
Air Force opens up the 2017 season by hosting FCS opponent VMI. After taking the next Saturday off, it plays 11 consecutive regular-season games. It ties them with four other FBS schools for the second-longest stretch of non-stop action this year.
The Falcons also had an early bye last season, though it wasn’t as extreme, taking Week 3 off on their way to a 10-3 mark. They haven’t been forced to play 11-plus straight games since 2010, when it was 12 consecutive contests, followed by a Week 13 bye. That team went 9-4.
This season, Air Force has the earliest week off in the Mountain West. The latest belongs to San Diego State and Utah State, both with Week 11 byes.
Bye: Week 12
One of three Pac-12 schools with extremely late breaks this season, Colorado faces the opposite situation as does Air Force – playing 11 consecutive games and then getting a break. All that remains for the Buffs after their Nov. 18 bye is the season finale at Utah.
The last time Colorado had an open date this late was in 2015, when it was saddled with a Week 14 bye. That meant it played the entire season without a break. That team finished 4-9 overall and 1-8 in Pac-12 play.
Bye: Week 2
Like Air Force, Texas Tech will play its season opener (hosting FCS foe Eastern Washington), take Week 2 off and then play 11 consecutive opponents without a break.
While it’s clearly the least advantageous bye in the Big 12, the Red Raiders’ high octane offense, which requires precise timing, may actually benefit by not switching off. For the defense, which lacks depth, the opposite will likely be true.
Tech played 11 straight games without a break as recently as 2015, when it wasn’t off until Nov. 21 (Week 12).
Bye: Week 13
The Trojans have the worst bye in college football in 2017, drawing a Nov. 25, or Week 13, open date. It means that they’re the only team in the FBS that will play 12 consecutive regular season games without a break. It’s a significant disadvantage for a team with legitimate CFB Playoff potential.
The only school that faced a similar scenario last season was Marshall, which took Week 1 off before playing 12 straight. The Herd finished 3-9.
USC hasn’t had such an unfavorable bye since 2006, when it opened with a win at Arkansas, took Week 2 off and then played 11 in a row. That team finished 11-2, ranked No. 4 in the final AP.
Bye: Week 12
Like Colorado, Washington State is set to play 11 consecutive regular season games before taking Nov. 18 off. For the Cougars, all that remains after the late break is the Apple Cup at Washington.
WSU hasn’t played 11 straight since 2010, when it had back-to-back byes in Weeks 12 and 13 before hosting Washington on December 4. Those Cougars went 2-10 overall and 1-8 in what was then the Pac-10.