Imagine the NFL playing is postseason with the New England Patriots taking on the New York Jets only once during the regular season while fellow AFC East foe Miami had to play the Patriots twice. Think the Dolphins have a legitimate gripe?
How about Green Bay picking who it can play, opting for Jacksonville and Tennessee annually instead of Pittsburgh and other top AFC teams while Minnesota took on a more challenging schedule with New England and Denver?
These scenarios are the same as Pac-12 teams having to play nine conference games while other Power 5 conferences, including the SEC, play no more than eight. A more daunting schedule could lead to a couple of losses and a missed opportunity at the College Football Playoff than a team with a lesser slate.
The word “Playoff” in the College Football Playoff title should be italicized or an asterisk should be placed next to it until we have uniform schedule requirements. Is it really a playoff when the deciding terms all season are inconsistent from conference to conference? Shouldn’t a playoff have teams with a level playing field from the start of the season to the end? Otherwise, it’s more of a crapshoot than a playoff.
College basketball at least tries to make its 351 teams in Division I uniform come March Madness. Conference tournament champions and regular-season champs without tournaments are automatic qualifiers. The 68 teams are seeded based on their strength of schedule and performance. They are thrown under one umbrella.
The same objective can’t be achieved by college football’s current playoff system. It’s like trying to throw a blanket over a wild hog. The inconsistency of the amount of conference games and the fact the Big 12 does not play a championship game, thereby avoiding the risk of a team suffering a loss (a luxury other Power 5 conferences don’t have) makes the College Football Playoff a fallacy.
The Big 12, fortunate this year that Oklahoma did not screw up other than its loss to Texas, made it public last week that it will require tougher schedules to impress the College Football Playoff committee. The conference announced that its football programs will be required to play at least one game each season against a school from the other Power 5 conferences — the SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 — or Notre Dame. No timetable was announced.
Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne, whose program has played three non-conference games against non-Power 5 teams the previous three years, has mentioned that BYU should be factored into the Power 5 equation. The Wildcats play the Cougars next season in Glendale, Ariz., in addition to Hawaii and Grambling State. If BYU is not considered equal to a Power 5 team (the Cougars should be based on their schedule and tradition), than Arizona would play four straight seasons without facing what is considered a top out-of-conference team.
“Schedule strength is a key component in CFP Selection Committee deliberations,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in a statement in regards to its new scheduling rule. “This move will strengthen the resumes for all Big 12 teams. Coupled with the nine-game full round robin Conference schedule our teams play, it will not only benefit the teams at the top of our standings each season, but will impact the overall strength of the Conference.”
On top of that, no Big 12 team will be allowed to schedule more than one non-Football Bowl Subdivision team per season.
If the Big 12 is doing this, so should every Power 5 conference, right? How can it be fair if the Big 12 must undergo this type of schedule when an ACC team, for example, can go without playing a Power 5 non-conference opponent?
The NFL has a structured playoff system based on an equated scheduling system. The teams from each conference rotate their schedule with the opposing conference’s divisions. The AFC East plays the NFC East one year than the NFC North the next and so on. Owners rarely, if ever, complain of an unbalanced or unfair schedule.
A rotating schedule will be difficult to do in college football because of the 64 teams in the Power 5. But at least uniformity can exist if each team is required to play at least one non-conference Power 5 opponent with no more than one FCS opponent in addition to each conference playing the same number of games.
The Power 5 should govern itself that way. The conferences were given autonomy by the NCAA last August. A majority of Power 5 coaches want schedules against only Power 5 opponents, according to an ESPN report at the same time the Power 5 received autonomous power.
Until uniformity exists with scheduling, the college football playoff system will not be a true indicator of the best teams vying for a title. Having a playoff is a step in the right direction, but the way it’s set up now on unequal terms, college football is not getting any further toward the right way to determine a champion.