College football playoff: Will schedules get tougher?
Through the process of expanding the college football playoff format to four teams, OU athletic Joe Castiglione has mentioned several times that strength of schedule needs to have a more prominent role in deciding who makes the cut. Joe C. has at least one important ally.
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick talked Wednesday of just exactly that. On Chicago radio station ESPN 1000, Swarbrick said he expects the college football selection committee to put an emphasis on strength of schedule, particularly non-conference schedule.
That would be a good thing. That would be a very good thing.
“We want it to be big enough so that every football team, all 121 FBS schools, are viewed,” Swarbrick said. “There’s somebody who’s actually spent the time having watched some games and understand them. We want the sort of sophisticated analysis that says you know this team lost their first game, but their quarterback didn’t play the last three quarters. The rest of their season they were undefeated, so if you factor that in, maybe they’re a top-four team in the country. We want to have that level of sophistication.”
Bless or curse the NCAA basketball committee as you will, but in recent years, it has increasingly rewarded teams that play tougher schedules. The hoops committee has adopted a mantra: Who did you play, where did you play them and who did you beat? I like that. I like that a lot.
“One of the things we like so much about that is as much as this happened in basketball in the past decade, the selection committee will send a real message about strength of schedule,” Swarbrick said. “If you choose not to challenge yourself, especially in the pre-conference games, it’s going to impact your rating. That’s another way we think we’re contributing to the vibrancy of the regular season through this process.”
We interrupt this blog for the annoucement of the formation of Jack Swarbrick-for-President Club. That’s exactly what I’ve been railing about for years. College football’s post-season doesn’t need tinkering as much as college football’s September needs an overhaul.
And the BCS system often did not reward tough schedules. In 2004, the BCS eliminated the strength-of-schedule component from its formula and eventually reduced the impact of computer rankings. That left the decision-making power in the hands of poll voters, who were given no criteria and frankly have never had much of a clue anyway, collectively.
So the BCS could end up with a final ranking last December in which Stanford was No. 4 and Oregon was No. 5, even though Oregon was the Pac-12 and beat Stanford AT STANFORD. The Ducks still were being penalized for playing — and losing to — LSU in Arlington in September.
Hopefully, Swarbrick is saying that the new committee won’t penalize Oregon for playing LSU while other contenders are playing Kent State.
Most college football heavyweights have fallen into an established scheduling formula. Those with four non-conference games play one good-to-decent opponent and three automatic victories. Michigan is a notable exception in 2012, playing Alabama and Notre Dame; ). Those with three non-conference games play one good-to-decent opponent and two rumdums. If the one decent opponent has a mediocre year (like Alabama playing Penn State and OSU playing Arizona in 2011), then that schedule goes south in a hurry.
OU would be set with an increased emphasis on schedule strength. The Sooners play Notre Dame in 2012-13, Tennessee in 2014-15, Ohio State in 2016-17 and LSU in 2018-19. OSU would not be in such prime position; the Cowboys don’t have a marquee opponent scheduled until Clemson in 2019.
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