With over three months left until the 2014 college football season begins and eight months until the first College Football Playoff, scheduling is still at the forefront of the discussion.
Speaking to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com, Wisconsin athletic director and playoff selection committee member Barry Alvarez emphasized that strength of schedule will be one of the criteria used to evaluate teams.
“It’s your win-loss record. Did you win a championship? It’s strength of schedule, it’s common opponents. Those are things that will be considered,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez was then asked his opinion on the different scheduling models between the conferences and its effect on strength of schedule. What resulted was a thinly veiled statement to the SEC, which has decided to continue with an 8-game format.
“It’s not my place to decide what they want to do with their scheduling. That’s up to them. We’ve chosen to go to nine [in the Big Ten], strength of schedule is a factor. If you’re not at nine then your nonconference scheduling is important. You take a look at us, we’re playing LSU. I think it will be obvious which schools tried to play up and understand that strength of schedule is important. They do so with nonconference games.”
Alvarez’s statement echoes what playoff executive director Bill Hancock said last week.
“To the selection committee, whether a conference plays eight or nine games is inconsequential,” Hancock said. “What matters is – don’t just quote me on that, add the next sentence – what matters is everybody’s schedule as a whole, all 12 or 13 games.”
That means that the SEC and ACC, if they choose to stay with eight games, will need to double up their efforts to “play up” and have a challenging non-conference schedule. And that likely goes beyond the SEC’s mandate that each school must schedule one team from a power conference (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12 plus Notre Dame).
One power conference game at a neutral-site may not be enough, a format that several SEC teams have been using.
Blatant Homerism makes a great point that the 2013 Alabama Crimson Tide, ranked 3rd in the final BCS, may not have been selected to a playoff because their non-conference schedule included a down Virginia Tech (at Atlanta), Colorado State, Georgia State (FBS transitional), and Chattanooga (FCS).
Alabama’s 2014 schedule isn’t much better, with West Virginia (at Atlanta), Florida Atlantic (6-6 in 2013), Southern Miss (1-11 in 2013), and Western Carolina (FCS). Should the Tide stumble once along the way, they could be left out of the playoff under the right scenarios.
And likely before the committee even meets or selects the four teams, there will be endless politicking by media members, coaches (which has begun already), fans, and others. A combination of those factors could leave out a second team from the SEC and force an eventual change to a nine-game format.