Will Baylor’s Non-Conference Scheduling Cost it a National Championship?

By Amy Daughters -

How is TCU No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings—three places ahead of Baylor at No. 7—when the Bears beat the Horned Frogs 61-58?

It’s one of, if not the most, compelling questions to come out of the first round of CFB Playoff rankings. And it goes a long way in illustrating how critical strength of schedule is in the new Playoff model.

In answering questions about TCU outranking Baylor, Playoff committee chairperson Jeff Long indicated that TCU’s “overall body of work” including its strength of schedule made the difference, according to Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News.

When you put all those factors together, we think at this time TCU has a better resume and was voted that way ahead of Baylor.

This despite the fact that the Bears beat the Horned Frogs, straight up. This isn’t the case of playing an imaginary game of which team is better—no, in this instance, there was an actual football game. A contest that was played just over a month ago.

Can the committee substantiate its claim that Baylor’s resume falls short of the mark?

The truth is, Baylor has made a deliberate decision not to schedule non-conference games with power-five teams, and it’s a tendency that dates back further than a couple of seasons.

The last time the Bears scheduled a regular-season game against a team that was in a power-five conference was six years ago in 2009, when it travelled to Wake Forest and beat the Demon Deacons 24-21.

Since then, Baylor has played 19 consecutive non-conference games against non-power teams. The Bears record over this span is 18-1; the only loss coming, ironically, to No. 4 TCU in 2010, when the Horned Frogs were still members of the Mountain West.

Is it any coincidence that Baylor posted its first winning season in 14 years in 2010, the same year it stopped playing power-five teams out of conference?

Sure, the Bears had to win plenty of Big 12 games to go 10-3 in 2011 and 11-2 last season, but easily getting off to a 3-0 start certainly didn’t hurt.

Looking at Baylor’s future scheduling, the trend continues with the only power-five opponent on the horizon a home-and-home series with Duke slated for 2017 and 2018.

Though there are plenty of questionable non-conference scheduling practices across major college football, it’s important to remember that Baylor is more of an exception than an example of the rule.

Before this season, Texas Tech had the longest drought in playing a power-five team out of conference— after playing Ole Miss in 2003, the Red Raiders waited 10 years before scheduling Arkansas this year.

Tech’s revamped approach to scheduling, which includes Arkansas again next year and a home-and-home series with Arizona State in 2016 and 2017, gives Baylor the dubious title of the power-five program that has gone the longest between big-time, non-league games.

To compare, let’s look at TCU, the team that jumped Baylor in the rankings despite losing to them.

The Horned Frogs didn’t join the Big 12 until 2012, but since then has had a power-five foe scheduled out of conference each season: In 2012 it was Virginia, in 2013 it was LSU and this season it was Minnesota.

Before that, TCU consistently scheduled big-time, non-league games to keep itself on the national radar, despite its relegation to the WAC, C-USA and finally the Mountain West.

Moving forward, the Horned Frogs have future dates scheduled with Arkansas, Ohio State and Cal. This means as long as TCU keeps winning, it will be considered a legitimate contender.

Is the higher ranking in the new CFB Playoff poll a tip of the hat in TCU’s direction, a reward for solid scheduling, or, instead does it serve as a clear warning to would-be playoff teams: Beef up your non-conference schedules, or pay the price?

If nothing else, it underscores the absolute importance of scheduling in college football. And it’s why reports like Texas A&M and UCLA scheduling a series are so crucial to the future landscape of the game.

The last time the Aggies played a power-five out of conference was in 2011, when they were still in the Big 12 and met Arkansas in Arlington, Texas. Their drought will end next season when they open up with Arizona State and will continue with UCLA in 2016 and 2017 and Clemson in 2018 and 2019.

Texas A&M knows the score, and now it’s Baylor’s turn to get on board.

 

 

  1. G of F
    November 14, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Not sure A&M or any other SEC/ACC team is a good example of knowing the score, scheduling mandate means it is not optional. The other thing that is not acknowledged here is 9 conference games vs 8. Big 12 schools already play 9 conference games. If playing 10+ games vs P5 opponents is now a thing than make comparisons to schools like Texas or USC.

  2. John Thomas
    November 14, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    This is why I believe Miss. State cannot afford a loss this Saturday against Alabama or the rest of the season and would put the committee directly on the spot should Miss. State lose and still be ranked higher than some other 1 loss teams. Don’t care what Power 5 conference you play in, playing UAB, Southern Miss, South Alabama, and UT Martin shouldn’t give them a free pass because they play in the SEC like the BCS system did.

    • Patrick Ryan
      November 14, 2014 at 7:10 pm

      You are welcome to that opinion. Doesn’t mean that it is right. Those are not great teams and when you play in the SEC you can play basically whoever you want. But don’t worry do to people like you they will play more better OOC games than in the past. However as unhappy as people were with the BCS. They usually got it as close to right as possible. I would much rather it be the BCS deciding the 4 playoff teams than a committee influenced by personal bias and a will to please the public. As unhappy as we were in the past I think it may only get worse. People are not suppose to get what they want when they don’t deserve it and that’s what I see happening. Truly hope not.
      Also, when the rules are you have to win six games to qualify for a bowl. Who isn’t going to schedule a few easier teams. And don’t. Go talking about other conferences because if they were in the SEC they would be doing the same thing. This will allow for team growth throughout the season. Playing another team to understand your team better without having to suffer a loss cause we all know what happens then. Just look at FSU, they have won 25 straight but if they loose people say they won’t stand a chance at making the playoffs and will prolly fall out of top ten. Believe it or not it’s not the end of the world playing a few of those games evey season. If you make it to a bowl you get more practice time and more money, both of which are very beneficial to winning programs. This the reason for scheduling them.
      Don’t know if you read my post about a month ago on how playing FCS teams continues to add to the growth of college football and is beneficial to college football as a whole. For many many reasons. Hope I didn’t loose you along the way. Tens to get side tracked.

    • John Thomas
      November 14, 2014 at 8:03 pm

      And see, that’s where you’d be dead wrong. The BCS had a major controversy in 1/3 of its seasons. In 2000, 2001, 2003, 2006, 2007, and 2011, there were plenty of disputes over who should have been in the game with the 2011 title having the lowest TV rating to date of any BCS bowl game outside of UConn/Oklahoma. Plus, according to this site, the BCS formula would have MSU and Alabama 1 and 2, with the 3rd team being a very distant 3rd. Which to me is laughable considering that MSU played nobody out of conference, has the 120th ranked pass defense nationally and has only played 1 team ranked in the top 50 nationally in pass offense, which is why so many people are picking Alabama this weekend. The BCS was beyond flawed thanks to ESPN’s influence with the Coaches Poll and the Harris Poll. But you seem to miss the point of the article, which states right or wrong, Baylor is getting hurt in the current rankings due to an extremely weak non-conference slate. Once/if MSU loses, they must fall into that same category otherwise the committees decision looks horrific given the fact that no matter who Baylor has played, they beat TCU straight up. But don’t expect those FCS opponents to be on those schedules much longer with the new system putting more weight on the non-conference part of the schedule. That’s why you are currently seeing so many programs switching out opponents. Nobody wants FCS opponents or known bottom tier opponents from the smaller leagues on their schedule if they can help it.

  3. Dave
    November 14, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    Look at how Washington has dumbed down their schedule. Instead of USC and UCLA every year in conference, now they get Colorado (yuck!) and Utah. Also only Arizona and Arizona St. every other year. OOC games 2013-2019 includes exactly 4 power 5 games against Illinois and Rutgers (2 of the worst teams in a weak Big10). Listen to whom they have added. 2 games against Idaho, 2 games against Montana, 2 games against both Portland St and Sacramento State, North Dakota (not State) and the always powerful Nevada team. 2018 brings in non Power5 BYU who has impressed us this year with an 0-3 record against the Mountain West. In 2020 and 2021 Michigan reappears, maybe by then Coach Petersen will get them out of their funk and beat Oregon. Starting with 2012 and continuing thru 2021, not a single top 10 let alone top 25 team, let alone a single OOC scheduled game against any team receiving any top 25 votes in any poll.

    Can anyone top this level of mediocrity?

    2009: LSU, Notre Dame and BYU (for the weak game).

    2010: Nebraska, Syracuse

    2001: Miami, Michigan

  4. Mike
    November 14, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    This is about as close to a High School Prom Queen Selection as you can get. The winner is voted on and it will always be from the popular pack. Never mind that a team (in this case Baylor) beats a team like TCU on the football field (where we thought that is what the game was about). Why should the contest on the field be more fitting than a groups bias for their favored teams chose WHO IS ACTUALY THE BEST TEAM DURING THE GIVEN YEAR! I mean we have no examples, like the NFL, FCS what am I saying, even the High Schools actually award the title to the team that performs the best in each game for the entire year. Why don’t we just draw lots and then take turns between the chosen for each years top four team, or am I getting to close to home. I find it sad that we are talking about how teams should make sure they schedule games with the popular teams instead of changing the system so that the best team for THAT year makes it to the top and wins the championship on the field, not in the voting booth. The game and the players deserve better!

    • day
      November 15, 2014 at 8:13 am

      ” Never mind that a team (in this case Baylor) beats a team like TCU on the football field (where we thought that is what the game was about).” I understand where your coming from but the question is if Baylor is were worthy of playing in the playoff. Minus the OOC, right after Baylor beat TCU, they lost to W.Virginia knocking them down, mean while TCU has not missed a beat on winning. BIG12 also only has a few great teams this year but only three are ranked. Baylor really has no quality wins to back their cause but TCU & still has to play Okla.St, TT & K-State. May be if they win the K-State game that will help them.

  5. Mike
    November 15, 2014 at 9:20 am

    My defense of Baylor in this case is not about Baylor, but a condemnation of the “Queen for a Day” system of voting in 4 teams out of 128 to choose a champion. With what we have now, using strength of schedule should be a part, but it is being held up as the main determination, instead of winning on the field. With this system, the “chosen group
    ” will never have to worry about having a bad year and an underdog having a good year, they have an easy vote into the dance.

  6. Tully
    November 15, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    If the committee lets Baylor and or MSU in with their pathetic OOC scheduling….you will see other teams loading up on the cupcakes.

  7. Bert Turner
    November 15, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    OK, interesting TCU almost lost to KU today and came back to win by 4 points.. Baylor beat Oklahoma huge last week and the prior week the Bears beat the same KU team the Horn Frogs almost lost to today by I believe 30 points… Comparing the latest performance and face-to-face matchup, they should now Not be ranked ahead of Baylor! Regardless of overall rankings.
    TCU should have beat KU easily. I’m not sure of the spread but it was probably at least around 3 touchdowns or so. Also, now that Miss State lost to AL – where should they be?
    It will be interesting. One of the problems I see, is that these schools schedule these non-conf games sometimes many years in advance (3-6 yrs) — so what should a team like Baylor do?
    IMO, the folks will have a lot to think about when ranking the teams this week

    • GamerTeeTom (SEC)
      November 16, 2014 at 6:21 pm

      I haven’t heard anyone complaining about a 16-team playoffs, but I can see why they would.

      For that to happen, the FBS would risk more injuries to the players and fans would have to pay more money to see the extra games; or the regular schedule would had to shrink to allow a post-season like that. Shrinking the regular season would mean less proof on which teams are better before the post season.

      Now, if there was a 16-team playoffs, it could use the current conference champion games as the first round plus wildcard match-up between the 2 top 12-game conference champions. The only issue with that is that would leave out a conference champion and the independent teams. Therefore, I would try the scenario of 10 conference champions and 6 contenders.

      Contenders are the winners of 6 wildcard match-ups, between the top 12 teams that didn’t make it to a conference championship. The contender games will be held during Week 16.
      Issue: Where would the contender games be held? Who gets in the contender games? Any rules on the amount of wildcards per conference? How will the 16-team bracket be seeded?

      I chose that scenario to even the battlefield between the teams in the playoffs. I think it’s more fair when they all have played the same amount of games. The Big 12, AAC, and Sun Belt would have to make room for a CC conference championship, regardless if it’s a rematch.

    • GamerTeeTom (SEC)
      November 16, 2014 at 6:27 pm

      My bad, hit the wrong reply button.

  8. Brock
    November 15, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    The thing that’s amazing to me is that fans actually don’t want a 16-team playoff. Ten conference champions plus six at-large teams competing for the national championship: somehow, people actually DON’T want to see this. Absolutely incredible.

    I would understand if the powers that be didn’t want a 16-team playoff, but the fact that fans don’t want this is something I’ll never understand. I guess most people would rather b*tch about their team getting left out of the 4-team beauty contest. And don’t think for a second that things would be different under an 8-, 10-, or 12-team playoff.

    • day
      November 16, 2014 at 8:02 am

      The way I see it is that everyone will complain about everything. People did not like the bowl system before the BCS cause sometimes you had split National Championship & the bowl line up with conferences, then people complained about the BCS, now people are complaining about the 4-team playoff & I know in the future people will complain about a 8 team, 16 team or 32 teams playoff. It will never end, that is why I don’t complain about, I have no control over. Personally I feel that the 5th or 6th team in the polls does not deserve a chance at the title, I’m fine with the 4 teams playoff though. In the future, I guess I would not mined a 8 team playoff but now your just adding more games for more juries so someone out there can make some excuse to why they lost to Marshall was because their quarterback was hurt.

    • GamerTeeTom (SEC)
      November 16, 2014 at 6:22 pm

      I haven’t heard anyone complaining about a 16-team playoffs, but I can see why they would.
      For that to happen, the FBS would risk more injuries to the players and fans would have to pay more money to see the extra games; or the regular schedule would had to shrink to allow a post-season like that. Shrinking the regular season would mean less proof on which teams are better before the post season.
      Now, if there was a 16-team playoffs, it could use the current conference champion games as the first round plus wildcard match-up between the 2 top 12-game conference champions. The only issue with that is that would leave out a conference champion and the independent teams. Therefore, I would try the scenario of 10 conference champions and 6 contenders.
      Contenders are the winners of 6 wildcard match-ups, between the top 12 teams that didn’t make it to a conference championship. The contender games will be held during Week 16.
      Issue: Where would the contender games be held? Who gets in the contender games? Any rules on the amount of wildcards per conference? How will the 16-team bracket be seeded?
      I chose that scenario to even the battlefield between the teams in the playoffs. I think it’s more fair when they all have played the same amount of games. The Big 12, AAC, and Sun Belt would have to make room for a CC conference championship, regardless if it’s a rematch.

  9. Patrick Ryan
    November 16, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    Huge fan at this point most definitely don’t want that. It would be cool. I can understand that people may want to see it. But it’s fine the way it is. Four teams is perfect, I personally don’t even want them to go to 8. I still think the bowls mean a lot, should mean a lot and are still very exciting. Especially now that we are playing 12 games and have conference championships and now a playoff. A lot of games for kids that can’t even get any money…

  10. Ricky W
    November 16, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    Go to an eight game playoff. The additional wildcard(s) added by MLB and the NFL increased interest and competitiveness in both leagues. (The NBA has too many playoff games). Not wanting to go more than eight as that diminishes the importance of success during the regular season. As in there are too many bowl games already.

    On a related topic, the best twelve teams should be playing in the New Year’s Six Bowls. Not the best eleven and a special case. I was originally in favor giving a G5 program an automatic berth in the New Years Six. But none of the G5 conferences appear to have a program competitive enough (on a week to week basis) to deserve a top bowl game this year. Maybe the rule should be changed if a Gof5 program does not make the top 15, they do not receive the auto berth.

  11. JoeD
    November 17, 2014 at 8:58 am

    I am greatly enjoying the consternation caused by a four team playoff. I have no problems with the committee, only with the number four. There are three things that will cause this format to fail. The first is if the SEC doesn’t get two teams in. The second is if the SEC does get two teams in. The third is if the Committee doesn’t figure out a way to get five conference champions into a four team playoff. It doesn’t take Sherlock to figure out that we will soon have an eight team playoff in which the Big 5 champions will automatically qualify which also means that conference championship games will serve as the first round of the playoffs.

  12. David
    November 17, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    Just keep playing Incarnate Word and Houston Baptist and any other FCS startup you can find. Maybe pick up some PFL teams. They’re FCS, too. Too bad, Baylor.
    .
    The lack of a CCG is what destroys the “on the field” crap that the XII spurts out. If you actually had 12 teams in the conference, and played 11 games against them, and one OOC, I’d buy that crap. But you have 9 games, no CCG. That’s a total of 9 games. The SEC, B1G, and ACC have their championship games, so their champions and runners-up have also played 9 games. So, what’s your supposed edge, again? Nothing. Furthermore, most of them play a major OOC, regular games such as UGa/GT, UF/FSU, UK/U of L, the B1G v. PAC series, 5 ACC v. ND….
    .
    XII, pick up two teams out of the set {Cincinnati, UConn, Colorado State, UCF, USF} and quit pretending you have anything special in your ‘co-champions’ having played the same number of games as the SEC, B1G, and ACC champions, and one less than the PAC.

  13. Sean
    November 18, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    This is why the SEC will forever be true contenders. It is the only league that does not have to schedule out of conference games for power rankings. The SEC speaks for itself. Hands down you have to respect that. Big 12 Big 10 Pac 10 etc conference suck

  14. Travis B
    November 18, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    The simple reason why Baylor’s OOC scheduling should matter:

    If they continue this practice (like their coach has stated they will do) and get in, then other teams will take note of this and schedule weak OOC games as well. You want to kiss away the chance of more great OOC games because the committee lets weak scheduling OOC teams into their playoff?

    I am rooting against them solely for that reason. I want to see great football, not a team go out there and kick the snot out of an overmatched opponent just to have a “better looking record” and to deceive the world into thinking they are better than they are.

  15. Clay Cavin
    December 7, 2014 at 6:12 am

    Baylor has horribly weak OOC opponents for the next 6-8 years while TCU ALWAYS has at least one tough OOC game scheduled every year for the foreseeable future and keeps adding them. THAT’S why TCU IS and SHOULD be ranked ahead of Baylor! Once Baylor grows a set and gets cupcakes off their ENTIRE OOC schedule, then maybe they’ll get the respect that TCU does. For years TCU TRIED to schedule tough OOC teams but no one wanted to play them because they were scared of losing to them.
    It’s a big risk playing someone tough out of conference (like TCU does) but THAT’S why they’re being rewarded by the committee. The committee clearly wants to reward teams that do take that step which Baylor clearly doesn’t want to do. Incarnate Word, Buffalo, Nothwestern State?? You’ve GOT to be kidding me. C’mon Baylor, grow a set and maybe you’ll be rewarded like TCU. UNTIL then, just shut your mouth!!

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