Each new item of news pertaining to the College Football Playoff is as confounding as the headline before it. The format for which many clamored is fast becoming more insulated, laying slabs of concrete over the glass ceiling that the BCS installed.
Thursday’s news: the ACC will not count BYU toward the conference’s power conference scheduling mandate. Not only does the ACC take away incentive for its members to play BYU–a program that routinely wins 10-plus games and cracks the Top 25–but the conference has actually turned scheduling the Cougars into a demerit.
The BYU news might be more acceptable, were it not reported earlier this week that ACC brass is considering allowing its member to schedule nonconference games against fellow ACC programs. Now seems like a good time to mention BYU swept a home-and-home series with Georgia Tech.
Let’s pause for an Aspirin break.
In that suggested provision, we have the peak example of a power conference doing whatever it can to avoid spreading some of that massive, College Football Playoff-generating revenue elsewhere. This is the ACC insulating to a Mr. Burns-as-Howard Hughes level.
Presumably, teams scheduling conference opponents for nonconference dates will take the Spruce Moose to their destinations.
These various ACC scheduling edicts are the result of the conference following the SEC’s lead, opting to remain with an eight-game conference schedule rather than join the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 in scheduling nine.
ACC commissioner John Swofford offered the following:
Swofford on 8 vs. 9 league games: “Just because you play 1 more conference game doesn’t make your strength of schedule better"
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) May 15, 2014
He’s right–nine conference games doesn’t necessarily make a team’s schedule better. But it sure helps.
The 8+1 rule both the ACC and SEC are adopting mandates conference members just face an opponent from a power conference. Obviously this edict sees strength of schedule value in the Group of Five–of which the ACC and SEC obviously both are.
Working off the assumption that a team playing nine conference games will schedule only from the non-automatic qualifying conferences is provably false the majority of the time. To wit, eight Pac-12 members played at least one power-conference program. A ninth team, Utah, played BYU.
Arizona State and USC played two power opponents (USC did so in 13 games).
Of course, just because a team is from one of the five conferences deemed worthy of preferred College Football Playoff access doesn’t mean it’s a quality opponent. Washington played both Illinois and Boise State last season, and there’s little doubt Boise State was the better opponent.
Likewise, Utah’s game against rival BYU could reasonably be considered as much a quality opponent as Boston College was to USC. The Sagarin ratings scored BYU at 35 and Boston College at 64.
Strength of schedule is just the smokescreen for the real motivation of money. The power conferences are using the College Football Playoff to aggressively divide the sport into haves and have-nots–more so than it already was.
For those fans whose sole concern lies with power-conference programs, you might ask why should you care? The Group of Five becoming more exclusive would seemingly encourage more crossover, and thus more intriguing matchups.
However, by merely segregating from the non-automatic qualifier conferences, the Group of Five isn’t coming closer together. Divisions within the Group of Five are slowly starting to settle. It’s only a matter of time before Swofford goes Gretchen Weiner on Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.