Rocky Long: Power Five “Afraid” to Play Group of Five Home-and-Home

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LAS VEGAS – San Diego State head coach Rocky Long is none too impressed with the scheduling practices of Power Five programs. Excuse me — scratch Power Five.

“I call them ‘Resource Five,’ because they have so much more money than everybody else,” Long said at Tuesday’s session of Mountain West media days.

Power Five, Resource Five; however you name them, the teams of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC dictate the landscape of college football. That includes shaping nonconference schedules, an increasingly contentious component of the new College Football Playoff.

Murmurings of the Power Five excluding nonconference dates to other Power Five members have floated about, but Long — whose San Diego State faces both Cal and Penn State in 2015 — says that won’t happen.

He cited Alabama as scheduling “one good game” and three against either Group of Five or FCS opponents. In 2015, the Crimson Tide play Wisconsin, then MTSU, Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern. None of the four are true road games.

Long said he understands the rational, and so long as Power Five teams are playing Group of Five in the nonconference, San Diego State will continue to schedule them.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a glass ceiling.

“I’ve got no problem with going to North Carolina, like we did last year, or going to Penn State, like we do this year,” Long said, adding one caveat: “If they’ll come back to San Diego State. I’ve got no problem with that, but I think it should be home-and-home.”

And why won’t that happen?

“Because they’re afraid,” Long said.

Hawaii often hosts Power Five opponents. USC came in 2013, Washington and Oregon State visited Honolulu in 2014, and Colorado opens 2015 there. But Rainbow Warriors head coach Norm Chow said that’s changing in the years to come.

“Those games were made years and years ago,” he said. “It’s going to be tougher.”

Chow referenced the Playoff for Power Five programs shying from road trips to the Island.

It all comes back to Playoff positioning. A loss challenges a team’s ability to make the four-team field, but a loss on the road to a Group of Five team is especially detrimental. The upside for Power Fives going to Group of Five programs is limited, a topic that’s been of particular interest to college basketball.

But the difference between basketball and football is the former can’t preclude the best of the mid-majors from playing for the national championship. Long believes that in its current state, the College Football Playoff is out of reach for a Group of Five member.

Long sees expansion to an 8-team Playoff as the most realistic option for a level playing field between the Group of Five and Power Five. And once that happens, he said a Group of Five program will win a national championship.

“There are teams that were in this league that could have won that tournament,” Long said. “TCU” — a favorite to reach the Playoff in 2015 — “was in this league. Utah beat the heck out of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. [Utah] could have won that tournament.

“It’s not going to happen very often, but it’s going to happen,” he added.

The road for a Group of Five team to reach the Playoff allows no margin for error, and such a candidate needs to upend some Power Five opponents along the way. That latter element is the primary motivation Long says he takes in scheduling the “resource” conference members.

“I’m not a fan of playing money games for money,” he said. “I’m a fan of playing those games to prove that you belong.”