The above scenario is why I think the playoff will be expanded before long. Especially if conference championships are going to be emphasized, there's going to need to be more room for schools at the top of the ladder.
Yesterday we told you that Nick Saban would like to see the SEC add more in-conference games to it yearly football schedule. In addition to seeing rival institutions more often, adding more conference games would boost SEC team’s strength of schedule — if an additional league game replaced one of the three cupcakes usually found on an SEC’s squad’s schedule. And strength of schedule is something Alabama’s coach wants to see emphasized in the new playoff selection process:
“Anytime you do a subjective evaluation of who should be in the playoff, there’s going to be a lot of debate as to whether that was done correctly. Some of the part of the old system that we had were very, very good.
I don’t think there’s enough weight put on the quality of your schedule and the opponents that you play, which in our league is very, very important, because we had six teams in the top 10 last year at the end of the season. We play each other, and that has a huge impact on the quality of team you have, regardless of how many games you lose. There are thing like that that I think we can do better.”
The FBS presidents behind the new playoff have said that schedule strength will indeed play a big role in the process. Just how big, no one knows. In fact, there’s still no knowledge of just how the selection committee will look or who’ll be on it.
One thing is for certain, however — when the new playoff kicks off next year, someone will learn the hard way about the value of strength of schedule. Early on, you can bet that some schools (and their conferences) will continue to schedule with a “business as usual” attitude. That’s a risk. Especially if rivals increase the difficulty of their own schedules.
There seems to be a belief that a shift to a nine-game schedule in the SEC would lead to teams dumping a good non-conference game — most SEC teams try to play one per year — in favor of keeping three cupcakes on the menu. That would be a risk as well. If other leagues start playing 10 quality foes and SEC teams play nine it bite those SEC squads in the rump come selection time. The opposite could be true as well. If an SEC team schedules 10 quality games and loses one of them, might it get left out of the playoff mix because another team swept through nine quality games and three creampuffs?
Consistency is always an issue when discussing the NCAA Tournament selections. In that process, a team’s RPI and strength of schedule will usually give you a great idea as to who 95% of the at-large bids will go to. But the remaining 5% changes from year to year as the committee changes members. For example, this past year, road wins seemed to be a bigger than usual factor in selection who got those last few bids.
Get ready for those types of issues with the new football selection format. Especially early on as teams and leagues try to figure out just how tough their schedules need to be.