Why switching back to an 8-game conference schedule would be smart for the B1G
It makes no sense.
The current system does not field an even playing field. Period.
In the Playoff era, the B1G, Big 12 and Pac-12 play a 9-game conference schedule while the ACC and SEC are still stuck on an 8-game conference schedule. The thinking was that eventually, every Power 5 conference would operate under the 9-game conference schedule.
Yeah, that hasn’t happened. And based on the lack of progress/non-conference scheduling of ACC and SEC schools, there are no signs that’ll happen ever.
So naturally, a comment like this from Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos caught my attention:
— Sean Callahan (@Sean_Callahan) May 22, 2018
Read between the lines and that looks like Moos is suggesting that the B1G will move back to an 8-game conference schedule. Callahan later confirmed that Moos was actually talking about the crossover games and not about an 8-game conference schedule.
But I think switching back to the 8-game conference schedule is absolutely a subject that the B1G athletic directors need to think long and hard about.
On the surface, skeptics will probably call the B1G soft. The public reaction will be that the first year the conference gets left out of the Playoff, it decides to lighten the schedule.
Is it, though? You know what’s not a coincidence? The fact that we’ve had four years of the Playoff and the only the ACC and SEC have had at least one representative every year.
It’s time for a change.
And because getting the ACC and SEC to change to a 9-game conference schedule is apparently as difficult as giving an elephant a piggyback ride, the B1G might consider taking the path of least resistance. That is, going back to the 8-game conference schedule.
If you’re under the impression that the ACC and SEC make up for their 8-game conference schedule in non-conference play, here’s something to consider. Look at the average number of games vs. Power 5 opponents that these Power 5 opponents are set to play in 2018 (including Notre Dame):
- Big 12 — 10.1
- B1G — 10
- Pac-12 — 9.75
- ACC — 9.35
- SEC — 8.93
Yes, you read that correctly. The SEC will average LESS than nine Power 5 opponents in 2018 because Arkansas is somehow only playing eight such foes. What’s more alarming? Not a single SEC team will face 10 Power 5 opponents in 2018.
Meanwhile, 32 of the other 50 Power 5 teams will face at least 10 Power 5 opponents this year. That makes no sense.
Here’s something else to chew on. While presumable contenders Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Miami (FL) will only have nine Power 5 matchups in 2018, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Texas, USC and West Virginia will all have 11.
Add in a potential conference title game and you’re talking about possibly having to face 12 Power 5 opponents to make a Playoff spot. Meanwhile, Alabama faced 9 last year because it didn’t play in a conference title game. Maybe the same thing will happen to an SEC team again (for the record, Alabama did deserve the Playoff spot over Ohio State last year).
And if you’re under the impression that the “Power 5 opponent” stat is overrated, perhaps you missed when Playoff teams like Clemson and Oklahoma lost to Syracuse and Iowa State, respectively. Any given Saturday, the vast majorities of Power 5 teams are at least equipped with enough athletes to win a game. That’s why it’s a noteworthy thing to track.
That’s also why you can bet B1G athletic directors are frustrated. Here they decided to go to a 9-game conference schedule and even require a Power 5 non-conference opponent — certain exceptions were made — in hopes that everyone would follow suit back in 2016.
The ACC and SEC resisted that, and frankly, can you blame them? If you were in prime position to earn Playoff berths every year without any real motivation to change, why would you?
That’s the stalemate we’re at. This isn’t going to change overnight, especially with most non-conference schedules filled for the next four years.
But there could be a solution.
What if all Power 5 conferences went back to eight league games and then scheduled two non-conference matchups against Power 5 teams? That’d be a huge win for the Playoff selection committee and for the fans. We’d get new rivalries, more separation and most importantly, a more even playing field moving forward.
There you go. That’s something that actually makes sense.