Cleat Geeks

Playoff Era: Change is Needed in the Non-Conference

You have nearly survived the eight long months without football and are hyped for its return, but lets be honest, College football plain sucks in September.

You are not hyped for Ohio State to play Western Michigan or Michigan to play UNLV, you are hyped for ranked opponents with the best athletes to go at one another. You are hyped for the rivalry games and College Football Playoff that follows.theHorseshoe

Another aspect of September’s suckiness, is the fact that a University will charge copious amounts of your hard earned money to watch your team steamroll some (to quote Gordon Gee) ‘little sister of the poor’. Sure, it is football and we (fans) love football, but how someone can spend $80 to watch Ohio State put 70 points on the indefensible Western Michigan Broncos is ludicrous, but I digress.

College football needs to change how the schedules come to fruition and there are a multitude of ways to do this. The following is/are my proposal(s):

A College Football program typically has four out-of-conference games prior to the start of conference play. With all Power 5 Conferences involved, allow the schedule to be based off where each team finishes within their respective conference from the year before. Furthermore, each non-conference game must be reserved for a Power 5 opponent (more to follow).

For example, Ohio State finished first within the Big Ten Conference last year, so in 2015, they would play two teams from a Power 5 Conference that finished first within their respective conference – this takes away the notion of scheduling weak to start the year as a sort of preparation for the meat of one’s schedule. This format would have fans’ amperage set into overdrive entering September!

Can you imagine Ohio State playing at Baylor and at home against Florida State this year? The ratings would be through the roof and the high ticket prices would be justified.collegeFootballHelmets

Each season, the cross-conference opponents would change. In the above example, the Big Ten hosted the ACC and traveled to the BigXII. The following season, the SEC and Pac-12 would battle with the Big Ten.

The fans want to see the best against the best. The players want to play against the best. So do us all a favor and take a page from the NFL – best teams get the toughest schedules.

For the remaining two games of the non-conference schedule, the athletic programs have their choice in scheduling whoever they would like with one caveat – it must be a Power 5 member.

With the institution of the College Football Playoff, conferences are getting larger and will ultimately include the Notre Dame’s, BYU’s, Boise State’s, and Houston’s of the world. When all is said and done, it is likely the Power 5 Conferences will consist of around 80-100 teams. The teams getting left out in the creation of the Power 5 are the same teams that were never doing anything in the BCS era anyway, so, harshly – good riddance!

Under this format, with the top teams playing right off the bat, parody is created organically. Teams in the playoff a season ago, may begin the year with one or two losses, giving way to a second-tier team to make a leap ahead. Defending your title would be all the more difficult, but also more gratifying in the end.

But, what about the little guys (Kansas, for example) of the Power 5 Conferences? Aren’t they at a disadvantage for having a poor past season?

The answer, is simply, no. Only two of their games would be against lower seeded teams of another conference, but they would have two other games they are able to schedule to boost their overall strength of schedule.

Ohio State’s Non-Conference Schedule
Game 1: @ Baylor Bears
Game 2: vs. Florida State Seminoles
Game 3: @ Kansas Jayhawks
Game 4: vs. Miami [FL] Hurricanes

Michigan’s Non-Conference Schedule
Game 1: vs. Virginia Tech Hokies
Game 2: @ Iowa State Cyclones
Game 3: vs. Clemson Tigers
Game 4: @ Texas Longhorns


Remote camera placement for the "Under the Lights" game with Michigan and Notre Dame at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., on September 10, 2011.

By the time conference play is set to begin, a four week playoff has essentially taken place. The conference schedule, again, filters out the undeserving teams and we are left with a four to eight team playoff for the Championship.

For College Football to maximize the popularity of its product, they are going to need to make sweeping changes to the non-conference slate. Fans speak volumes with their checkbooks, so if the demand for Ohio State versus Western Michigan begins to slide, the NCAA will be forced to act.

The above is only a idea from my mind and is likely to be far from perfect. But, the overall intention is to maximize the product on the field, giving the fans and players what they want. I believe this to be a great format in transforming the College Football Playoff in finding the best teams in the country and have the ratings bursting through the roof.

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