In true Nick Saban fashion, the legendary Alabama head coach wasn’t fully satisfied with his team’s 62-10 win over New Mexico State. After the game, he took out some frustrations on the student section, as he tends to do, complaining about those who left the blowout early. He also re-shared some scheduling ideas he’s promoted before, and those ideas are starting to be asked to others, including Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley.
In Saban’s ideal world, the Crimson Tide wouldn’t have to mix it up with the New Mexico State Aggies of the world. He’d like to see Power Five teams mandated to schedule 12 Power Five games, and as many as 10 conference games per year.
The SEC currently plays eight conference games, and teams have at least one Power Five non-conference opponent per year. This year, Alabama’s was Duke, while the relatively unexciting trio of NMSU, Southern Miss, and Western Carolina round out things.
Oklahoma’s schedule looks quite a bit different. The Big 12 touts a true round robin nine-game schedule, thanks to its lack of divisions, and OU filled the rest of the schedule with Houston—a Group of Five program that brings a bit more excitement than most—South Dakota, and a game against a big-name UCLA squad that was probably expected to be much better than it is when things were scheduled.
Lincoln Riley also has much more recent experience at the lower level of the sport. He was the offensive coordinator at ECU just six seasons ago.
That time with the Pirates, during which his offenses helped score victories over P5 teams like North Carolina, NC State, and Virginia Tech, Lincoln Riley said he learned the value of those games for the smaller athletic departments, and what potential upsets mean for the sport.
“Well, there’s a lot to it,” Riley said Monday afternoon at his weekly press conference. “It’s not as simple as that because we don’t all play the same amount of conference games. We don’t all have the top two teams in the league playing a conference championship. So I don’t know that I totally agree. I’ve said before I’ve been at the East Carolina’s, you know, where that’s such a huge game for your athletic department, your city, your fan base, your players. You get to play at places that without that you wouldn’t be able to and have a chance to beat teams like that. And then even a game like the other night, for us, if we play well, the reward of being able to play so many players, especially with this four-game rule, getting a chance to look at guys.
“Oh, I think everybody in sports, not just for that game, but everybody loves an underdog win,” Riley said. “And, I mean, it brings back memories of being at like East Carolina and winning some of the games we did there. Some of the most memorable games I’ll ever have were winning against teams that we had no business winning against, and I think we got five of them when we were there. And so those are special, so really cool for Georgia State and other teams that get a chance to go do that, Appalachian State obviously several years ago. There’s been many, but it’s a cool thing.
Ultimately, the Sabans and Rileys of the world are going to push for whatever is best for Alabama and Oklahoma, and maybe that is a consolidation of scheduling in the sport. That would be a major blow to the pocket books of the Group of Five and FCS programs out there, as well.