The unprecedented nature of college football scheduling this year has thrown a major wrench in what we've learned about the College Football Playoff selection process. During FOX's Big Noon Kickoff today, Urban Meyer summed up just what a challenge finding the four teams at season's end.
Right now, the ACC and Big 12 are active among the Power Five leagues. The SEC starts up next weekend, with a 10-game, conference-only schedule. In a recent update, Phil Steele said that SEC teams have the 11 hardest schedules in all of college football this fall, before the Big Ten's announced return.
By comparison, the other Power Five—or, Power Four, for the moment—leagues have it pretty easy. Clemson doesn't often have a legitimate challenger in the ACC, especially while Florida State languishes through another rebuild attempt. Oklahoma has been dominant in the Big 12. Even the Big Ten may not present a major challenge to its superpower team.
During the FOX show, Urban Meyer said that he thinks Ohio State has a pretty easy run through the Big Ten's eight game regular season, conference-only schedule. Where SEC contenders go through the gauntlet, Ohio State has Nebraska, a trip to Penn State for its second game, followed by four pretty winnable games. before the Michigan State and Michigan games in December. Combined with a start coming almost a month after the SEC's, and the College Football Playoff selection committee has its work cut out for it. Via 247Sports:
“The impact of scheduling is unprecedented,” Meyer said. “This is going to go down in the history books.
“What happens if Ohio State is 6-0, and then there's the SEC. I mean, I'm telling you, every single week you're in a four-to-five point game. When you look at Ohio State's Big Ten schedule, to me it's all like Clemson. Clemson will be a three-touchdown favorite in almost every game. Then you look at Alabama and LSU... LSU has four games within a six-week period against Top-11 teams."
It does present a real challenge. Most years, teams like Clemson are given the benefit of the doubt given their long track records of success.
Ohio State could have the same weight, though with two fewer games, and really, two challenging matchups before the Big Ten Championship, taking the Buckeyes over an SEC team with a loss or two against other elite programs could be a really tough sell. Urban Meyer thinks SEC teams may have a gripe this season.
“So, I don't know how you do this. If you're the playoff committee: expect the worst, react to the best. What does that mean? Start this conversation now! So whatever criteria you had before, you better be rethinking it now and asking is that fair? You're going to have some teams just blow out all the way through, and then you look at that SEC schedule - unprecedented. The SEC has been built on, "let’s get to the College Football Playoff." You know, they are playing FCS teams before rivalry games. Now, they are playing 10 conference games, with that schedule. To me, there's now a complete shift in college football this year. I'm curious to see what those conversations are behind closed doors.”
It is hard to sell that the SEC, of all leagues, may not get treated fairly, but that very well may happen. The College Football Playoff committee always has its work cut out for it. This year presents a more unbalanced situation than ever before.