BIG TEN |
ACC & BIG 12
BCS REVIEW SERIES
OF 2014 OOC SCHEDULES
PLAYOFF WOULD BE LIKE
The Oklahoma Sooners, your 2013 college football national champions!
Would you have a problem with that?
If you don't, then you must have loved the NCAA basketball tournament, where a fourth-place team from a slightly-less-than-power conference just won the national title. If you do, perhaps you're more of a college football purist who think regular season should matter
- a lot.
Either way, we're not here to take sides. Rather, we're here to present some hypotheticals mixed in with facts. Transitive property is used
- but not too liberally - to advance a scenario where the Sooners would've won it all last season.
Pundits and critics who disliked the BCS have long advocated for a playoff that involved more than two teams, and they're not even close to being satisfied with the upcoming four-team College Football Playoff. At a minimum, they want 16 teams.
So they'll get 16 teams in our model, and it works because proportionally it best resembles the basketball tournament:
Now, this is how the playoff field at the end of the 2013 regular season would've looked like after the selection committee picked six at-large teams to go with 10 conference champions and then seeded them. The only restriction is that no conference may place more than two at-large entries:
First Round (campus sites)
1. Florida State (ACC) vs. 16. UL-Lafayette (Sun Belt)***
2. Auburn (SEC) vs. 15. Rice (C-USA)***
3. Michigan State (Big Ten) vs. Bowling Green (MAC)***
4. Stanford (Pac-12) vs. Fresno State (MWC)**
5. Baylor (Big 12) vs. Central Florida (AAC)*
6. Alabama (at-large) vs. 11. Oklahoma (at-large)*
7. Ohio State (at-large) vs. 10. Clemson (at-large)*
8. South Carolina (at-large) vs. 9. Oregon (at-large)**
South Carolina just edged Missouri for the last at-large spot from the SEC because it won head-to-head and had a much better out of conference schedule.
Based on results from actual games (*), use of
transitive property (**) and simulation (***), these would've been the
quarterfinal matchups. We decided to use an NFL-style format where the
highest-seeded team always plays the lowest-seeded team instead of using a rigid
CFP COMMITTEE NEEDS NO RECUSAL POLICY
The College Football Playoff committee, charged with selecting the four-team playoff beginning in the 2014 season, has put together a recusal policy for its 13 members. The proposal is now being considered by the 10 conference commissioners for approval.
Let's hope that policy proposal is just a blank piece of paper.
Why? Because frankly the committee should not need it. And having a recusal policy is worse than not actually having one.
The recusal policy is a copycat legacy from the selection committees of other NCAA sports, particularly basketball, where committee members have to excuse themselves when their institutions are up for discussion. It's there to give an air of transparency and propriety.
But it doesn't really work.
While it's a nice cover, most of the time the recused member often returns to the room only to find that his school was treated fabulously by his cohorts. It's not hard to figure why
- when you have to spend 72 hours breathing the same stale air and eating day-old cold pizza, you're not going to antagonize your fellow inmate if you don't have to.
And the concept of a recusal policy particularly is ill-suited for the College Football Playoff committee.
WHY 4-TEAM PLAYOFF IS GOOD ENOUGH
What if last season's college football playoff yielded this quartet of teams vying for the national championship: Florida State, South Carolina, USC and Vanderbilt?
Would you be OK with that?
That's exactly what the basketball Final Four has given us, if we line up the teams according to the official rankings given by the selection committee (for basketball) against the final regular season AP poll (for football).
The parallels are pretty apt, actually. We have a consensus No. 1 (Florida/Florida State), a very good team from a top conference that didn't win its title (Wisconsin/South Carolina), an extremely talented team that underachieved for part of the season (Kentucky/USC) and a middle-of-the-pack team from a power conference (UConn/Vandy).
But unless Florida wins the basketball title as Florida State did in football, would anybody say the NCAA Tournament gave us the best team of the season?
No, it'd have given us the best team in a six-game stretch, a mere 15 percent of the year.
This is why when someone clamors for a full-blown "playoff" for college football, you should climb to the peak of the nearest mountain and yell "stop!"
NCAA VS. BIG-TIME FOOTBALL:
Imagine that there's only one college football game on TV every Saturday. Just one.
Imagine that your favorite team can be on TV only once all season. Just once.
This isn't some doomsday scenario on some parallel planet. This was reality only about 30 years ago.
That only changed - so now you have an embarrassment of riches as far as televised games go
- because big-time college football programs took the NCAA to court. And won.
In the landmark NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 1984 against the NCAA, a decision that freed the big-time college football programs to cut their own TV deals and opened up the cash flow spigot. There is nothing that has done more to transform college football into a money-making machine that it is today.
Outraged by the NCAA's 1970s TV policy that they viewed as an illegal restraint of trade, the big football powers of the day formed the College Football Association to take on the governing body. The 64-member CFA consisted of the Atlantic Coast, Big Eight, Southeastern, Southwest and Western Athletic conferences, plus major independents including Notre Dame, Penn State, Pitt and the service academies
- curiously, the Big Ten and Pac-10 declined to join.
With strength by numbers, the CFA aggressively confronted the NCAA, which haughtily threatened the members with various forms of sanctions. The jousting finally reached the courts, with the universities of Oklahoma and Georgia taking the lead. When the Supreme Court sided with the schools, the NCAA effectively lost all control of the financial windfall that soon flooded the coffers of major Division I-A football programs.
Now history is on the verge of repeating itself.
NOTRE DAME'S UNCERTAIN CFP FUTURE
Notre Dame will enter the College Football Playoff era with a boatload of cash.
The Irish last year signed a 10-year extension with NBC, worth a reported $15 million per year, that will run through the 2025 season
- effectively the entire length of the initial CFP deal. In January, the school inked the biggest apparel contract in college sports history, a 10-year deal with Under Armour for a reported $90 million.
Forbes valued Notre Dame's football program to be worth $119 million, behind only Texas. The school is swimming in so much money that it's taking on a $400 million renovation project to greatly expand and enhance the area in and around Notre Dame Stadium.
While its bank account is healthy and robust, can the same be said for Notre Dame's football program?
The BCS era certainly isn't one
to write home about for the Irish, who went 0-4 in BCS bowl games
during the 16-year span - the only winless program with three or
more appearances. In their only national championship game
appearance in 2012, they were thoroughly outclassed by Alabama in a
42-14 rout. Notre Dame finished in the top 10 of the final AP poll
just twice during the BCS era.
HOW PENN STATE COULD'VE SAVED BIG EAST
Imagine the College Football Playoff beginning next season not with five, but six major conferences.
The Big East is still at the table, but not splintered into a basketball version of mostly Catholic schools and a watered-down, rebranded football version that's no longer among the big boys but has to fight for scraps.
Imagine a healthy Big East football roster with these teams: Syracuse, Rutgers, Boston College, UConn, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Penn State. Oh yeah, and possibly even Notre Dame.
This conference - with or without Notre Dame - would not be relegated to the "Group of Five" as the Big East successor American Athletic Conference will be in the CFP. It would've had one of the biggest TV contracts and among the best bowl lineups. It very well might have been even bigger, having raided the northern ACC schools such as Maryland and Virginia.
All this could've happened with the change of just a single vote back in 1982.
With the NCAA tournament in full flight, ESPN touched on the demise of the once-mighty basketball conference in the excellent "Requiem for the Big East." The 30-for-30 series film touched on how football ruined the conference, that its drive to get the lucrative football TV money inevitably destroyed what was the best basketball conference in history.
But what if I told you football could've minted the Big East instead of ruined it? It came down to one vote.
SHOULD BE DUMPED
With realignment once again taking center stage in the 2014 season, a new question has popped up. Should FBS conferences dispense with the divisional setup in football?
Next season, three of the Big Five conferences will have 14 teams each, divided into seven-team divisions. Of the 10 conferences that play FBS football, seven of them will have divisions, with their respective winners meeting in conference championship games. By 2015 (assuming there are no other changes), only the Big 12 and Sun Belt will not stage conference title games.
This is in stark contrast with college basketball. Of the 32 Division I conferences, only three (Big South, Mid-American, Ohio Valley) have divisional splits. The other 29 conferences, including all of the "Big Five," play without an internal split of teams.
College football may be moving in that direction, too.
The ACC has submitted a proposal to "deregulate" football conference championship games, according to CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd. It's seeking to discard legislation that requires conferences to have at least 12 teams divided into two divisions in order to have a conference title game.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S TV COMPETITION
The fierce competition between college football's major conferences is no longer limited on the playing field. The "Big Five" conferences often fight their battles in boardrooms and bank vaults
- and now also in outer space.
As in the television network war, beamed via satellite to a screen (or six) in your own home.
With the launching of the SEC Network this summer, three of the Big Five conferences will have their own TV networks, with the Big Ten and Pac-12 already having been on the air for several years. But it was another, upstart conference that touched off the TV arms race.
The Mtn. begin broadcasting Sept. 1, 2006, a revolutionary idea that was to transform the landscape of college sports. The Mountain West Conference and its partners (CBS and Comcast), though, never were able to resolve lingering distribution issues. Then the conference alignment wave swept in and effectively led to the demise of The Mtn., which went off the air June 1, 2012.
The Big Ten launched its network a year after The Mtn. and had issues of its own. But it's becoming the gold standard of conference networks, now reaching more than 90 million U.S. households. And with the conference's latest expansion, the BTN is hoping to gain greater viewership shares in the huge metropolitan areas of New York City and Baltimore/Washington. In fact, you can say that Rutgers and Maryland are added more for TV eyeballs than for athletic or academic excellence.
EASIEST SCHEDULES FOR 2014 CONTENDERS
Last week we ranked the toughest schedules for teams with legitimate aspirations of making the inaugural College Football Playoff in 2014. Of course, it makes sense to find out which teams have the easiest schedules.
We had previously ranked the strength of out-of-conference (OOC) schedules for all 124 conference teams (see complete list). While this is revealing, it must be used in conjunction with these teams' conference schedules to get the complete picture. Conference schedules, you see, are not created equal
- even for teams playing within the same division of a conference.
That's why while defending SEC champion Auburn is judged to have the toughest schedule among national title contenders in 2014, its intrastate and SEC West rival, Alabama, actually has one of the easiest. And while USC and UCLA have schedules listed among the top five toughest, another Pac-12 South team made the list of the 10 easiest.
The Big Ten was the only "Big Five" conference missing from the top 10 toughest list, so it should be no surprise that three of its teams found their way to the top 10 easiest list. This is despite two of them playing high-profile nonconference games early in the season
- it just reinforces the weakness of the conference overall, particularly with a new divisional alignment after the additions of Maryland and Rutgers.
Here are the top five easiest schedules for 2014. Keep in mind that only teams projected to make a run for the four-team College Football Playoff field are listed, so you won't find any Sun Belt or MAC teams here:
HARDEST SCHEDULES FOR 2014 CONTENDERS
Earlier we examined the nonconference schedules of all 124 teams in FBS's 10 conferences. After dissecting the schedules both for how teams fared in 2013 as well as the intent going into constructing the slates, we found that the SEC as a whole doesn't want too many challenges when playing out of conference.
But that doesn't mean all SEC teams play soft schedules - in fact, far from it. After going through these team-by-team, and accounting for their conference schedules, we found a number of SEC teams have to run through quite a gauntlet just to make the title game in Atlanta.
On the other hand, while the Big Ten was found to have, on average, the most difficult out-of-conference (OOC) schedules as a whole, its best teams do not necessarily make things harder for themselves. The additions of Maryland and Rutgers, not exactly football powerhouses, only help to weaken the conference teams' strength of schedule.
Our review reveals that, after making it all the way to the BCS title game last season, Auburn will need another War Damn Miracle (or three) to get through its slate unscathed. Of course, with a four-team playoff format making its debut in 2014, the Tigers might be able to afford a hiccup.
Here are the top five toughest schedules in 2014, keep in mind that we're only ranking teams with legitimate aspirations to make the College Football Playoff field:
2014 OOC SCHEDULES
The SEC dominated the BCS era in part thanks to its shrewd scheduling. Member schools have systematically reduced the challenges in nonconference games, making sure to minimize losses outside of SEC play.
While the other four Big Five conferences have (Pac-12 and Big 12) or are planning to (Big Ten and ACC) move to nine-game conference schedules, the SEC so far has resisted, as its coaches voted 13-1 to stay at eight games at least through the 2015 season. As we enter the College Football Playoff era, that scheduling philosophy looks to remain intact until/unless it begins to harm the postseason prospects of SEC teams.
With the 2014 season schedule basically complete (only American Athletic has yet to announce dates of conference games, though all opponents are set), we conducted a thorough examination of the upcoming season's nonconference schedules. We ranked all 124 FBS teams
- leaving out the four independents for obvious reasons - on their expected nonconference strength of schedule with the following methodology:
Sagarin Rankings: An average of the opponents' final Sagarin ratings from 2013, which encompass all Division I teams, including both FBS and FCS.
Intended Rankings: We parsed the schedule according to the origins of teams' opponents' conference membership, giving bonuses for playing Big Five conference teams (plus Notre Dame), with partial bonuses for playing AAC and MWC teams, as well as Army, Navy and BYU.
Deductions were given for playing FCS teams, except the six that made the FCS semifinals in the past three years
- North Dakota State, Sam Houston State, Eastern Washington, Montana, Towson and New Hampshire. We also assigned bonuses for playing nonconference games away from home.
The rankings revealed that on average the SEC schools play the easiest nonconference schedules by a country mile:
THE SUPER BOWL OF POKER
Football's Namesake in the Card
When talking about America's sports industry, "Super Bowl" would
most likely mean the NFL's finals. Every time we mention Super Bowl in
front of football fans, stories of how Pittsburgh Steelers battled for
six Super Bowl victories would surface. Or perhaps, we would hear
about how the reigning champs Baltimore Ravens made a triumphant run
this season. For non-football fans, Superbowl XLVII may be most
Beyonce's iconic performance during the halftime show. But for
poker enthusiasts especially those who witnessed
Ungar's greatness in the 80s, "Super Bowl" meant the Superbowl of
the World Series of Poker enjoyed its iconic status today, one of its
competitors was the SBOP. You see, the SBOP was a brainchild of former
1972 WSOP Main Event Champion,
Amarillo Slim. Before the competition made its debut in a
competitive industry, poker fans only tuned to the WSOP events. For
the former champ, he saw this setting as an opportunity. "The World
Series of Poker was so successful that everybody wanted more than one
tournament," Slim said in a report by Poker News. See, he wanted to
take poker all over the world, be it in Germany, Hong Kong, or with
neighboring states. And so, a different Super Bowl was born. SBOP may
not be as large as today's
PartyPoker-sponsored World Poker Tour, but it was one poker
tournament that card gaming experts and amateurs alike turned to,
especially in a booming entertainment industry.
Much like football's Super Bowl, the event housed competent players
and some are even included in today's Poker Hall of Fame. The 1986
Deuce-to-Seven Lowball event in particular, was among the most talked
events in SBOP history. See, the final three competitors of the event
are now Hall of Famers. There was Doyle Brunson, Billy Baxter, and
Johnny Chan. In a way, they paralleled the likes of football greats
Jerry Rice, Jim Brown, or Joe Montana. Unfortunately, while the Super
Bowl in football flourished, the event's namesake in poker was the
The lack of stability and a fixed venue prompted SBOP's operators
to discontinue the once glorious event. Luckily, after the fall of
SBOP, multiple poker tournaments arose. There's the West's staple
European Poker Tour which made rounds in poker hubs like Germany and
France. One can say that even with SBOP's fall, it was a blessing in
itself since it paved way to a new generation of poker players.