Welcome to the new era of college football: The Playoff Era. No longer will the championship matchup be decided by a series of voters and strange computer algorithms. No, now it is time for a selection committee to decide things in the quiet back rooms.
One of the factors in their decision is bound to be strength of schedule. Who’d you beat? Who’d ya play? Already the way scheduling is done is being adjusted to meet the new times. If five undefeated teams are there on selection day, it will be the weakest schedule that will lose out. The ACC has mandated its teams find a game with a team from one of the other Power 5 (formerly BCS) conferences. This is to help beef up schedules while keeping flexibility.
Unlike other teams (Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State), the Tobacco Road schools do not have traditional out-of-conference rivals. This will be something to watch for in the future.
How would the committee view the resumes this year?
In a word: Poorly
Duke: Kansas, Elon, Troy, Tulane
N.C. State: Old Dominion, Georgia Southern, Presbyterian, South Florida
North Carolina: Liberty, San Diego State, East Carolina, Notre Dame
Wake Forest: Utah State, Louisiana-Monroe, Army, Gardner-Webb
All four schools are playing a FCS member. These guys are available, don’t need return games, and are not high on the difficulty meter. When the schedule moved to 12 games and bowl eligibility rules changed, these guys were always scheduled. We’ll see how this goes in the future, but the selection committee is not going to like those games.
Duke’s biggest game is Kansas, and that does excite me. Coach K. Bill Self. Two classic programs … football? Oh, football. Charlie Weis and a program that still misses Gale Sayers. Does Duke even get credit for scheduling a Big 12 team? Fortunately Duke might have enough cred from last year. If the Coastal comes out rocking, they may have a chance with the committee. Just don’t expect that Tulane game to decide anything for the Blue Devils.
N.C. State has the “forgive and forget” schedule. If they win those games then maybe at the end of the season, the sheer number of wins will make people believe it was a better team. They would not have met the new ACC mandate this year. Georgia Southern and Old Dominion are both finishing transitions from FCS to FBS, so they aren’t true FBS competition yet. South Florida had a rocky time last year. My advice for coach Dave Doeren is this: It doesn’t matter what State does in the non-conference. Beat UNC, Wake, and FSU and all is forgiven. Why not play some tougher teams to get ready for those rivalry games?
UNC’s schedule is the strongest of the four, but that is largely a byproduct of Notre Dame appearing on the rotation. San Diego State and East Carolina were bowl teams last year. This is the one schedule out of this group that makes sense to me, though if SDSU or ECU flop it might look like Duke’s.
Wake Forest does have the ability to claim Utah State on their schedule. Yes, Utah State, who may have to explain why beating Wake somehow made them worthy of great things. Wake may also have a hard time at Louisiana-Monroe. I’d give more credit for Army if Wake played option team Georgia Tech. They don’t.
Some of you are probably thinking that I’m being too hard on these teams. You may point out that they are just scheduling to their current ability. UNC and Duke may have bigger dreams, while State and Wake aren’t winning the World Cup this year. You never know. Turnarounds can happen overnight and teams can rise. However they can only beat the teams on their schedule. No computer or voter can bail out a popular Cinderella. The committee will decide, and then it will be too late.