Baylor lost out on the final spot in the College Football Playoff to Ohio State.
The two teams had identical 11-1 records and both won their conferences. Baylor’s two best wins (TCU, Kansas State) were arguably better than OSU’s (Michigan State, Wisconsin). Baylor’s loss to 7-5 West Virgina on the road was also better than Ohio State’s 14-point loss to 6-6 Virginia Tech at home.
So what gives?
In the end, it came down to strength of schedule. Both teams were 11-1, and Ohio State played better teams, so they made it in.
The playoff committee taught Baylor a lesson that’s going to resonate across the college football world — you can no longer get away with playing nobody in the non-conference.
Baylor got penalised for playing the weakest non-conference schedule of any playoff contender. Outside of the Big 12, Baylor played SMU, Northwestern State, and Buffalo this year.
Playing small schools like this is a relic from the old system. In order to get bowl eligible, teams used to schedule weak teams in the non-conference to inflate their win totals. That’s why the first few weeks of the college football season largely consist of big teams destroying small teams by 30.
Those days are over. By leaving Baylor out of the playoff, the committee has set a precedent that playing a legitimate non-conference schedule is a prerequisite for playoff consideration.
“I think this is going to be a wake-up call for our schools and others around the country,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN on Sunday afternoon. “The committee has made it clear that non-conference strength of schedule is something they’re going to evaluate.”
Perennial powers beating up on small teams is a thing of the past, and it’s a major shift in the sport. Going forward, we’re going to have a bunch of monster non-conference matchups over the first few weeks of the year.
Smart programs saw this coming. Ever since the playoff was adopted, teams have been scrambling to beef up their future non-conference schedules. Just look at the current schedule for September 3, 2016:
- UCLA-Texas A&M
- Notre Dame-Texas
More than ever before, we’re seeing big schools schedule losable non-conference games against other elite programs.
Baylor is one of the teams that has yet to beef up its schedule. They play SMU, Lamar, and Rice in the non-conference next year, and Northwestern State, SMU, and Rice in 2016. If they don’t rethink that schedule, they could find themselves in the same situation again.
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