Last season, Baylor failed to make the College Football Playoff after Ohio State narrowly edging out the Bears.
Both teams had similar records – one loss and their conference title. It could be argued that Baylor’s two best wins (TCU, Kansas State) were better than the Buckeyes’ (Michigan State, Wisconsin).
Taking it a step further, Baylor’s loss to 7-5 West Virgina at Milan Puskar Stadium was clearly better than Ohio State’s 14-point loss to 6-6 Virginia Tech at The Horseshoe. Yet the Bears were left out of the playoffs, and the Buckeyes found their way in with an unproven third-string quarterback at the helm.
This is where strength of schedule played a big factor, especially against non-conference opponents.
Teams from around the country should take a lesson from what happened to Baylor. The playoff committee voiced its agenda in keeping Baylor out of the inaugural party.
Of course, let’s face it… Baylor had the easiest non-conference schedule of any playoff candidate thanks to their games against SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo last season.
However, people should wait before they throw their grievances on Baylor’s Athletic Director Ian McCaw. The prior scheduling makes perfect sense for a team that was struggling to get to six wins and make a bowl game prior to the 2010 season. For those that don’t know, most of the non-conference games are scheduled years beforehand.
Therefore, the thought process five years ago was “play three easy non-conference opponents and get those wins… and then fight for three conference wins to make a bowl game.” And it worked. Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy (2011) and the Bears won the Alamo Bowl and Holiday Bowl over reputable opponents Washington and UCLA.
While that strategy may have been understandable back then, it certainly isn’t anymore. After reaching the national stage, head coach Art Briles has built a contender and the college football family has taken notice. No longer are weak non-conference games acceptable to boost the Bears’ win totals.
The time has come to schedule formidable foes and embrace the national platform. For a team that has been fighting to gain the spotlight, now is the time to seize the opportunity. The Bears are on the cusp and the nation is waiting to see if they will become a perennial power.
Scheduling a strong non-conference matchup year in and year out would prove to the playoff committee that Baylor has arrived and believes it can go through the daunting schedule of the Big 12, as well as a tough marquee matchup in the preseason.
Briles has been on the cutting edge in recent years for college football. His offense has even been implemented into some packages for professional teams in the NFL. But the Green and mastermind is behind the curve in scheduling tougher nonconference games.
A new trend in college football of booking risky games early in the season has begun to rise. Just take a look at some of the matchups that are slated for September 3 of next year:
Alabama vs USC (AT&T Stadium)
Clemson at Auburn
LSU at Wisconsin (Lambeau Field)
Notre Dame at Texas
UCLA at Texas A&M
More than ever before, we’re seeing Power-5 schools schedule losable non-conference games against other elite programs. This bolsters their resumes for the College Football Playoff. Baylor needs to adapt this strategy.
So far, Baylor hasn’t changed its non-conference calendar for upcoming seasons.
If Baylor doesn’t rethink their schedule and find a way to get out of the easy blowout games to schedule meaningful competition, Baylor could find itself on the outside looking in, with no one but themselves to blame.