Change is coming to the world of college football in 2014. A four-team playoff will replace the current Bowl Championship Series system next year, which will force teams to beef up their non-conference schedules with nationally ranked opponents.
Under the current format, only the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the final BCS standings get to play for a national title. Next year's playoff will alter all of that. National rankings are no longer going to determine who squares off for the crystal football.
Instead, a selection committee made up of 14-20 members will have the final say as to which four universities are worthy enough to battle for a national championship.
This means we will finally see the number of cupcake non-conference games diminish. No more tune-ups against Football Championship Subdivision opponents. Athletic directors can forget about loading up on lower-tier conference teams as well.
At last, the regular season is no longer going to be about running the table. Wins are finally going to be more about quality and less about quantity.
Strength of schedule, game sites and conference championships are three of the main things the committee will use to rank the top four teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish athletic director Jack Swarbrick already knows the playoff panel is going to force us to look at scheduling differently.
"This isn't gonna succeed or fail based on what day of the week we play on, or what sequence the games were played in. It's gonna be about who's playing -- and that's all about the selection committee," Swarbrick told USA Today.
"I think we all anticipate a very different way of evaluating teams. (Instead of) the way one loss can hurt you in the polls, a committee is really evaluating who you played, how you played and where you played."
BCS executive Bill Hancock wants the committee to be made up of "experienced football purists, experts." Do you honestly think those guys will allow anyone to demolish three or four patsies, run the table in a shallow conference and then earn a spot in the national semifinals?
Those days are long gone, at least until the contract for the upcoming playoff expires in 2026.
One of the reasons teams will need to play marquee games during the non-conference slate is because of how top-heavy the leagues are.
Only three Pac-12 Conference teams were ranked in the postseason Top 25. The Big Ten had four, but all of them were slotted No. 17 or lower. Three teams represented the Big 12 Conference and the Kansas State Wildcats were the top team at No. 12. The ACC and Big East Conference combined to place three teams in the polls.
Meanwhile, the top three squads in each of the SEC's divisions were ranked better than No. 14. SEC teams can afford to schedule a couple of weaker non-conference games given the strength of their conference. Other leagues do not have that luxury, because there are not enough opportunities for quality wins.
The Big Ten has already formalized their intentions to play stronger schedules, as the athletic directors have agreed to stop scheduling FCS opponents. Power conferences like the ACC, Pac-12, Big 12, SEC and Big East should all follow suit.
No one wants to tune in to see the Oklahoma State Cowboys run the score up on the Savannah State Tigers again. In case you missed it last season, the Cowboys won 84-0. There were no real winners that day.
College football fans should reap the benefits of the imbalance of power among the nation's top conferences. This means we will have a chance to see more games between ranked opponents than ever before, at least from all the non-SEC schools.
The changes to non-conference scheduling are long overdue.
Athlon Sports broke down the top 30 non-conference clashes for the upcoming season. Just seven of those games will be between teams that finished in the Top 25 a year ago. Four of those contests are annual rivalries, so 2013 will not feature a whole lot of thrilling out of conference matchups.
Where is the fun in that?
Here are some heavyweight battles I would love to see as a result of the future adjustments to non-conference schedules:
Louisville Cardinals vs. Florida State Seminoles: Both of these teams are going to be contending for league crowns for the next several years, but their respective strength of schedule will constantly be in need of a boost. This would be a high-scoring affair and would provide plenty of entertainment.
Michigan Wolverines vs. Stanford Cardinal: Thanks to a couple of driven head coaches, both of these programs are major players on the national scene once again. Michigan and Stanford both run physical pro-style offenses and lean on talented defenses to finish games late. Plus, it would be great to see a new rivalry emerge from the Big Ten and Pac-12.
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Clemson Tigers: Do not expect either of these squads to stop piling up the points anytime soon. The offensive showdown would be thrilling, to say the least. Oh, and neither of these teams have met since former head coach Woody Hayes punched a Clemson player in the 1978 Gator Bowl. New memories must be created in this series.
USC Trojans vs. Texas Longhorns: A home-and-home series has already been set up for 2017 and 2018. Although both programs have struggled as of late, neither is going to stay down for much longer. The last time these two teams met was in the 2006 BCS title game. If I remember correctly, that was quite an exciting contest.
Georgia Bulldogs vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: This one would be perfect for the annual Cowboy Classic at Jerry's World. Notre Dame has a national following willing to travel and Georgia fans won't have any issue with traveling to Arlington for a neutral site battle. The only other time these two prominent programs met was in 1981. I'd say it is time for a rematch.
Texas A&M Aggies vs. Texas Longhorns: The heated rivalry between these two came to a bitter end with Texas A&M's move to the SEC. Many would love to see this become a yearly matchup once again, including politicians in the Lone Star State. We can all dream of the Longhorns and Aggies facing each other once again, right?
Oregon Ducks vs. Alabama Crimson Tide: Alright, this one is a selfish pick, but I'm sick of waiting for both of these teams to finally meet up in the national title game. Would Alabama's dominant defense contain Oregon's up-tempo spread offense? Or would the Ducks pile up too many points for the Crimson Tide to keep pace?
I would not expect this series to be played during the regular season anytime soon. There is always hope, though, even if it is highly unlikely.
I have always been hesitant to accept a playoff at the FBS level, but the loaded non-conference schedules we will see in the near future should make all of us happy. Well, at least until the debate about why the No. 5 team in the nation got left out of the semifinals starts.
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