Time to beef up nonconference schedules

June, 28, 2012
6/28/12
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We still don't know how a selection committee is going to go about picking the four teams to make a playoff starting in 2014.

But we do know that strength of schedule is going to be a major factor it considers. Commissioners have said as much, and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick reiterated the line Thursday, telling ESPN 1000:
"One of the things we like so much about that is as much as this happened in basketball in the past decade, the selection committee will send a real message about strength of schedule," Swarbrick said. "If you choose not to challenge yourself, especially in the pre-conference games, it's going to impact your rating. That's another way we think we're contributing to the vibrancy of the regular season through this process."
[+] EnlargeUSF's Skip Holtz
Kim Klement/US PRESSWIREUSF's Skip Holtz knows that nonconference scheduling will be key for Big East schools to be considered for a spot in the national title playoffs.
That message has been received in the Big East, which must beef up nonconference schedules as a way to mitigate the argument that its league slate is too weak. While I have addressed the idea that other conferences playing a nine-game league schedule may impair the Big East from getting nonconference schedules as tough as they want, USF coach Skip Holtz does not seem too concerned.

"Even playing nine league games, if those conferences play three lesser opponents, that’s going to hurt them down the road," Holtz said. "A lot would be predicated on how strong the league may be that year. I think this all is going to put a premium on nonconference scheduling, a premium on your league and put a premium on every game that’s played -- not just your wins or loss or how you perform that week and what the scores are every week."

ESPN Insider Ryan McGee has much more on this topic, and explores the notion that a team from the Big East may indeed have a tougher time scheduling multiple marquee nonconference games. Let's take a look at the nonconference games already in place for current and future Big East teams in 2014 -- the first year of a playoff.

Boise State: Ole Miss, at Utah State, BYU. Future schedules include Michigan State, Washington State, Washington and Oregon State.

UCF: FIU, at Missouri, Jacksonville State, BYU. Future schedules include South Carolina and Texas.

Cincinnati: Toledo, Miami (Ohio), Stony Brook, at Ohio State. Future schedules include Air Force and Miami (FL).

UConn: TBA. Future schedules include Tennessee and Virginia.

Houston: UT-San Antonio, at Louisiana Tech, BYU.

Louisville: at FIU, at Marshall, Kentucky. Future schedules include Duke.

Memphis: at Miami, Middle Tennessee. Future schedules include Missouri, Kansas, Ole Miss and Tennessee.

Rutgers: Penn State, at Navy, Tulane. Future schedules include Army, UCLA and Miami.

San Diego State: at Oregon State, at Navy, San Jose State. Future schedule includes Arizona State.

SMU: at Baylor, North Texas, TCU, Texas A&M.

USF: NC State. Future schedules include Florida, Indiana, Nevada and Michigan State.

Temple: at Penn State, Navy, Maryland, Notre Dame. Future schedules include Army.

Remember, there are still games that must be added for most teams, and these slates could very well change in two years. But with the information we have, SMU and Temple have hands down the best nonconference schedules of all the teams. They play multiple teams from the bigger conferences -- teams with national recognition. If either of these teams goes undefeated in 2014, it would be hard to knock it for its nonconference scheduling.

If I were an athletic director, I would have two to three high-profile games against teams from the big conferences on my schedule every year. If that means having to play them on the road, so be it. Then, I would have a medium game against a team from one of the smaller FBS conferences. I would do away with games against FCS competition entirely.

That certainly makes things more difficult on your coaches and players, and it may mean fewer home games. But the ultimate goal is to win a national championship, right? The only way the Big East gets into a future playoff is if it has an undefeated team. One of the major ways an undefeated Big East team answers questions about its schedule is to go all out in nonconference play.

Now let's see how Big East teams make that happen.

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