College Football Teams Should Think Twice Before Scheduling 9 Conference Games

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterMay 1, 2013

July 17, 2012; Hoover, AL, USA;  SEC commissioner Mike Slive speaks at a press conference during the 2012 SEC media days event at the Wynfrey Hotel.   Mandatory Credit: Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports
Kelly Lambert

The Big Ten is doing it. The Pac-12 is thinking about not doing it anymore. The ACC decided it isn't going to do it. The SEC is still debating it. The "it" is, of course, going to a nine-game conference schedule. Before they all go too far, everyone should have their finger on the pause button.

For fans, media and even just casual observers of the game, moving to nine makes perfect sense. It results in more games between quality opponents, more chances to play that cross-divisional rival and, more importantly, fewer games against Directional State University.

There's better competition on the field and a more enjoyable experience in the stands.

However, if you are the teams and conferences involved here, the best move is to leave yourself a little wiggle room. The entire landscape of the sport is about to change, and instead of making decisions before the College Football Playoff selection committee is assembled or the selection criteria is created, hold your proverbial horses.

Everyone is beating the drums about strength of schedule mattering, but let's wait and see just how much it colors the new playoff system. Will a 12-1 team from a conference with an eight-game league schedule beat out an 11-2 team with a nine-game league schedule?

We don't know, especially since the identity of the teams themselves are variables as well.

The point here is, let's wait and see before everyone makes a grand proclamation on the conference schedule's impact on the postseason. Wins tend to trump everything, and unless the College Football Playoff is going to eliminate wins, they will still be the final measure of a team. A bad win is better than a great loss, especially if it's the difference between being undefeated and a one-loss team.

Part of going undefeated is your record in conference games. If your league is keeping itself out of the playoff with more-aggressive-than-necessary scheduling, it is not doing itself any favors.

Hooray for fans having great games to watch, but if those games risk keeping your team out of the playoffs, or the power bowls, that is not a win.

What needs to happen to ensure that teams play strong schedules is to not just rely on the coming playoff's strength-of-schedule criteria. Rather, nine games should be the standard across the board to normalize one of the many variables the selection committee has to assess.

So, while my colleague Barrett Sallee at the SEC Blog looks at what that conference's nine-game ordeal could look like, the guys at Land Grant Holy Land hit on the casualties of a nine-game schedule. You gain in- conference games, lose non-conference games and ultimately have no clue what it means for the coming College Football Playoff.

Until a team from a major conference gets left out of the playoff in favor of a team with fewer wins but a tougher strength of schedule, conferences should not close this book. Getting teams into the postseason is the goal, and until it is proven that a nine-game schedule does that more effectively, eight conference games and more wins still makes the most sense.