Baylor Must Beef Up Non-Conference Schedule in Playoff Era
For all the blowouts Baylor has been delivering this season, it finds itself playing catch-up in the BCS.
Baylor jumped up two spots to No. 6 in the latest BCS rankings, which was helped more than anything by Missouri's stunning 27-24 overtime loss to South Carolina (the Tigers fell four spots to No. 9).
That will be the theme for the Bears for the rest of the season: win and hope another team ahead of them trips up along the way.
That's the price of a weaker schedule and some media folks have been understandably skeptical of a non-conference schedule that included Wofford, Buffalo and Louisiana-Monroe. Jon Wilner, an Associated Press Top 25 voter who does an excellent job covering Pac-12 sports for the San Jose Mercury News, doesn't have Baylor in his Top 10.
"I’m far less concerned with final scores than quality of opposition, and Baylor has played an atrocious schedule," Wilner wrote Sunday.
Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com is right there with him.
...that and it's shocking to me that Baylor's margin of victory has led to so many ignoring most pathetic 8-game schedule in NCAA history— Billy Liucci (@billyliucci) October 28, 2013
To be fair, though, Baylor has avoided playing the dreadful 0-∞ London Silly Nannies, so calling its schedule the most pathetic in NCAA history may be a bit hyperbolic.
Baylor's schedule gets significantly harder beginning with a Nov. 7 game against Oklahoma, but the harsh truth is that there's no room for a loss—not if the Bears want to find themselves in Pasadena for the final BCS championship.
When College Football Playoff begins in 2014, a 13-member selection committee will hopefully place more weight on strength of schedule. That way, even if a team loses to a quality opponent, it's punished less than a team filling up on cupcakes.
Since scheduling often takes place years in advance, some programs have already been preparing. Texas, for example, has future games against BYU, Notre Dame, UCLA, USC and Ohio State. The Buckeyes have upcoming games against opponents like Oklahoma and Oregon.
Baylor's future non-conference schedules? It's a whole lotta nothing (with apologies to the likes of SMU, Rice and Northwestern State).
Of course, there are always opportunities to get out of non-conference games. They just come at a cost. And, beginning in 2016, the Bears have have open slots which they can fill with tougher opponents.
That can still be a crapshoot, though. There's no way Ohio State could have known Cal would be so lowly when the Buckeyes previously agreed to a series with the Golden Bears. There's also no way to predict how a conference is going to look top to bottom each year. All any program can do is schedule what it believes will be an attractive game or two in non-conference play.
Unless Duke turns into a perennial national powerhouse—though Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe is a magician—Baylor's future non-conference schedule is decidedly "blah."
For as fun as the Bears are, they should be challenged more out of conference. And college football fans everywhere will win because of it.
And, yes, maybe it'll help Baylor in the playoff discussion too.
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