The College Football Playoff was never explicitly designed for this purpose, but expanding the championship field from two teams to four had programs like Boise State and BYU salivating.
Finally, they surely thought, they may have a better chance to compete for a championship instead of being left out, like they were in the BCS.
However, as Lee Corso, donned in headgear while wielding firearms, holding live animals and dropping F-bombs, would say, "Not so fast, my friend."
Almost by the day, it's more and more obvious that the power-five conferences are trying their hardest to fortify the walls around their playoff stronghold.
It started when the SEC announced that it would continue to play eight conference games, but mandated that one out-of-conference game per year be played against another power-five opponent. Earlier this week, word circulated that the ACC was approving a similar proposal.
When it comes to College Football Playoff access, the ACC and SEC are sending one big triple-dog dare to the selection committee. If they don't have to change the status quo, why would they?
But that pales in comparison to what ESPN's Andrea Adelson and Brett McMurphy reported on Wednesday: That some ACC schools are considering future nonconference games...against other ACC opponents.
From the report:
Because of the eight-game league schedule, non-primary crossover rivals in the Atlantic and Coastal divisions may wind up playing each other only once in an 11-year span. This prompted discussion at the spring meetings about scheduling fellow ACC teams as nonconference opponents in future seasons. Some possible future ACC "nonconference" games could pit Miami against Syracuse, Duke against NC State, and Clemson against Virginia.
The Big Ten, which still plans to play nine conference games beginning in 2016 but will eliminate games against FCS opponents, could also foresee a similar scenario in its own league.
"That's a unique concept we could talk about more," Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said, via Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com. "That's a possibility."
That last line should be emphasized. The idea of playing conference opponents as a nonconference game is just that—an idea. And, as absurd as it is, it does place a Band-Aid on a scheduling problem that arises when a conference has 14 teams (or, in the ACC's case, 14+1 with Notre Dame).
And while playing a conference opponent—say, Wake Forest or Illinois—as a nonconference game is acceptable, apparently counting BYU as a power opponent is not.
Make no mistake. Teams from the ACC, Big Ten and SEC can still schedule BYU, Boise State or whoever else they want. BYU, in fact, has several big games scheduled in the future. It just won't count toward that requirement. That means there's less incentive to schedule those sort of teams. Conversely, BYU, which has to schedule 12 nonconference games because of football independence, could have a hard time getting a full schedule of quality opponents.
More powerful conferences don't owe anyone else anything, but the scheduling moves are transparent. Deeming certain programs to be worthy of power five consideration is hilariously subjective, but the only thing that matters is if it falls under one of five conferences.
Your position in cfb's hierarchy has more to do with what conference you selected 80 years ago than how you've played anytime recently.— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) May 15, 2014
Nonconf games v conference opponents. Mandatory games v other power 5. And the wall around the castle gets a little taller.— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) May 14, 2014
As John Infante of Athleticscholarships.net tweets, the strength-of-schedule argument has become a facade. Rather, it's about keeping other programs out of the playoff under the disguise of strength of schedule.
8+1 scheduling formulas are not about strength of schedule. If it was about SOS, a minimum non-conf SOS would be mandated.— John Infante (@John_Infante) May 15, 2014
Those formulas are about improving strength of schedule and denying access to the playoff.— John Infante (@John_Infante) May 15, 2014
And no non-power conference team has a more direct path to the playoff than BYU.— John Infante (@John_Infante) May 15, 2014
How good a team is or will be is a cyclical matter, but is there any chance Virginia is a better "nonconference" opponent for, say, Florida State than BYU or Boise State right now? Absolutely not.
There's no doubt that college football is wildly entertaining. That's why it is, arguably, the second-most popular sport in America behind the NFL.
It also operates without a commissioner, meaning everyone is free to suggest—and potentially employ—as many ridiculous ideas that benefits a select group as they please so long as it complies with NCAA rules.
In other words, college football is known to have its moments of stupidity.
Whether the nonconference scheduling idea gains traction remains to be seen. As Dan Wolken of USA Today points out, the playoff selection committee should possess enough common sense to sniff out obvious differences in schedule strength.
I don’t think the committee will be fooled. You can’t play 1 FCS, 2 nobodies and a lower-tier Power 5 if you’re an ACC team and expect much— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) May 15, 2014
If they do, teams in power conferences who try to cheat the system should be passed over accordingly.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report.