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Why NCAA Powers Won't Actually Need to Change Scheduling Strategy in Playoff Era

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Why NCAA Powers Won't Actually Need to Change Scheduling Strategy in Playoff Era
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Perception is reality in college football.

While it may seem like perception will become less important in the age of the College Football Playoff, where the title will be "settled on the field" (even though it was during the BCS era, too), it actually will become more important thanks to the selection committee.

Stewart Mandel of FoxSports.com detailed four critical questions that will determine the playoff participants: the eye test, strength of schedule, importance of conference championships and the specific analytics that will be made available to the 13-member committee.

That speaks to the overall subjectivity involved with this entire thing. Every member will have their own preferences on what matters and what doesn't.

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As a result, schools are left guessing this offseason when it comes to how they want to approach future scheduling. We've seen Georgia and Notre Dame ink a home-and-home series, LSU announce home-and-home series with UCLA and Arizona State in March and Florida and Michigan agree to play in the 2017 Cowboys Classic.

Of course, part of the reason we've had a wave of out-of-conference matchups announced is because two conferences—the SEC and ACC—announced they'd stay at eight conference games but also require at least one out-of-conference power-five matchup per year.

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But there are other schools that have gone the other way. 

Baylor scheduled "football power" Incarnate Word in 2019. As Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer pointed out, athletics director Ian McCaw doesn't really care if you care.

Schools don't have to change their scheduling plans to appease the College Football Playoff just yet.

Sure, some might. 

After all, one of the most important items in Mandel's piece is Wisconsin athletics director and selection committee member Barry Alvarez discussing "intent of the schedule."

When Alabama agreed to play West Virginia in one of two 2014 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games, it thought it would get something close to the team that just hung 70 on Clemson in the Orange Bowl—not a 4-8 mess that lost back-to-back games to Kansas and Iowa State to close the year.

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Until we see the playoff committee in action, though, it'd be nothing more than an educated guess to schedule out-of-conference games with the selection committee in mind.

If it turns out that the selection committee puts a disproportionate amount of emphasis on conference titles—which sometimes, but not always, are an indicator of championship-worthy teams—then beefing up a schedule isn't going to help all that much. Sure, there could be a few instances where it comes into play, but those would be the exceptions, not the rule.

Besides, for most schools, strategies have remained the same regardless of postseason format. 

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Alabama has played games against Penn State, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Michigan under current head coach Nick Saban. Oregon has gone to Boise State and played Tennessee and LSU in recent years and will host Michigan State in 2014. LSU has played the likes of Oregon, North Carolina, West Virginia and Washington since 2008.

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The most important goal for any team is to win its games, no matter who they're against. 

Beefing up strength of schedule now, with no real working knowledge of how much the committee will weight it, is just an insurance policy.

Teams don't need to change their policies, they need to adapt with the times. If a conference's prestige seems like it's taking a hit, maybe that's the right time to make a major point to schedule big. If a conference is down in the dumps, you go big because you have to.

That's not something that changes because of the playoff, it's something that changes with the playoff.

 

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

 


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