Cincinnati, Boise State, Liberty And Other Small Conference Teams Need To Follow This Formula
If you listen to some in the media, it is impossible for a team from a non-power conference to make the College Football Playoffs.
That is simply not true and here’s why that is the case.
The College Football Media Bias – ‘Football Powerhouse Envy’
First of all, many of those in the media just need something to gripe about and this one is easy pickings. Secondly, they are most likely went to a non-football power (such as Northwestern) whose school has been and never will be good enough to play for a National Championship.
They have “football powerhouse envy” because their alma mater always gets hammered by the big boys and they can’t stand it.
So whenever they see a Cincinnati, a Boise State, Central Florida or even teams they never previously heard of like Liberty and Coastal Carolina, they jump on those teams’ bandwagons and onto their keyboards.
Non-Power 5 Schools Conferences
The above was really just an explanation why this is even a topic worth covering. The real reason non-Power 5 schools don’t get into the College Football Playoffs is simple: scheduling.
No person with a reasonable football mind – and one would hope that includes people on the playoff committee – would put in a school that plays a second-tier schedule. That’s not the teams’ fault, it’s just that by playing in a league that has the likes of Houston and East Carolina (Cincinnati and Central Florida), Louisiana-Monroe and Arkansas State (Coastal Carolina) doesn’t earn it respect, even if it goes undefeated.
Non-Power 5 Schools Conferences Scheduling
If those teams are serious about challenging for a playoff spot, here’s what they need to do: upgrade their schedules. They need to play Power 5 schools. Good ones. And more than one a season.
In fact, they need to have at least three on their schedule. Win those, and they earn a hard look from the committee.
Cincinnati, for instance, should play Ohio State and Notre Dame every year and mix in a Michigan or Wisconsin.
Boise State needs to play Oklahoma, Nebraska (hey that’s a game it could win) and mix in, say, Texas A&M, USC or Oregon (granted, the Broncos in the past have beaten both OUs, Oklahoma and Oregon).
Liberty, as an independent, made a good attempt this year by scheduling Syracuse and Virginia Tech from the ACC. And won both games. But it needed to play Clemson. Syracuse and Va Tech were a combined 6-16. That won’t win over many voters.
Central Florida, which went undefeated in Scott Frost’s final year, played a schedule that included Florida International, Navy, Austin Peay and Temple. Alabama, the true National Champion, opened with Florida State (which was ranked #3 to open the year and then collapsed after Jameis Winston got injured), LSU, Mississippi State (which finished the season ranked 16th) and Texas A&M.
Bowl Game Wins Don’t Mean Anything
Whenever a second-tier conference team beats a team from the “big boys” league, the pundits go crazy. “See, they belong!,” the proclaim.
Not true. Winning one game when the smaller conference team has the “we have nothing to lose and everything to prove mentally” and the other has the “we’ve got to play Cincinnati!?” mentality, that’s not an even emotional matchup.
That’s why it’s common to see Boise State upsetting Oklahoma, Utah taking down Alabama and Georgia pretty much playing dead against West Virginia, Boise and this year against the Bearcats (although the Bulldogs were awake enough to pull out a narrow win).
Central Florida over Auburn in 2017 is often cited as an example since the Auburn beat both National Championship finalists Alabama and Georgia that year. But there’s a huge difference in facing the Tigers in Jordan-Hare Stadium as a bitter conference rival than playing them in the meaningless Peach Bowl.
So yes, a non-Power 5 team can earn a spot in the College Football Playoffs. It just needs a more impressive resume than beating the likes of SMU and Memphis.