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Midweek Musings: Razorbacks, Ponies, and Bears--oh my

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The problems with scheduling non-Power 5 teams and why TCU should breakup with SMU.

Ronald Martinez

Let’s start off with a public service announcement/reminder. Gary and Bret Bielema get to face off two years from now in Fort Worth. Knowing Bret, he might just want to opt out of the game and offer to play TCU twice in lovely Fayetteville. Bielema isn’t paid to be logical, but he is paid to win football games. Something he has yet to do in the SEC. We’ve talked about this before, the SEC West is the hardest division in college football, maybe all of football—but Big Bret has shown little progress on either side of the ball. If it’s another year like last year for him, we might not get the rematch we want so much.

I’m working on this in detail, and hopefully I’ll be able to share more soon, but locking Cal in for 2020 and 2021 helps my theory that the Big 12 might soon dissolve and TCU will go West. The way the new playoff system is designed, one league will end up getting screwed more than the others. Even sans Jameis Winston, Jimbo Fischer and Florida State will have firm hegemony in the ACC for a long time. The SEC will always be a lock, and the Pac-12 and Big Ten both benefit from a Championship game. Not so good for the Big 12. But that’s all of this is a ways off, not to mention speculative.

The Future is in Four, Not Five.

Welcome to College Football 2014—where computers are irrelevant and polls no longer matter. Well one poll does. And that’s a committee of high-minded individuals. High-minded individuals who, won’t be care that much that TCU walloped the team from Dallas. By the time the poll’s first released in late October, there are more important games to consider by that point. You know; Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State. The only non-conference game that really matters for anyone in the Big 12 is Kansas State’s Thursday night matchup against Auburn. (The same could be said for Charlie Strong’s Longhorns, but the Kansas State is more primed for a playoff run than Texas at the moment).

For a team that doesn’t have a Conference Championship, if the Wildcats were to beat Auburn, yet lose a weird game to say Iowa State, but still win the Big 12, the voters may be lenient. Ok, I lied. There’s another one that matters. The Big 12’s other biggest non-conference game isn’t even a Big 12 game at all. It’s Michigan State and Oregon on September 6th.  It’s a big game for the Big 12 because the loser of that game, more than likely, will be competing for—if not win—their respective conference title, and because the loser still could nab a playoff spot from the Big 12.

The world we’re living in now, one with a Power 5, the Minnesota game is actually a great idea. They’re good, but certainly not great. Their defense, which ranked 5th in the B1G last year will be a great indicator of what’s to come this season from the minds of Meachem and Cumbie. It’s a build-in win, but it’s still a victory over a likely bowl team from a Power 5 conference. In a world where we are forced to play them (non-conference games) anyway, you can’t get much better than that. This is the same reason scheduling Cal, and not USC is a great idea. Also, this is my quick plea--regardless of future conference shifts--to get Washington on the schedule. Patterson vs. Peterson forever.

Go Your Own Way: Breaking up with SMU

This all being said, it’s time to break up with SMU.

The Iron Skillet is a dinosaur that isn’t worth an InGen revival. We win? Great--We beat June Jones and a team that’s putzed around Conference USA for the last 10 years. Lose? Well...it’s a little less worse with the new playoff system, but it’s still pretty bad. But sans a Championship game, it’s automatically no playoff for TCU. SMU’s not in the Power 5 and the lack of a championship game will screw the Big 12 exponentially in the new system. There’s a tie in the Big 12? A three way tie? Cool, only one--if any at all--will get to play in Jerry World come January.

The Big 12 doesn’t suffer from parity necessarily. It suffers from the round robin system. One that, while actually the most fair, isn’t designed for the playoff format. Nor was it designed for the BCS. There are some other factors at play, but the Big 12 hasn’t put a team in the National Championship since Texas in 2009. When there was, you know, a Championship game. Unless you’re Texas or Oklahoma, it’s going to be nearly impossible to sneak into the playoffs with 1-loss. Kansas State gets a little lucky in playing the National runner-up. So like we said above, there’s still a chance they could get in if they win that game yet lose a weird game somewhere before or after. But that’s where depending on a game like Oregon vs. Michigan State comes into play.

Baylor won’t run the table, and they won’t make the playoff as a 1-loss team for that reason. Their non-conference schedule is a cake walk. This isn’t anything personal against SMU, it’s just business. Since teams still have to play a non-conference schedule in 2014, I’d rather play Minnesota, Utah, and Wake Forest--games we should win year-to-year--than blowout SMU and keep a dying rivalry alive. A rivalry that has no upside other than to keep a piece of cookware for a year.

We all remember what it was like when we weren’t at the big kid’s table. GP is a good soldier. One that fears hypocrisy. Which is why it was a good move for him to vote "No" against leaving off non-Power 5 opponents on the schedule. But TCU survived college football’s latest Darwinian expansion, and regardless of the Big 12’s stability, there’s a 99% they’ll survive the next one too.