Will the 'Power 5' scheduling requirement have a big impact?
With the ACC and the SEC making scheduling changes that will require its members to play a so-called "Power 5" team each year (including Notre Dame, for the ACC), it seems like a pretty big change. But how big a change is it, really?
Including the 2014 college football season, Baylor hasn't faced a "Power 5" school -- out of conference -- since 2008. In that five-year span (2009-13), the Bears have posted a 40-24 overall record.
Casey Sapio / USA TODAY Sports
By Lauren Brownlow
With the ACC and the SEC making scheduling changes that will require its members to play a so-called "Power 5" team each year (including Notre Dame, for the ACC), it seems like a pretty big change.
(A "Power 5" conference team comprises schools from the Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12.)
But how big is this change, really?
Taking the Big East out of the equation is bigger than some may think. Even if Notre Dame is included (which it will be).
Since 2009, every league except the Big 12 and SEC has seen at least half its members play at least one game against a Power 5 school each year.
But every school plays a Power 5 opponent from time to time, obviously, out of conference. Well, except for Texas Tech, which has played none since 2009; and Baylor, which has played just one (Wake Forest in 2009).
Kentucky is the only SEC team to have avoided a Power 5 team since 2009, as its annual series with Louisville (in the Big East from 2009-12 and AAC in 2013) wouldn't qualify.
Counting Big East teams would change the equation for a lot of these programs, but even though it was a BCS league, it was considered as a virtual outsider during the time of the BCS' existence.
All of its significant teams, for the most part, have found new homes.
Here are some interesting things that emerged from taking a look at how teams schedule out of conference:
BAD TEAMS DON'T MAKE TOUGH SCHEDULES
Baylor might be the exception to this rule, as the Bears have had some good seasons the past few years; but it's ridiculous, on a number of levels, they won't schedule a Power 5 team out of conference (and haven't since 2009).
But the Bears are 40-24 in that span, so something must be working.
Another exception would be Virginia Tech, although the Hokies have not been as egregious as Baylor -- they've played three Power 5 teams (Alabama twice, Nebraska once) in the last five seasons.
Virginia Tech has also faced a Power 5 team in two of the last five seasons.
To be fair, another quality opponent was Boise State, back when the Broncos were a missed field goal away from the national title in 2010. And Virginia Tech does at least attempt to schedule competitive teams out of Conference USA, like East Carolina and Marshall.
Plus, Virginia Tech is 45-20 in the last five years.
Texas A&M has yet to play a Power 5 team since joining the SEC, but are 20-6 in that span. Probably too small a sample size.
But of the other 14 schools that have faced a Power 5 opponent three times in the last five seasons or fewer, they have one thing in common -- they're not all that good.
Six of the 14 teams are above .500 in the last five seasons combined, and the best winning percentage belongs to North Carolina (.594), which had to vacate eight of its wins in that span (in 2009, but they were counted for these purposes).
To be fair, the Tar Heels have played at least one Big East team (or AAC) for four of the last five seasons, so it's not like they were avoiding BCS opponents.
But other than South Carolina last year and LSU in 2010, UNC has encountered no other Power 5 opponents.
North Carolina State has also played just two power-conference teams in the last five seasons, but the Wolfpack have also played quite a few former Big East teams (at least one a year until last season).
This season, however, will mark two years straight without a Power 5 opponent. NC State is 32-31 since 2009.
In the SEC, where wins are hard to come by, Ole Miss (30-33 since 2009) and Mississippi State (36-28) have avoided Power 5 teams with the Rebels playing three since 2009 and Mississippi State playing two.
Kentucky has played zero Power 5 opponents not named Louisville, but thankfully for the Wildcats, Louisville will count now. But Kentucky is 22-40 since 2009.
Arkansas is an interesting exception. The Razorbacks played Texas A&M for three years (2009-11) before the Aggies were added to the SEC.
But the Aggies did play Rutgers the last two years. They've added Texas Tech to the slate this year, though -- which will be the Red Raiders' first Power 5 opponent, out of conference, in the last five seasons.
Both schools are slightly above .500 since 2009.
The only other Big 12 team to avoid Power 5 teams, at times, has been Kansas. The Jayhawks played at least one Power 5 team three times in the last five seasons (twice it was Duke, before Duke had improved) and are 14-46 overall in that span.
The Jayhawks will travel to Duke this year and likely won't find the Blue Devils as friendly of an opponent.
Two of the Big Ten's worst teams -- Indiana and Minnesota -- are the only two league teams to avoid a Power 5 team more than once since 2009. Indiana is 19-41 in that span and Minnesota is 26-37.
Utah is 18-19 in the last three seasons since joining the Pac-12, but the Utes played BYU every year (until this one), not to mention Utah State, a formidable Mountain West opponent.
Since the Utes aren't facing BYU this year, though, they'll have to find a Power 5 replacement at some point (and they did with a game at Michigan).
Colorado has been in the Pac-12 for three years too; but even in the Big 12, the Buffaloes avoided a Power 5 opponent in three of the last five seasons. They're 16-45 in that span.
Oregon State has played a Power 5 team just two of the last five seasons but to be fair to the Beavers, they're 32-31 in that span and have played good teams, like Boise State, TCU (pre-Big 12), BYU and the like.
Washington State played Auburn last year, but the Cougars had gone the previous two seasons without facing a Power 5 team.
This year, they'll open the season with the Big Ten's newest addition, Rutgers. And the Cougars are, naturally, 16-45 since 2009.
The Cougars, like a lot of these aforementioned teams, need to be careful of whom they schedule.
The balance of risk with reward is key, and it's certainly not easy. These restrictions will only make it tougher.
THE BYU/INDEPENDENTS FACTOR
The ACC caused quite a stir when commissioner John Swofford said that BYU wouldn't be a team considered in the supposed Power 5 scheduling requirement.
BYU is an independent, and the Cougars are perennially a very good team. But they'll get to play just three Power 5 teams this year, their fewest such opponents since 2010.
They've played 15 Power 5 teams over the last three years, including six last year.
There are two other independents that aren't usually as powerful as BYU, but still have plenty of experience against the Power 5.
But this season Navy takes on two Power 5 teams (Ohio State and Rutgers), plus Notre Dame. Army is playing two Power 5 teams (Wake and Stanford).
The year before, Army played three power conference teams while Navy played four (plus Notre Dame).
If these teams no longer count in the scheduling requirement, it remains to be seen how often they will be scheduled.
There's certainly both benefits and drawbacks to playing games like that, particularly when you're talking about BYU, but it would seem like the system is already starting to marginalize these programs.
A LOOK AT 2014
Almost every power conference team -- 53 of 64 -- is facing another power-conference team out of conference.
Baylor continues its streak and is the only Big 12 school not facing a Power 5 opponent, while Penn State remains the lone holdout in the Big Ten.
In the ACC, it's NC State and Wake Forest (as its series with Vanderbilt was ended).
In the Pac-12, Oregon State, Arizona and Colorado aren't playing a Power 5 team while in the SEC, there are four teams out of its 12 members not doing it -- Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.
If there's good news, it's that fewer teams (slightly) are playing FCS opponents. Just 52 of the 64 Power 5 schools are playing an FCS team, and no one is playing more than one.
Some of the out-of-conference matchups are regional rivalries and some are new and exciting ones, but either way you look at it any time a Power 5 team plays another, it's not a bad thing.
Earlier this week, Florida head coach Will Muschamp famously said the Gators probably wouldn't play FCS opponents anymore because the school's "fanbase, as much as anything, wants to see better opponents."
(The Gators lost at home to FCS foe Georgia Southern last year -- their first such loss in school history.)
It's hard to fill out a schedule, though, and sometimes there are competitive FCS opponents that a Power 5 team can get something out of playing against.
But more often than not if an FCS team beats you, all it gets you is laughed at. Appalachian State (which will be in the FBS this year, in the Sun Belt) knocked off Michigan in the Big House famously, and that -- plus Florida's loss to Georgia Southern last year -- earned both teams quite a bit of mocking.
And sometimes, there isn't a huge difference between playing a competitive FCS team and, say, a bottom-feeder Sun Belt team. But it's tough to know from year to year when that will happen.
Let's be honest: As long as FCS teams willingly come to play at a Power 5 team, expecting nothing in return but money, and generally oblige by taking double-digit beatings, these games will likely continue.
There aren't a lot of supposed easy games in college football nowadays, and whether the fans want to see their team take on an outmatched opponent or not, those wins are too valuable to give up.