Seth Emerson ($$):
Almost exactly two years ago, Kirby Smart stood in a basement conference room, telling a roomful of reporters at SEC meetings why he was doing something that seemed either brave or risky, depending on your outlook: Georgia’s future schedules, at Smart’s behest, had added Oklahoma, Clemson, Texas and Florida State, with Ohio State, Oregon and Louisville to come.
No, Smart insisted, it was not because he had any inkling or insight that playoff expansion was coming.
“I have no clue,” Smart said. “I’m not forecasting this. What I am forecasting is we’re going to have a strength of schedule that’s going to allow us — (whether the playoff is) one, two, three, four, eight teams — to be one of the teams in the conversation because of who we play.”
Honestly, as much as I love beefing up Georgia’s non-conference schedule purely from a fan’s standpoint, I’m not sure Smart will turn out to be right about that under the proposed 12-team format for the CFP. The reason I say that is because the new structure clearly establishes a place for conference champions, but is totally silent about the role strength of schedule will play in the rankings. And when you leave purely subjective standards in place for half the playoff field, silence strikes me as being pretty significant.
“I think a lot of this is going to boil down to strength of schedule,” Smart said on ESPN radio’s Marty & McGee show. “For a long time now we have been trying to build up our future strength of schedule, because it’s not the losses that are going to kill you, it’s not playing the best teams.”
That’s an assumption on Smart’s part, one that some may argue against. The selection committee has never come out and declared, well, anything, about its criteria. But when all else is equal it sure seems strength of schedule is more important than a team’s pure record.
Seth’s “all else is equal” is doing some very heavy lifting there, methinks. I do agree if there’s a point where the selection committee is having to split the thinnest of hairs between two teams, strength of schedule should come into play. But who knows how often that’s really going to be the case? I don’t. Neither does Kirby Smart.
“The naysayers,” Smart said two years ago, referring to critics of harder scheduling, “will say an extra loss is going to cost you. My argument is the men in that (selection) room, the women in that room that are on that committee, are going to have to balance somebody that goes out and plays three nonconference Power 5 teams.”
I think that argument carried a lot more weight when we thought we were looking at an eight-team playoff field, all chosen in a similar manner to the way teams are currently selected. Now, I’m not so sure. That’s what silence will do for you.
Now, Seth does make a good point that there were other considerations in play, such as regular season attendance and recruiting, behind the non-conference scheduling. But we all know ultimately that this is going to be judged by whether this pays off on selection day.