The Big 12 announced today it’s requiring all its football programs to play at least one Power Five school or Notre Dame, and no more than one game against a non-FBS team, according to a statement released by the conference.
“Schedule strength is a key component in CFP Selection Committee deliberations,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “This move will strengthen the resumes for all Big 12 teams. Coupled with the nine-game full round robin conference schedule our teams play, it will not only benefit the teams at the top of our standings each season, but will impact the overall strength of the conference.”
The new requirement does not affect existing non-conference game commitments, so teams can still honor contracts already in place.
This is not without precedent. The Pac-12 plays a nine-game league schedule similar to the Big 12. And the SEC, ACC, and big Ten all have similar mandates. This past summer, the Big Ten announced its teams could no longer schedule FCS opponents beginning in 2016.
The Big 12 may be a little late to the party, but it’s a move the conference had to make. Baylor may have cost themselves a playoff berth in 2014, when they filled their nonconference schedule with the likes of SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo. Rather than select the Bears or conference co-champion TCU for the playoff, the committee took the path of least resistance and left both teams out in the cold.
This season, the Bears had SMU, Lamar and Rice as nonconference opponents. Other than a home-and-home scheduled with Duke for 2017 and 2018, Baylor has no other Power Five teams scheduled until 2023. Since their schedule is already filled out through the next three years, the earliest the new rules will affect them is the 2019 season.
Until the College Football Playoff expands beyond four teams (if that ever happens), one Power Five conference will get the shaft. The Big 12 got lucky with Oklahoma making the Final Four this season, but needs to pull out all the stops necessary to keep being left out in the future. Today’s announcement is a big step in the right direction.