Why the Big Ten won’t woo the CFB Playoff Committee in 2019

By Amy Daughters -

Soft music is playing in the background, the gentle glow of candlelight illuminates the faces of the College Football Playoff Committee. There’s even a hot tub. And a magnum of champagne.

Given that it’s the Big Ten’s big date with the committee, an opportunity to entice the bracket-makers to seed one of its worthy members – the rendezvous is taking place in the Poconos. The conference commissioner makes his case from atop of a seven-foot Champagne Glass Whirlpool bath, situated just above a heart-shaped pool.

Surely, it’s enough to get the Big Ten into the Playoff? Right?

Well, if the committee is indeed committed to the second of its four pillars of protocol – schedule strength – then even all the votive candles in Pennsylvania might not be enough to sway the voters.

Though it’s hard to argue that Big Ten members won’t have plenty to grapple with in-conference, six of its 14 members are listed in ESPN’s debut edition of the Way-Too-Early Top 25, the collective non-league schedule is beyond weak.


ILLINOIS: Akron, at UConn, Eastern Michigan (MAC, AAC, MAC)

INDIANA: Ball State (at Indianapolis, Ind.), FCS Eastern Illinois, UConn (MAC, FCS, AAC)

IOWA: Miami Ohio, at Iowa State, Middle Tennessee State (MAC, Big 12, C-USA)

MARYLAND: FCS Howard, Syracuse, at Temple (FCS, ACC, AAC)

MICHIGAN: Middle Tennessee State, Army, Notre Dame (C-USA, IND, IND)

MICHIGAN STATE: Tulsa, Western Michigan, Arizona State (AAC, MAC, Pac-12)

MINNESOTA: FCS South Dakota State, Fresno State, Georgia Southern (FCS, MWC, Sun Belt)

NEBRASKA: South Alabama, at Colorado, Northern Illinois (Sun Belt, Pac-12, MAC)

NORTHWESTERN: at Stanford, UNLV, UMass (Pac-12, MWC, IND)

OHIO STATE: Florida Atlantic, Cincinnati, Miami Ohio (C-USA, AAC, MAC)

PENN STATE: FCS Idaho, Buffalo, Pitt (FCS, MAC, ACC)

PURDUE: at Nevada, Vanderbilt, TCU (MWC, SEC, Big 12)

RUTGERS: UMass, Boston College, Liberty (IND, ACC, IND)

WISCONSIN: at South Florida, Central Michigan, Kent State (AAC, MAC, MAC)

Of the 14 members, five – or 36% – won’t face a Power 5 member outside of Big Ten play. Compare that with the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC, all which have only ONE member each that won’t play a Power opponent in non-league action in 2019. As a note, we’ve counted Notre Dame and BYU as Power programs across the board.

So, while Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio State, and Wisconsin are on the “naughty” list from the Big Ten – only Wake Forest, Baylor, Washington State and Arkansas are on it from the rest of the nation.

It’s a big deal.

Beyond that – only one Big Ten member doubles-down on non-conference Power programs in 2019 – Purdue, which is slated to play Vanderbilt and TCU in back-to-back home games. Compare that to the ACC and SEC with three such members apiece. From the ACC – Boston College (Kansas, at Rutgers), Clemson (Texas A&M, at South Carolina) and Louisville (Notre Dame, at Kentucky). From the SEC – Georgia (Notre Dame, Georgia Tech), Florida (Miami Fla., Florida State) and South Carolina (North Carolina, Clemson).

As far as FCS action, Indiana, Minnesota, and Penn State all get the “gimmee” game this season. Though the Big Ten originally (in 2016) banned members from scheduling FCS opponents, it softened its dictate in 2017, allowing teams with only four conference home games to play an FCS program.

While the Hoosiers and Nittany Lions both have the required number of Big Ten home games necessary to comply, Minnesota (which plays FCS South Dakota State in its opener) has five Big Ten opponents at home in 2019. #whoops

From a bigger picture standpoint, it means that not only will Minnesota and Indiana not play a Power team out of Big Ten play, they’ll also get an opponent they’re 90% likely to beat.

It’s a two-game swing and worthy of an asterisk.

Next, let’s look at the cumulative strength of the non-league Power opponents the Big Ten will play in 2019:

Arizona State: finished 7-6 in 2018, last ranked in the postseason AP in 2014

Boston College: finished 7-5 in 2018, last postseason AP in 2007

Colorado: finished 5-7 in 2018, last postseason AP in 2016

Iowa State: finished 8-5 in 2018, last postseason AP in 2000

Notre Dame: finished 12-1 in 2018, last postseason AP in 2018

Pitt: finished 7-7 in 2018, last postseason AP in 2009

Stanford: finished 9-4 in 2018, last postseason AP in 2017

Syracuse: finished 10-3 in 2018, last postseason AP in 2018

TCU: finished 7-6 in 2018, last postseason AP in 2017

Vanderbilt: finished 6-7 in 2018, last postseason AP in 2013

The ten combined for a 78-51 finish last season, with only two (Notre Dame and Syracuse) finishing the season ranked in the AP Top 25. Only three of the nine that made it to the postseason managed to win their bowl game – Stanford (edged Pitt 14-13), Syracuse (downed West Virginia 34-18) and TCU (outlasted Cal 10-7).

Moving forward, only three of the ten are mentioned in ESPN’s Way-Too-Early rankings: Notre Dame (No. 5), Syracuse (No. 15), and Iowa State (No. 20).

Perhaps the most effective way to illustrate the weakness is by narrowing the discussion to contenders. In other words, it’s all well and good that Minnesota’s schedule is weak, but it’s doubtful that the Golden Gophers resume will reach the CFP committee’s desk at decision time.

Though Michigan (at No. 11 in ESPN’s premature Top 25) has No. 5 Notre Dame at home on Oct. 26 – the biggest of the Big Ten dogs Ohio State (No. 4 according to ESPN) has the easiest non-conference schedule of any major contender. That includes Alabama, which also has a super-soft non-league slate in 2019 but at least had the decency to schedule an opponent from a Power league.  Rankings are via ESPN’s early Top 25.

(1) CLEMSON(9) Texas A&M, Charlotte, FCS Wofford, at South Carolina

(2) ALABAMADuke, New Mexico State, Southern Miss, FCS Western Carolina

(3) GEORGIA – FCS Murray State, Arkansas State, (5) Notre Dame, at Georgia Tech

(4) OHIO STATE – Florida Atlantic, Cincinnati, Miami Ohio

(5) NOTRE DAMEat Louisville, New Mexico, at (3) Georgia, Virginia, Bowling Green, USC, at (11) Michigan, Virginia Tech, at Duke, Navy, Boston College, at Stanford

(6) OKLAHOMA – Houston, FCS South Dakota, at UCLA

(7) FLORIDAMiami Fla., FCS UT Martin, FCS Towson, Florida State

(8) TEXAS – Louisiana Tech, (10) LSU, Rice

(9) TEXAS A&Mat (1) Clemson, FCS Lamar, UTSA

(10) LSU – Georgia Southern, at (8) Texas, FCS Northwestern State, Utah State

(11) MICHIGAN – Middle Tennessee, (25) Army, (5) Notre Dame

It’s the first time since 1934 that the Buckeyes haven’t faced a current Power 5 program outside of Big Ten play.

As long as there are five Power leagues vs. only four slots in the CFB Playoff bracket, comparative schedule strength is a crucial conversation. Throw an undefeated Notre Dame into the equation and the number of available spots is reduced to three.

For this coming season, the Big Ten is at a disadvantage before the debate even begins.

Comments (29)

You do realize that by the ACC and SEC scheduling a P5 OOC game they are equaling the baseline of how many P5 programs a B1G team plays, no? And that when a B1G team adds a P5 on top of that, they are then playing 10 P5 programs versus the 8+1 of the ACC and SEC. So yeah, about that article…

No sir, the title of the article is “Why the Big Ten won’t woo the CFB Playoff Committee in 2019” and implies the lack of OOC P5 is the reason, but fails to factor in the additional conference game or fact that if there is an additional P5 that like the P12 and BXII they’d be at 10 P5 games. Whole lot of wheels spinning here but the truck ain’t moving.

Also consider:

The Big Ten considers UCONN and Cincinnati as power 5 opponents as well (that can be debated as to their actual quality, but they are considered equal when compared to crappy power 5 teams like Kansas, Arkansas, and Arizona).

Also, stop discounting FCS games as gimmies. South Dakota State is better than most group 5 teams.

And the Big Ten plays 1 more conference game when compared to the SEC and ACC.

Please tell the full story about scheduling in your articles.

I want the site to write the article of P5 teams that should be considered Group of 5 Strength (starting with Kansas) and Group of 5 teams that should be considered Power 5 or scheduling purposes (starting with UCF). Please consider this officially suggested.

Ohio State played two power 5 teams out of conference last year along with the 9 conference games and still didn’t get in. By the way, you failed to mention the amount of FCS teams the other conferences play as opposed to the Big 10. Florida played two last year and two coming up this year.

The only reason the Big Ten played less FCS teams the last few years is because they were told to by the conference. Otherwise they would play close to the same as other conferences.

The author is obviously biased, and the drivel should be ignored. The Big 10 plays an additional conference game, so comparing them should include +1 power conference opponents for each team. Not doing this shows bias and ignorance right away. Also, considering that the site is heavily biased towards the SEC to begin with, it’s not surprising that this drivel was published on the site. Alabama plays an FCS team every year typically the week before Auburn. Where’s the article harping on that? Of course, we never see that.

The author has an opinion, just like everyone else. And please provide proof that the site is “heavily biased towards the SEC” other than the fact that I’m a UGA fan. I’ll wait.

I have been on this site for years & no one that writes articles on here is biased one bit! If anyone is biased it is the people that come on here & luv to complain about everything.
I have seen many articles on here (harping) about Bama scheduling & other outstanding P5 teams as well.
This article is just asking & questioning the BIG OOC schedule & how it will manage for them to get a team into the CFP, considering they have not had a team in there in a couple of years & the last couple of times they did, Michigan St & The Ohio State could not even score a point.

Eric emailed me wanting to contribute the SEC predictions column. I didn’t seek it out. To date, nobody has offered to write a similar piece for any other conference.

…… hope Fresno, Army, Nevada and Ga Southern won’t feel too disparaged coming in below P5 paragons like Kansas, Rutgers and Oregon St

The playoff committee has shown time and time again that strength of schedule doesn’t matter. All that matters is that teams can’t lose more than one game. While I don’t like it, there really is no playoff upside to schedule a difficult out of conference schedule.


I believe you are half right. It seems the committee values strength of schedule of the final top 25 teams. They talk about records against the top 25 and a little about rankings inside the top 25. However if you beat Iowa and Cincinnati who were just outside the final Top 25 than seems the same to the committee as Rutgers and San Jose St who were outside the top 100 teams.

I would do it differently, but that is my opinion of the committee’s process.

*Ding*, *ding*, *ding*!

Yep. OSU played 2 P5 schools OOC in 2018. OU only played a 3-9 UCLA team.
The B10 East is also a tougher place to play than the B12 (not just me; Sagarin says so as well).

Remember who made the playoffs and who didn’t?

The B10 has wizened up by looking at what the playoff committee does rather than what they say.

I believe Wake Forest can be removed from the 2019 Naughty list since their game with North Carolina is officially a “non Conference” game.

Double Naughty list on Indiana for schedule an FCS and no Power 5 Conference opponent in 2019.

I wonder if you think the Gators’ two FCS opponents counters their two in-state FBS OOCs?

So, the argument by some of the commenters is that since the Big Ten plays nine conference games they should get a pass on their out of conference scheduling?


The Big Ten is weak, top to bottom and this type of scheduling only ensures that will continue.

The fact is, the Big Ten has won only four national titles in the last 50 years. Three by Ohio State, one by Michigan.

The SEC has had four DIFFERENT teams win a national title in the last eleven years.

Let’s quit pretending the Big Ten is elite.

And the SEC has zero national champions not named Alabama in the past 8 years. The ACC has two of the last three national champions, does that make the ACC the toughest conference in football?

National champions do not make a conference the toughest conference, they just say a conference has the best team in the country.

Just last year the B1G went 7-1 in bowl games with the only loss being UM blowing their lead because Harbaugh is a famous choker, and all of these were played against P5 teams. This season they went 5-4, which gives them a better winning percentage than the SEC. Again, all of these bowl games were against P5 teams. Care to try again?

The Big Ten’s problem is that they are losing too many games, not that their OOC schedule is too weak. Ohio State has missed the last few years because they lost two games in 2017 and lost to Purdue (by A LOT) in 2018. I would argue a weaker schedule actually gives the B1G an advantage because it provides less opportunities for a loss. If Ohio State goes 13-0 next year, they would be in the playoffs as long as there weren’t more than four undefeated teams, which there have not been since the inception of the CFP, their weak OOC schedule would not matter.

This article is about the B1G’s OOC scheduling. However there is no research or mention of the fact that the B1G also identifies several G5 teams as P5-worthy, (Notre Dame, Cincinnati, UConn, BYU, Army, and Navy). This was reported on by this site (https://fbschedules.com/big-ten-army-three-aac-teams-power-five-opponents/), so I’m not sure why they excluded this information.

Also, MN plays AT Fresno State, and you could definitely argue road games for MN and WI in California and Florida are easily comparable in difficulty to a home game vs Duke (Bama).

The FCS argument is irrelevant since all other leagues also schedule FCS games, usually later in the season as well for essentially bye weeks.

Good gravy Amy. I’m unfollowing the site simply because of your bias/ignorance:

– No mention of 9 conference opponents in Big Ten vs. ACC/SEC’s 8 opponents. Which translates to the Big Ten playing more quality opponents.
– Lack of acknowledging quality non p5 opponents within preseason top 25 polls. Why only count BYU and Notre Dame? What about Cincy (beat UCLA and VT) or Army?
– The Big Ten has four opponents in the top 25 poll you reference, while the SEC has five. Not that big of a difference if you ask me.

Unfollowing is your prerogative. Amy (along with Brian and Eric) are contributors to this site. They are freelancers that write what they choose. I don’t tell them what to write and I don’t refuse to publish what they write.

This piece was about non-conference scheduling ONLY as a means to impress the selection committee. Her argument was framed on that basis.

With that being said, comments on this piece are now closed since others have decided to launch personal attacks.