John Klein: TU needs marquee wins or perfection for shot at football playoff
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Monday, July 09, 2012
7/09/12 at 4:52 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: Tulsa has two roads to playoff
Tulsa football probably has two avenues in pursuit of one of the elite bowls or even the national championship game.
At this point, two years away from the first four-team playoff in college football, TU must start planning on how to attack the new system.
It can pursue a difficult schedule, hoping that will propel it into the elite bowls, or go for a less-challenging but perhaps unbeaten route.
Either way, it is likely that teams like Tulsa, from leagues outside of the power conferences, will have a struggle to reach the elite games.
The four-team playoff is expected to be dominated by teams from the power conferences like the Big 12, Southeastern, Big 10, Pac-12 and Atlantic Coast.
Understandably, those teams will have a huge strength of schedule advantage over Conference USA (TU's athletic home), the Big East, Mountain West and others.
For instance, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will be adding West Virginia and TCU, two schools that have routinely lived in the top 10 in the last decade, to their conference schedule this fall.
That's in addition to Texas, Kansas State and the remainder of the Big 12.
In other words, regardless of who OU and OSU play out of conference, the Sooners and Cowboys have plenty of challenges in their league to get considered for the elite games in college football.
That is not true for Tulsa.
The Golden Hurricane is in a league that is perceived to be getting even weaker in the next few years as C-USA loses Houston, SMU and Memphis. Conference USA is adding teams like UTSA (in just its second year in FBS), North Texas and Louisiana Tech.
Tulsa will need help with its non-conference schedule.
A year ago, a 12-0 or 11-1 record might have been enough to get Tulsa in the discussion for the top 10 or final four of football.
The Hurricane played four top-10 teams - Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise State in the first month of the season and then Houston to close the season on Thanksgiving weekend. TU went 8-4.
However, if Tulsa had been able to go through that schedule with just one loss, preferably in one of those first four weeks, one would have to believe the Hurricane would be in the discussion in the new system.
Sometimes it is important when you suffer that one loss.
This year's schedule isn't as challenging but still has some major hurdles. Besides the C-USA schedule, Tulsa goes to Iowa State and Arkansas.
If the Razorbacks are as good as some believe, that could be a marquee game if the Golden Hurricane wins in Ames and then sweeps through the early portion of the Conference USA season.
Of course, there is another way to look at it.
What if Tulsa did not play a challenging schedule but went unbeaten?
There's little question the power conferences would make a huge issue of it because Tulsa would then be in the discussion against power league teams with a loss or two.
Still, one has to believe an unbeaten season, regardless of schedule, would carry a lot of influence with the new four-team playoff selection committee.
These are the kind of debates that are going on at Tulsa.
TU athletic director Ross Parmley has said he believes Tulsa needs to play and win some challenging non-conference games to put the Hurricane in the discussion.
Just like in college basketball, where marquee wins are a factor for the NCAA Basketball Tournament Selection Committee, the new football playoff committee will definitely want to know who you beat.
If your list is full of Conference USA teams and a couple from the Sun Belt, then you aren't likely to get much consideration.
By contrast, Tulsa's schedule this upcoming season would appear perfect. A win at Iowa State is always a positive. Just ask Oklahoma State or Nebraska.
And, if the Razorbacks have a top-five team as many expect, winning in Fayetteville would be huge.
All of those are big ifs.
Tulsa will not be allowed any slip-ups.
For instance, one has to wonder how the 2010 season would have been treated by a selection committee. TU went 9-3. However, if Tulsa had gone 11-1 against a schedule that included just one challenging game (a 65-28 loss at OSU) would the Hurricane have been a possibility for one of the elite bowls in the new system?
The Golden Hurricane will almost assuredly need an unbeaten season, or a one-loss season with the loss being to a top-five or top-10 team, to be in the mix for football's final four.
At least in the new world of college football, Tulsa has what would appear on the surface to be an equal access to the top.
That's all teams like Tulsa have wanted. Give them a chance.
TU now has a chance. It is up to the Golden Hurricane to make it happen with a challenging schedule and winning.