NORMAN – After his Alabama Crimson Tide toyed with New Mexico State Saturday, Nick Saban shared his perfect-world scheduling scenario:
“I’ve said my opinion about playing 12 Power Five schools. That’s what I would rather do. A lot of other people don’t agree with that. I’d rather play 10 SEC games and then two other Power Five schools so that all the games are exciting for the fans, all the games are good football. You wouldn’t have to go undefeated to get in the playoff because you’d play a more quality schedule...
“Would I rather play other teams? No disrespect toward New Mexico State, their coach works hard and their players play hard, but if it’s my philosophy that we should play 12 Power Five schools, then the answer to that would be yes. That’s a philosophical answer.”
Alabama’s non-conference opponents this year are Duke, NMSU, Southern Miss and Western Carolina. That’s one Power Five school, and a flimsy one at that.
To explain the disparity between Saban’s ideal schedule and the Crimson Tide’s actual one would take another 750 words which would, in turn, take us way off track. So would debating Saban’s sincerity.
The point of this blog is to simply present Saban’s statement, and to compare it to Lincoln Riley’s response.
Monday in Norman, I told the Oklahoma coach about Saban’s speech and asked how he’d feel about playing only Power Five opponents.
“There’s a lot to it,” Riley began. “It’s not as simple as that.”
No it isn’t, which is why Bama is playing that pretty awful non-conference schedule instead of loading up on Saban’s desired Power Fives.
“We don’t all play the same amount of conference games,” Riley continued. “We don’t all have the top two teams in the league playing a conference championship... I don’t know that I totally agree.
“I’ve said before I’ve been at the East Carolinas, where that’s such a huge game for your athletic department, your city, your fan base, your players. You get to play at places that without that, you wouldn’t be able to, and have a chance to beat teams like that.
“Even a game like the other night (Saturday’s 70-14 cakewalk over FCS South Dakota), if we play well there’s the reward of being able to play so many players, especially with this four-game (redshirt) rule, get a chance to look at guys...
“I still think it creates some intriguing matchups for both sides of it, the FBS and non or even Power Five and non, that I think are still advantageous.
“Now, could I get behind maybe limiting that and coming out and declaring exactly how many Power Fives (to schedule)? Sure. I think a lot of people would stand behind that in terms of trying to even the playing field, especially in the era of the four-team playoff.
“You get the (playoff) committee here at the end that’s got to evaluate not only different teams but a wide array of different schedules. I know that’s got to be pretty tough to do.”