Arkansas coach Bret Bielema wants a ‘B1G/SEC Challenge’

The college football season is winding down and the playoff picture is starting to take shape. Actually, it’s still a jumbled mess with a lot of room for chaos to occur.

The College Football Playoff Committee spends night after night breaking down the nation’s best teams and trying to determine which four are the most worthy of a spot in the playoffs. One criteria of the committee and a lot of ‘experts’ is the strength of schedule of each team – who did they play and who did they beat? With only 12 games each season with potential for a 13th to impress the voters, each game matters.

On Wednesday, former Wisconsin and current Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema was a part of a teleconference amongst the SEC coaches. He proposed the idea of having the Big Ten and SEC spend one week each season playing each other. He believes his out-of-conference fantasy would help fix the strength of schedule that is brought up every season:

“Let the best of the best play each other, and maybe the lower ones play each other week in and week out,” Bielema said on Wednesday’s SEC coaches teleconference. “Just reserve a week every year, it would be kind of a fun thing. People would get into that now. I’ve been in both leagues, and I have the utmost respect for both. It would be something kind of fun if you could just reserve that, and that might eliminate the whole need for an FCS [team]. Then you schedule three other opponents that are FBS and go.”

Bielema is not the only coach who would be in favor of this. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin says it would help get rid of “bad losses,” while Kentucky coach Mark Stoops says he “would be open to playing some Big Ten schools” but it “takes a lot of planning” and requires a lot of people “getting on the same page.”

The ‘Power 5’ schools schedule three or four non-conference games every season, sometimes against other teams from major conferences but a lot of the time they are games against teams from the ‘Group of Five’ (C-USA, MAC, AAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt) or FCS schools entirely (the old Division I-AA).

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Over the past few seasons, we have seen more ‘Power 5’ schools schedule future games or home-and-home series with each other. This year, the Michigan Wolverines kicked off their season on the road vs. Utah, who is currently ranked 13th in the CFB playoff rankings. Meanwhile, the Michigan State Spartans played perennial power Oregon for the second consecutive season after playing in Eugene a season ago.

The topic of improving the strength of schedule when comparing the resumés of teams comes during a week where much of the SEC is, for lack of more terms to describe how embarrassing and ridiculous it is, taking a break from its conference schedule. Two schools, including #2 ranked Alabama, are playing an FCS opponent before their final regular season game next weekend. Four more SEC schools are playing teams from the ‘Group of Five’.

Some of the conferences have made changes in recent years to take FCS schools off their schedule specifically for the idea of improving their strength of schedule. The major roadblock with it is that some schools from the Football Championship Subdivision rely heavily on playing these games, and getting the living snot beaten out of them, for program budget concerns.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt is just one of a few coaches who understand the need sometimes for an FCS opponent. He also countered Bielema’s idea with his own, suggesting that each ‘Power 5’ school be based on the best/toughest 11 games on their slate, presenting an opportunity to play a softer FCS opponent and not be punished for it. This also sounds like a simple idea to wrap your head around.

Whether you agree with Bielema or Richt, I think we can all agree that having the SEC and Big Ten lock horns for one week once a year would be fun for college football.

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