As college football moves into the College Football Playoff era there are many questions that may not be answered until working through year one. One of the questions that appears to be a sticking point for som is the debate on whether or not power conferences should be obligated to schedule eight or nine conference games? The impact an eight-game conference schedule has compared to the impact a nine-game conference schedule carries is impossible to measure, and one year under the new playoff format is not going to bring a definitive answer.
The SEC recently announced it will stick with an eight-game conference schedule but will require members to schedule at least one opponent from another power conference — the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12. The ACC appears to be leaning toward sticking with an eight-game schedule, which comes with guaranteed games against Notre Dame spread throughout the conference on a rotating schedule. The Big 12 and Pac-12 have adopted the nine-game schedule and the expanding Big Ten will move to a nine-game schedule starting in 2016.
What makes the schedule so important heading into 2014 is the idea that the selection committee for the College Football Playoff will be taking consideration on overall résumé and strength of schedule. For the power conferences it is assumed by some that scheduling more conference games will increase the overall strength of schedule, and thus give members of that conference a better shot at making the four-team playoff. But doing so takes one game away form the non-conference schedule and some schools need that extra non-conference game to help boost the odds of getting to bowl eligibility.
Simply put, some conferences benefit more by moving to nine game conference schedules than others might. Why should any conference expand a conference schedule if it puts any of its members at risk in any way?
Nobody knows what the actual playoff equation will be this coming season, especially when a single game has not even been played yet. For now the variable is undefined and the equation is impossible to solve at this time.