According to The Athletic and Iowa athletic director Gary Barta, the Big Ten could shy away from divisions and change its scheduling philosophy depending on the future of the College Football Playoff. The change could see the Big Ten shorten its conference schedule and become more active in its recently forged alliance with the Pac-12 and ACC conferences.
“We’ve had several conversations,” Barta reportedly said. “One of the things that we’re watching is whether it’s related to The Alliance, which we’re talking through and/or, what gives us the best opportunity to have the most success in the College Football Playoff format?”
The future of the college football playoff continues to be a hot topic of conversation and change appears to be increasingly inevitable, albeit what playoff expansion looks like and how that field is determined are still aspects still very much up in the air.
In either case, Penn State will probably fare well in a new college football landscape, especially if the Big Ten opts to balance out a conference that has seen the Big Ten East dominate the proceedings over the years, winning nine-straight league titles out of the 11 conference championship games played to date. If nothing else, a more balanced Big Ten could provide the conference the opportunity to create more playoff-friendly resumes without cannibalizing itself with overly difficult schedules.
Asked about divisional balance earlier in the year, Penn State coach James Franklin didn’t shy away from having an ongoing conversation.
“It’s interesting because I’ve been told many times, historically, it all kind of evens its way out. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. We’re not the only conference that has this challenge. I was in another conference that has a similar challenge,” Franklin said in October about his time in the SEC.
“I do think studying the history of it is important. I think if you look since the beginning of football, what programs have been the most successful, I think you’d like to try to evenly split that up. Obviously, there’s going to be years where one side is better than the other. That’s just the nature of it. But you’d love to try it split it up as evenly as you possibly can, you know, and I think that’s the right thing for the conference. If we’re trying to get as many teams into the playoffs as possible, that’s in the conference’s best interest as well.”
So far, only Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State are the only Big Ten teams to make the college football playoffs, with Ohio State the only conference school to win a game in the postseason. Penn State had a Big Ten title and a head-to-head win over Ohio State in 2016 but was passed over for the Buckeyes in 2016. Ohio State was subsequently shutout by Clemson 31-0.
“I think it really should be, in my opinion, it should be a discussion, an honest, transparent conversation every year that the head coaches, ADs, commissioner have about what’s in the conference’s best interest long term,” Franklin said. “And not just study the Big Ten, study other conferences as well. Scheduling philosophies, all of it. And I think that’s a healthy thing to do. To get as many different perspectives on these decisions as possible […] I do think it’s something that every conference, including the Big Ten, should look at. And it should be a healthy, honest discussion. Are we doing what’s in the conference’s best interest? Are we doing what’s in the school’s best interest to give us the best chance to get as many teams into the playoffs as possible?”
“And it’s not just about expanding the playoffs. I think before you can worry about things outside of your bubble, you try to control as many things inside your bubble. And that’s us at Penn State doing that. That’s the conference doing that. And so on and so forth. I think that’s a reasonable, healthy discussion to have every single year.”