Let’s work through this together. Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel isn’t a fan of Independents in college football. He only really cares about Notre Dame – who is kind of in a conference – but there’s also Army and BYU. Navy joins the American Athletic Conference this year for football only. So, in that respect they’re kind of like Notre Dame. Partially in a conference and partially, well, not.
Gary Pinkel said no independents in @CFBPlayoff. “Give Notre Dame year to join a league. They don’t have independents in NFL"
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 20, 2015
In fairness to Pinkel, I have no idea what the context was or where this conversation took place, but needless to say the Notre Dame people probably won’t take to kindly to this comment.
I’ll say this, as I said to Seth in our group chat on Slack, I think a lot of people overvalue their conferences. Last week, Mike and I had a discussion about the best conference in college football. Really those types of conversations are useless. Like, Ohio State won the championship and the Big Ten is barely better than Big 12.
Ohio State winning the National Championship doesn’t mean the Big Ten is good. It isn’t. Alabama winning 15 National Championships doesn’t mean the Southeastern Conference is great.
Would I like to see Notre Dame and to a lesser degree Navy join a conference as full time members? Nah. I like that teams are independent. I’m not a fan of either being partial members. Notre Dame only joined the ACC because it wanted easier access to the playoff and Navy joins the AAC because it wants more money (who doesn’t?), but really both teams are being kind of disrespectful to the other members by not joining full time.
Now, back to Pinkel. He isn’t off the hook yet. Before he spouts off about Notre Dame (remember, I don’t know the context) he should consider dropping the FCS schools on his schedule and maybe not lose to Indiana. No knocking Indiana, but the Hoosiers did lose to Bowling Green last year. So using the transitive property (which I hate, but whatever), does that make Bowling Green better than Missouri?
In the specific case of Notre Dame vs. Missouri, Pinkel forgets or choses to ignore that Notre Dame’s schedule is consistently tougher than Missouri’s. For the sake of conversation, we’ll consider the five ACC games Notre Dame will play to be conference games. Again, only for the sake of conversation. Notre Dame will also play Boston College in Boston this year as part of its Shamrock Series.
Notre Dame’s “non-conference” schedule consists of Texas, UMass, Navy, USC, Temple, and Stanford. Easy to see the easiest games on their schedule are UMass and Temple, and in their conference schedule we can say Virginia and Wake Forest are probably the gimme games.
In comparison, Missouri battle Southeast Missouri and Arkansas State at the beginning of the season, which are FCS schools, by the way. The Tigers’ other two non-conference games pit them against UConn and BYU, which by the way are both home games. Yes, the BYU game is in Kansas City, but be real – that’s a home game.
I’d be willing to give Pinkel’s statements about Notre Dame, the other Independents and the Big 12 (no conference champion) some weight if his school didn’t schedule FCS teams, but the reality is that as long as the playoff committee doesn’t require potential playoff teams to be conference champions then there’s no need for Notre Dame to become a full member of any conference.
So, before Pinkel makes light of Notre Dame’s playoff eligibility, he should consider beefing up his non-conference schedule so that he is in fact faces somewhat equal competition on a weekly basis.