Strength of schedule is a major component of the College Football Playoff, but its true value in the entire equation has yet to be determined. Here's what we know: It's become increasingly important, athletic directors have beefed up their future schedules in part because of the new criteria, and FCS opponents are not only scoffed at, they're quickly becoming extinct. Just not fast enough for some. With the exception of Michigan State-Oregon, USC-Stanford, Michigan-Notre Dame and Ohio State-Virginia Tech, the national schedule in Week 2 is filled with cotton balls. Lots of fluff. It's weeks like these that leave attendance struggling and have many clamoring for an all-Power 5 regular season. So how do the big boys stack up this week as far as strength of schedule? It's time to hand out some grades. Remember, this report card is only for Week 2 -- a snapshot of the schedule, not an evaluation of the entire body of work. This is not scientific, it's subjective -- just like the committee's rankings:
Pac-12 SOS grade: A The skinny:
The Pac-12 has the two best games in the country this week, highlighted by Oregon's game against 2014 Rose Bowl champs Michigan State. It only has two FCS opponents (Cal versus Sacramento State and Washington versus Eastern Washington) -- the fewest of any Power 5 conference -- and games against Fresno State, Nevada and UTSA won't be easy. It looks like an unofficial Pac-12-Mountain West challenge this week.
BIG TEN SOS grade: A- The skinny:
No game is bigger than Michigan State's matchup against Oregon, but Michigan is also playing Notre Dame -- a storied series that will end on Saturday -- and Ohio State's home game against Virginia Tech will also be interesting. Those games help compensate for the three FCS schools that are on the schedule (McNeese State, Howard and Western Illinois).
SEC SOS grade: C+ The skinny:
There are three FCS teams on the schedule (Nicholls State, Sam Houston and Lamar), but East Carolina is catching South Carolina on the rebound, and Ohio and Toledo should be two of the better teams in the MAC in their respective divisions.
BIG 12 SOS grade: D The skinny:
There are only seven nonconference games, and four of them are against FCS opponents (Missouri State, Southeast Missouri State, Towson and Northwestern State). The BYU-Texas game should be the most intriguing in the nonconference lineup because the Cougars are expected to have all of their suspended players back and are coming off an impressive win over UConn. At least BYU, Tulsa and UTEP won their openers last week.
ACC SOS grade: F The skinny:
Bring on the Buckeyes. Please. With six FCS opponents on the schedule this week (South Carolina State, Richmond, Gardner Webb, Florida A&M, Murray State, The Citadel), the ACC has the worst lineup of Week 2. The Big 12 was a close second, but it's not just the FCS opponents that are duds. Games against Tulane, Old Dominion, Troy and San Diego State do little to move the pulse.
Week 1 should have been a great experiment for the playoff's 13-member selection committee, and provided some strong debates in their first private teleconference of the season. If the group is truly ranking teams based on their performances each week -- and not on reputations or preseason expectations -- there should have been some big moves made from the Associated Press preseason poll. South Carolina -- which allowed a school-record 680 yards in a loss to Texas A&M -- did not look like a playoff contender, but the Aggies looked like a Cinderella team. Georgia might have had the best overall performance in a meaningful game. Had the playoff begun after Week 1, not even Alabama looked like it should be in it. Then again, who really did? "You can have your idea of the teams you want to keep your eyes on, but there are going to be a handful of teams that don't step up, and there's going to be a handful of teams that do step up," said first-year Washington coach Chris Petersen, whose history with Boise State has him a playoff proponent. "I think we should get through a handful of games before we say, 'OK, this is where we are.' All of these other games, you really start to hone in late in the season that those games are critical in terms of moving up or moving down. "I think it's going to be interesting," Petersen said. "Everybody wanted to see this next step. We wanted to settle it on the field and not have some mythical national championship, and this is the next step in the process. I know the people on the committee are going to try to do their very, very best to get that thing right. I'm going into this with good trust and faith and excited to see how it goes."
There have been plenty of sweeping generalizations in recent weeks about the Big Ten's spot in the playoff -- or its lack of representation, depending on whom you ask. But it's far too early for that. Wait until Saturday night.
Saturday's game between Michigan State and Oregon is the Big Ten's biggest nonconference game of the season. After Braxton Miller
's season-ending shoulder surgery, Ohio State's chances of making the playoff dropped significantly -- and so did the Big Ten's. Michigan State quickly became the favorite in the East Division, if it wasn't already, but Saturday's game feels like a must-win for the league's playoff hopes. It's not that the Spartans or the Big Ten will be doomed with a one-loss Michigan State team that wins the league title, but a victory over Oregon would do wonders for its chances and reputation. With Wisconsin's loss to LSU this past weekend, the B1G's hopes fall back on the Spartans this week. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said the playoff will resemble the NCAA tournament for men's hoops in that nobody will ever be 100 percent happy. "There are going to be a couple of obvious choices that will probably still look good when January rolls around, but there are going to be some teams that emerge," Ferentz said. "All you have to do is look back at last year, with three really good football teams that started out in nobody's winner circle. I think it's great that some football people will be judging it. The concept is good and it will be good for our game." The question is whether or not it will be good for the Big Ten in Year 1. Michigan State will help determine that.