The much-anticipated college football playoff passed another significant hurdle on Wednesday, as it was announced that the BCS Commissioners had reached a consensus on the major details of a four-team format. It's now believed that the commissioners have agreed on appointing a committee to seed the top four teams, and that the committee will consider strength of schedule and conference championships, but will not be bound to pick only teams that won their conference.
The model still has to be approved by the various university presidents involved, and the details still have to be agreed upon and ironed out, but this is a key step, and gives us an important glimpse into what the future of college football may look like.
Wednesday's announcement also sends an important message to schools like Houston: It's time to start scheduling like men.
I'm not saying that athletic director Mack Rhoades and the football program are wrong to have scheduled the way they have in the last few years. A very talented Houston squad very nearly rode a weak schedule all the way to a BCS bowl game in 2011, and has the opportunity to do the same this year, if all the breaks end up falling their way. Is that preferable to scheduling an near-unwinnable game against a team like LSU? Perhaps.
But as of 2014, we're looking at a Final Four. The goal is no longer a BCS bowl game, the goal for the Boise States and Houstons of the world is a shot at that Final Four. Now, there has been much hand-wringing that the four teams picked will consistently come from what are shaping up to be the four most powerful conferences - the SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten and Big 12. But if Houston, say, runs the table in 2014 in the Big East with their current non-conference schedule of UTSA, Louisiana Tech, BYU and (fill-in-the-blank), they'll be giving the committee every reason to not pick them.
It's certainly easier to sit here and say, "Just schedule better!", when Rhoades has the unenviable task of trying to put together a competitive schedule, balanced with his desire to make sure he's giving his season ticket holders as many home games as possible. But there's a reason he gets paid the big bucks, and it behooves him to find a way to get a little more bang on the Cougars schedule. Amid the ever-shifting landscape of college football in recent years, Rhoades and Houston have had enough foresight not to lock themselves into any long-term deals, so as soon as 2015, the second year of the Final Four format, UH has a complete blank slate in non-conference to do with as they please.
Now, it has been made clear from day one that a college football playoff will only be accepted if it fits within the framework of the existing bowl system. That means we'll soon see two types of teams emerge - those that try to schedule enough cupcake wins to just make a bowl; and those that try to schedule the heavy hitters, so that if everything falls their way, they'll be in consideration for the Final Four.
We'll soon see which type of school UH believes it is.
For more on the NCAA Football playoff plan, check out SB Nation's college football page.