Gabriel: Ranked teams should be penalized for playing soft games this late in season

November 17, 2018

For years, Week 12 of the college football season has been strange, and in this College Football Playoff era, it needs to change.

Most of the SEC — which has three teams ranked in the Top 10 of the CFP rankings — plays either FCS-level teams or teams form traditionally weaker conferences. No. 1 Alabama plays the Citadel, No. 5 Georgia plays UMass and No. 7 LSU plays Rice. This “tradition’ extends throughout most of the SEC, where there only are three games between conference schools this week. The reason for it is next week is “Rivalry Week,” and many of the SEC schools play games that have huge in-state implications, such as Auburn-Alabama, Georgia-Georgia Tech and Clemson-South Carolina.

In today’s College Football Playoff era, this practice needs to end. Each of the schools that play in these “soft” games are assured of a win. While playing a weak opponent hurts their strength of schedule, it still gives schools an easy win, and as we all know, wins help when it comes to rankings. It’s my feeling that if these schools continue playing weak opponents at this important time of the year, they should be penalized it when it comes to playoff rankings.

Important Games in Week 12

While most of the SEC basically has the week off, the majority of other highly ranked schools play difficult games.

No. 12 Syracuse plays No. 3 Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium in New York City. This game was originally a home game for Notre Dame, but it was moved so the Irish can continue playing its “Shamrock Series” games at iconic venues around the country. With Notre Dame needing a win to hold onto its No. 3 ranking, I’m sure that the coaching staff would much rather play a ranked team like Syracuse at home. If Notre Dame loses and gets knocked out of the Playoff, moving the game could be the reason — and that won’t sit well with fans and alumni.

IN the Big 12, No. 9 West Virginia travels to 5-5 Oklahoma State. West Virginia may not be good enough to make the Playoff, but it needs a win in order to be considered for one of the top New Year’s bowl games. If you watched Oklahoma-Oklahoma State last week, you saw how explosive the Cowboys can be. With this game in Stillwater, West Virginia will have a difficult time winning.

Next week, No. 4 Michigan plays at No. 10 Ohio State for what theoreticlly will be the Big Ten East title. FIrst, both teams must win this week. Ohio State plays at 5-5 Maryland, which needs a win to become bowl-eligible. Ohio State hasn’t played well since Urban Meyer came back from his suspension.

Michigan has a much easier game, at home vs. Indiana. The Hoosiers might be 5-5, but they have won only two games against Big Ten opponents. Michigan currently is playing as well as any team in the country.

It won’t carry any Playoff implications, but No. 16 Iowa State plays at No. 15 Texas tonight. I can’t remember another time when Iowa State was ranked this high this late in the season. If Iowa State wins this week and next, it very well could earn a trip to one of the top bowl games — which would be huge for the program. Iowa State coach Matt Campbell, along with Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, do as good of coaching jobs as there are in college football. Neither school gets many 4-star recruits — let alone 5-star guys — but they win on a consistent basis.

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