MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - What's important to know about the upcoming college football landscape is that the days of unbeaten and maybe even one-loss teams competing for a national title may be finished.
"Everyone seems to be moving down a path where a college schedule resembles much more of a NFL schedule than a college schedule," West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck said. "When I say NFL schedule, I mean pretty much every game is a tough game. Hardly anybody is going to go undefeated anymore."
If the playoff is going to make sense and judge teams evenly, it has to force everyone to play the same number of conference and non-conference games. The prevailing theory, especially with television partners sinking enormous sums of money into contracts with conferences, is to insist on a nine-game conference schedule.
That allows for three non-conference games, and everybody thinks the strength of a non-conference schedule will be weighed heavily by the playoff's selection committee. Schools are filling schedules with big-time competition.
"I think college football is great in October and November," Luck said. "I think there's some stuff in September that needs to be changed."
WVU is making those changes as if it knows they're coming. Over the summer, the Mountaineers have agreed to series with Virginia Tech (officially) and Penn State (unofficially). Luck said conversations with Pitt continue. It's beyond likely the Mountaineers will have years they play two of those three schools, or at least do something similarly bold that wouldn't have been planned in the BCS era.
WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen believes schools will do away with games against FCS teams. He said the Mountaineers want to do that and that their non-conference schedule will feature a game against a regional opponent like the aforementioned teams as part of a brief contract, plus a game at a neutral site for exposure and revenue.
Ideally, that would be against a team from a "power five" conference, but it's not a necessity. The Mountaineers open with Alabama in Atlanta next season, but they also have BYU at FedEx Field in 2016.
"Something is going to happen with East Carolina that's going to make it more attractive for us - something possibly along the lines of a home-and-home with ECU and a neutral site game," Holgorsen said.
That's not yet done, but it's being considered, perhaps with Charlotte as the neutral site. Holgorsen speaks excitedly and openly about other possibilities he'd like to make realities to fit his vision and to position his team for a spot in the playoff.
"I'd be in favor of us and Pitt playing once in Pittsburgh (at Heinz Field) because it's a big venue and because we'd have more people than they would," Holgorsen said. "Us and Penn State in Philadelphia. If you can do a home-and-home, great. If you can't, then do one game in a bigger venue. The home-and-home with (Virginia) Tech was already announced. A home-and-home with Virginia, or a neutral-site game with Virginia in (Washington, D.C.)?"