Pac-12 coaches all want to get on same page
It’s that time of year — the final stretch — when the Pac-12’s nine-game conference schedule comes up.
Washington is undefeated, at No. 4 in the AP Top 25 , and at No. 5 in the first College Football Playoff rankings. The Huskies appear to have a good shot at one of the four playoff spots — if all the pieces fall into place.
Last season, Stanford, with one loss on the road in the opener against Northwestern, looked like a possible contender for one of the four playoff spots, if only the Cardinal could finish strong. The Ducks proved to be spoilers, upsetting the Cardinal 38-36 at Stanford Stadium on Nov. 14.
That sparked discussion about the league’s nine-game schedule. In the Power Five conferences, the Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference play eight-game slates. The Big Ten went to nine games this season.
The nine-game schedule has been criticized because it’s obviously more difficult, and there’s less likelihood that a team will finish undefeated — which therefore lowers the odds of getting coveted playoff berths. That challenges a conference where some key matchups are played late, impacting visibility.
On the other side, there are those who say the tougher schedule, paired with a conference championship, creates better teams.
“We discuss it every couple of years, it comes up,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said this weekend. “I think with the new college football playoff we were thinking, ‘Is this the best model? Is there a different model?’ But I think we all believe strength of schedule will be rewarded by the selection committee if there are teams with similar records.”
That said, Scott said he’d like to see the other conferences rise to the nine-game level.
Across the league, coaches said they’d just like it to be equal — at either eight or nine games — across all conferences.
“If I just give you my own opinion of it, it’s pretty simple for me: All Power 5 teams should do the exact same thing. If they don’t, it’s not fair. That being said, they all don’t. Because it’s very, very difficult when you say you’re going to play nine games within your schedule and then you’re going to go beat each other up. But if everybody else is beating each other up, then I think it’s fine,” Oregon State coach Gary Andersen said.
Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham agreed: “I don’t lobby for it, but in my opinion all the Power 5 conferences should play the same amount of conference games and make it a level playing field and some standardization there. Because when you play a ninth game that gives everyone in the conference a chance to get another loss.”
Whittingham took it a step further, saying that he’d like to see the playoffs expanded so that all the conference champions get in.
“To me it doesn’t make any sense to not have a level playing field and then not have every champion get in. It doesn’t make sense to me at all,” he said.
“If we’re all feeding into a playoff system let’s just play by the same rules,” said Stanford coach David Shaw, who also suggested across-the-board consistency in non-conference scheduling against lower-tier teams.
Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said playing fewer games certainly hasn’t hampered the SEC — raising the point that the conference likely won’t fix something that isn’t broken for them.
“I think it’s a good thing that we do it, but I don’t know if it’s really an advantage or not. I think it’s more talk that they keep playing those eight games and nothing happens,” MacIntyre said.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said the nine-game schedule means that there’s uneven home and away games, which also seems inequitable.
“The only thing about nine is there are five on the road and four at home, so it’s uneven every year and not every Power 5 conference has that,” he said. “That, and the championship game, makes the road to the playoffs so much harder in our league than maybe in others.”
The Huskies play at California this weekend, then host USC, before visiting Arizona State. The key game for Washington could turn out to be the Apple Cup rivalry game on Nov. 25 against Washington State, which popped into the rankings this week.
It was no surprise that Washington coach Chris Petersen said he was in favor of uniformity across the conference landscape.
“I think so. And I know everyone’s conference is different, but I think you just look at the NFL and it’s pretty cut and dry. There’s only 32 teams, but everybody’s doing the same thing,” he said. “And so how can you make it as much the same thing? Well, let’s play the same amount of conference games, at least, so we’re on the same page there.”
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