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Pac-12 has no plans to change challenging schedule model

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UCLA's Darnay Holmes intercepts a pass intended for OU's Marquise Brown last season in Norman. (Photo by Bryan Terry)
UCLA's Darnay Holmes intercepts a pass intended for OU's Marquise Brown last season in Norman. (Photo by Bryan Terry)


The Pac-12 Conference is taking the high road on football scheduling. That road does not lead to the College Football Playoff.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said Wednesday that his conference will continue to play nine-game conference schedules with few games against Division I-AA opponents, and often a Pac-12 team will schedule two competitive non-conference games. Pac-12 schedules routinely are better than many schedules in the other Power 5 conferences, particularly the SEC and the ACC, which play only eight-game conference schedules and whose schools often play only one competitive non-conference game.

Only twice in five years has the Pac-12 placed a team in the four-team playoff – Oregon in 2014, Washington in 2016.

The ultimate example came in 2017, when 12-1 Alabama was selected for the playoff and 11-2 Southern Cal was ranked eighth in the final playoff committee poll. Alabama did not qualify for the SEC Championship Game that season. The Crimson Tide played eight SEC games, plus Florida State, Fresno State, Colorado State and Mercer. Southern Cal won the Pac-12 title game, so the Trojans played 10 games against Pac-12 teams, plus Texas, Notre Dame and Western Michigan.

Alabama played nine Power 5 foes. USC played 12. Yet the committee did not come close to rewarding the Trojans for that tougher schedule.

"It's pretty apparent our schools do not singularly focus on, 'How do we skate through as easily as possible?'" Scott said during Pac-12 meetings Wednesday in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Give the SEC credit for this. It is able to schedule weak non-conference opponents because its fans turn out regardless. And the SEC Network draws big numbers of eyeballs that the Pac-12 Network does not, particularly when the opponent is not top-tier.

"Our fans aren't going to come out to our stadia for any game. They come out for high-quality games," Scott said. "There's pressure our campuses feel to have a high-quality slate of games. There's a perception that scheduling to make the playoff is the first priority for our schools”, and that’s not necessarily so.

"We've got obligations. It doesn't mean it would be impossible, but up until now, our schools haven't wanted to change," Scott said. "Our schools like playing against each (other). Don't really like going into the buying-of-games market."

The Big 12 and Big Ten also play nine-game conference schedules. Those conferences each have missed the playoff twice in five years. The SEC and ACC never have missed the playoff.

Here’s an example of the Pac-12’s tough schedule. Stanford this season plays Notre Dame, Northwestern and mid-major power Central Florida.

Scott said the Pac-12 is powerless to push the SEC and ACC to play more conference games, but he said the Pac-12 would support agreements to require Power 5 conferences to play at least 10 games a year against fellow Power-5 schools.

“Directionally, that would create the kind of parity we want," Scott said. "I would say it would definitely be a step in the right direction.”

Good luck with that. The SEC and ACC have found the ticket to the playoff.

Related Photos
Oklahoma's Marquise Brown (5) watches as UCLA's Darnay Holmes (1) intercepts a pass during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the UCLA Bruins at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. Oklahoma won 49-21. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

Oklahoma's Marquise Brown (5) watches as UCLA's Darnay Holmes (1) intercepts a pass during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the UCLA Bruins at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. Oklahoma won 49-21. Photo...

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-fbc1227f91ba77aae61ed0e9db59b7de.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma's Marquise Brown (5) watches as UCLA's Darnay Holmes (1) intercepts a pass during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the UCLA Bruins at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. Oklahoma won 49-21. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman" title="Oklahoma's Marquise Brown (5) watches as UCLA's Darnay Holmes (1) intercepts a pass during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the UCLA Bruins at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. Oklahoma won 49-21. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Oklahoma's Marquise Brown (5) watches as UCLA's Darnay Holmes (1) intercepts a pass during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the UCLA Bruins at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. Oklahoma won 49-21. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

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