Senior College Football Columnist

Stanford's Shaw on why he hopes the SEC goes to nine league games

Alabama and the rest of the SEC might be headed for a nine-game conference schedule
Alabama and the rest of the SEC might be headed for a nine-game conference schedule. (USATSI)

PHOENIX -- Several Pac-12 coaches admitted they'd prefer to see their league go to eight-game conference schedules (down from nine) but the reality is, the league's media contract won't allow for that. In the face of that, with the upcoming College Football Playoff on the horizon, should all the conferences have the same scheduling standards?

Stanford's David Shaw sure thinks so.

"I can't speak for the NCAA about what they should try to suggest to all of us but to me, it makes sense," he said Wednesday afternoon from the Pac-12 meetings in Arizona. "If we're all pouring into a College Football Playoff, we should all have similar paths to get there. For me, you're in a conference, play your conference. The strength of schedule [component] is tricky because who's evaluating? Out of conference, we all challenge ourselves to some degree -- as much or as little as we see fit.

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"The fact is that the Big 12 is at nine. We're at nine. The Big Ten is changing to go to nine. It just makes sense to me that if everyone is on the same level, let's go toward this four-team playoff with excitement."

The proverbial elephant in this room is the reigning conference super heavyweight of the sport, the SEC, which has won seven BCS titles in a row and is holding at eight conference game schedules to go with four non-league games. Alabama coach Nick Saban, who has more influence than perhaps any coach in the country, is on record as saying he'd prefer going to nine league games. Shaw also raised the issue of some conferences having league championship games and some (Big 12) not having them.

"I spent nine years in the NFL, where everything is uniform," said Shaw, who is 23-4 in his two seasons at Stanford. "Everyone plays the same number of out-of-conference games. Same number of home and away games. And everything's the same. If we're going towards a tournament then it makes sense to me that we should all have either nine games or eight conference games. We should all either play a conference title game or not have a conference title game. We'll see where it's going. And if I had to guess, I think we will get to that point because it's the only thing that makes sense."

Washington AD Scott Woodward, a guy quite familiar with the inner workings of the SEC from his days at LSU, said if he were in the SEC, he would probably reply to everyone else and say "Guys, drop to eight."

But Woodward also said that he suspects the SEC will eventually go to nine league games.

"I think what's probably going to drive them to nine is the better question. I think it's gate [attendance]," he said. "Their fan bases are not going to want to see lesser games. They're going to want to see more competitive games."

Also at the core of this dynamic is the still-unfolding issue of a playoff selection committee/criteria.

"Who's going to be on the selection committee?" Shaw asked. "And what are they going to put importance on? Are they going to ding SEC schools for not playing nine conference games? Are they going to ding them for their out-of-conference schedules? Are they going to reward teams that have tougher out-of-conference schedules? Are they going to reward teams that have conference championship games?

"Everybody is happy that we do have a four-team playoff, but to think that we're done, we all know [that] is not the case. This is something that is going to evolve and change, and hopefully, we'll get to a point where everyone is on the same page."

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