Pac-12 to stay status quo on football scheduling, but even a change wouldn't solve its problems
Nine conference games is the least of the Pac-12's worries
The Pac-12 doesn't have any desire to change the way it schedules its college football season. Commissioner Larry Scott made as much clear when speaking publicly on Wednesday, saying that the conference has no plans to get rid of its current nine-game conference schedule nor is it looking to add more games against FCS opponents.
Some see the Pac-12's scheduling philosophy as a direct impediment between it and regular access to the College Football Playoff, but Scott says his conference isn't interested in the path of least resistance.
"It's pretty apparent our schools do not singularly focus on, 'How do we skate through as easily as possible?'" said Scott.
Whether Scott meant that last bit as a shot at conferences like the ACC or SEC, which play eight-game conference schedules, isn't clear, but it could come across as one. Of course, if it was, I'm not sure why either conference would care.
Since the CFP was created, the SEC and ACC are the only Power Five conferences to send at least one participant to the four-team field every season, and those two conferences (or Alabama and Clemson, to be more specific) have won four of the five CFP National Championships with Ohio State being the only other school to win a title in the current format.
Ohio State's from the Big Ten, which schedules a nine-game conference schedule like the Pac-12 and Big 12 do. It's likely not a coincidence that they're the three Power Five conferences that have been left out at least once, but I'm not sure the schedule is the only thing standing between the Pac-12 and the playoff.
Yes, playing a nine-game conference slate and nonconference games against other Power Five schools (and Notre Dame) more often than FCS programs makes it more challenging to get there, but Oregon (2014) and Washington (2016) have both been chosen after going 12-1 during their regular seasons.
A bigger problem for the Pac-12 of late is that it has lacked elite teams the last few years.
USC going through a rut certainly hasn't helped. The Trojans won 10 games in 2016 and 11 games in 2017, but they haven't had a season with one loss or fewer since 2008 when Pete Carroll was still in charge. One loss has been the most a team can suffer to be selected to this point.
But it's not just USC. Washington has been a solid program, but nobody would consider it elite. Oregon's still strong, but it's not what it had been under Chip Kelly. Stanford went 46-8 in the four seasons (2010-13) before the CFP was created, but it's 48-19 in the five seasons since the CFP was implemented. Still good, but not good enough, and the Pac-12 has been playing a nine-game conference since 2006. So while blaming or propping up one's schedule makes a convenient bogeyman, it's not as if the conference's struggles coincide with the schedule change.
Perhaps moving to eight-game conference schedule would increase the Pac-12's odds of having an undefeated or one-loss champion, but it wouldn't solve the league's overall problems.
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