Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In Defense of the Pac-10

When it comes to propaganda and publicity, the Pac-10 is woefully ill-prepared in this arms race. Of all the BCS conference, no one undersells itself better than the Pac-10.

If USC isn't such a media darling and hated around the country for its glitz and glam (not to mention excellence), the Pac-10 would be completely unheard of. Out of sight, out of mind. It's a pity because you can make a reasonable argument that the Pac-10 really is the best conference in college football, perhaps 10 years running.

But in the BCS Era, the college football cognoscenti (the self-anointed ones, that is) have been lapping it up at the SEC trough. And the last three seasons, coming on four, an SEC team has been crowned the BCS national champion.

That isn't so much affirmation of SEC's superiority as the sign that it's adroitly winning the media war. If the old Confederacy wasn't able to conquer America, its rightful descendants have made sure that the South indeed has risen, again.

Don't blame the SEC for understanding and leveraging the system to its maximum benefit. But do blame the Pac-10 for not doing its job.

The SEC has an exclusive contract with CBS, which in essence becomes its mouthpiece and lobbyist (see Florida vs. Michigan, 2006). It has a new 15-year deal with ESPN, which also shepherds the nascent SEC Network. The Pac-10, on the other hand, is just a rumor.

Of all the conferences in the ABC/ESPN umbrella, the Pac-10 has arguably the worst deal. Except for the occasional USC prime time games, all Pac-10 games on ABC are regionally televised, which meant they are never seen east of the Rockies. The Pac-10 also plays on Versus (which isn't on DirecTV nowadays) and Fox Sports Net, which is a regional alliance, not a national presence.

Unfortunately for the Pac-10, lacking TV exposure is merely part of its failure to communicate.

Do you know that the Pac-10 teams play nine conference games each? Yep, they play a true round-robin, which means that of all the BCS conferences, the Pac-10 plays the toughest schedule by default because it plays the most conference games. And don't just take my word for it, Jeff Sagarin has the goods.

According to Sagarin's data, of the top 19 schedules this season, nine belong to Pac-10 teams, with five in the top 10, including Oregon at No. 6 and USC at No. 7. How many SEC teams are in the same range? Two: Georgia at No. 10 and LSU at No. 17. You have to go to No. 25 to find Alabama and No. 42 for Florida. (And these numbers will only get worse for the top SEC teams.)

Alas, there's the unmentionable. Part of the SEC's success is that its best teams almost never play anybody outside of conference. And with only eight conference games, they fatten up their records on overmatched opponents at home.

Look at the schedules from 2006-2009, a period where an SEC team has played for the BCS title and USC has been shut out (we're treating 2009 as fait accompli):

Florida
Troy
Florida International
Charleston Southern*
Hawaii
Miami (Fla.)
Citadel*
Western Kentucky*
Troy
Florida Atlantic
Central Florida
Southern Mississippi
Western Carolina*
+ Traditional rival Florida State

LSU
UL-Lafayette
Washington
Louisiana Tech,
Appalachian State*
North Texas
Troy
Virginia Tech
Middle Tennessee State
Louisiana Tech
UL-Monroe
Arizona
Fresno State
+ Traditional rival Tulane

Alabama
Virginia Tech
Florida International
North Texas
Chattanooga*
Clemson
Tulane
Western Kentucky
Arkansas State
Western Carolina*
Florida State
Houston
UL-Monroe
Hawaii
UL-Monroe
Duke
Florida International

(*I-AA opponent at the time when the game was held)

So here's the break down. Over the past four years, in Florida's 12 OCC games excluding its annual rivalry game with FSU, it has played just one BCS conference team (Miami). The rest is mostly against I-AA roadkill (4) and hapless Sun Belt squads (4). It's a little better for LSU (12 games: 3 BCS, 1 I-AA, 5 Sun Belt) and Alabama (16 games: 4 BCS, 2 I-AA, 7 Sun Belt).

Contrast that to USC's schedule since it last played for the BCS title:

Ohio State
San Jose State
Ohio State
Virginia
Idaho
Nebraska
Arkansas
Nebraska
+ Traditional rival Notre Dame

Out of those eight games, six were against BCS opponents, and each was a home-and-home series. For the record, USC is one of only three teams (UCLA and Notre Dame are the others) that have never played a game against I-AA teams.

The point here is not necessarily that the SEC's elite teams are overrated. It simply states the fact that they take the path of least resistance. And for the most part, they get rewarded handsomely for it after trotting out the convenient (and false) disclaimer that "just playing in the SEC is tough enough."

The point here also is to say that the Pac-10 does its conference members a disservice for not disseminating the fact that annually, the conference on average plays a tougher schedule than anyone else and that it has also fared better against other BCS conference teams than anyone else over the past decade.

Why is this the case?

In the BCS Era, when college football has become a national game, the Pac-10 has stayed mostly regional and provincial. But don't blame this on geography. The time difference isn't an issue any more as most games are now finished well before midnight Eastern. Do blame it on apathy and a lack of ingenuity, and that starts with the conference headquarters in Walnut Creek.

The Pac-10 likes to call itself the conference of champions, but the reality is nobody gives a flying hoot how many women's underwater squash titles or NACDA Directors' Cups (do you even know what that is?) your conference has won. The thing that really matters is the crystal ball, and the Pac-10 has only one to show for it - besides being routinely shut out of a second BCS bowl berth by an inferior conference such as the Big Ten.

The irony of all this is that unlike most other conferences, the Pac-10 universities play in some of the biggest media markets. Two in Los Angeles, two in the San Francisco Bay Area, Phoenix, Seattle. Only Washington State is in the middle of nowhere. There is no shortage of media outlets (print, online, radio, television, whatever) to get the word out. Yet, other than USC, the rest of the Pac-10 might as well be playing in Belarus.

In the 11 years of the BCS, only twice has the Pac-10 received two BCS berths. And none since 2002, when the Trojans finished as co-champs and played Iowa in the Orange Bowl. Cal came close in 2004, but was cheated out of a Rose Bowl berth by Mack Brown. This may finally be the year that the conference gets that coveted second BCS spot, but probably only because USC is nudged out of the Rose Bowl.

If the Trojans work their way back into Pasadena (not at all inconceivable, all they need is an Oregon loss to Arizona for a three-way tie), then will the Pac-10 still claim that second BCS bowl slot? Probably not.

It's time for the Pac-10 to seriously consider what kind of player it wants to be in college football. In the meantime, it should probably hire a PR firm, as the WAC did. When it comes to publicity, the Pac-10 needs all the help it can get.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

I could be wrong, but I am fairly sure the University of Washington has never played a I-AA team either. This only came up recently because they finally scheduled one--Portland State, maybe? (Although I guess they need the wins. Either way, I saw that list mentioned in a few other articles, and the UW was always on it.

For what it matters. All good points, though. I have some SEC people at work, and it's impossible to argue with them. It really doesn't matter who they play (to them), because a) they win; and b) the SEC is tough. Even if it's not. Or, if this year, it's 2 good defenses ('Bama and Florida), one overrated team (LSU), and a bunch of not very good teams ....

Anonymous said...

awsome piece- until these comments on the previous post never considered how florida doesn't play anyone

mike said...

Great piece. The Pac 10 gets a lot of the best players (warm weather, good cities), has some of the most innovative coaching, and plays a tough schedule. All of which leads to parity, and thus a lack of BCS teams.

I think at least 3-4 teams from the Pac-10 could be undefeated with Boise State's or TCU's schedule. Play only one or two BCS level opponents, maybe a decent WAC team, and the rest of the games are gimmies. Just because Boise beat Oregon, which might win the Pac 10, doesn't mean Boise would win the Pac 10.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Oregon State play in the Fiesta Bowl in 2001 vs. Notre Dame (when Washington won the Rose Bowl)?

The Guru said...

You're correct. I have made the fix. Thanks for catching that.

Jams said...

Let me preface this comment by saying that I fully agree with the sentiments of this post. The Pac Ten is a much stronger conference than they are recognized as being. Their media deal is terrible, and their biggest asset (the 9-game round robin) will only serve as a detriment (5 built-in losses for the conference each year) until it gets publicized and recognized more.

Additionally, I think SEC teams scheduling a feast of cupcakes has gotten out of hand in the last several years. But, I do want to put in a few words in defense of my team and conference:

First, I see no good reason to toss out fully a fourth of Florida's annual non-conference schedule by removing the FSU games from the equation. With those included, Florida's non-conference schedule make-up looks considerably better than LSU's or Alabama's. It's not fair to discount the fact that the Gators automatically have one more BCS team built into their schedule. I'm not saying that gives them a pass to schedule the likes of Western Carolina (and they're still put to shame by USC's non-con schedule), but it shouldn't be tossed aside as irrelevant.

Secondly, it does seem like some of the higher-profile SEC teams are starting to branch out to bigger non-conference match-ups. For example, Tennessee has played home-and-homes with UCLA and Cal, Georgia with Oklahoma State and Arizona State. Alabama has signed up for the last two Chick-fil-A kickoff games in Atlanta (with more to come for other SEC teams). Arkansas has played USC and Texas A&M. South Carolina had a home-and-home with NC State. Auburn had one with West Virginia. Most SEC teams are playing at least one big non-con game a year. The problem isn't with the top of their non-conference slate, it's that the other three are against patsies.

Anonymous said...

The SEC also has a championship game assuring that there is only 1 team represented as its best. Several of the other conferences should be glad this year, otherwise, we'd be watching Florida, Alabama in the BCS championship game. The media didn't give the SEC the last 3 national championships in a row. Maybe they voted to allow them to play for it, but each one was decided on the field and decisively I might add.

Anonymous said...

Respectfully let me disagree with he previous post- this whole they play the sec championship is garbage. The PAC 10 plays everyone else on conference- Florida should play Alabama. And they should play them in the regular season.

Giving Florida credit for playing Alabama or vice versa is akin to giving USC and Oregon credit for not canceling their regular season matchup.

PAC 10. Everyone plays one another ulike the sec and big 10( big 11)?

The PAC 10 doesn't need a conference championship

if the PAC 10 was smart- next tv deal(anyone know whenn up?) they should sign with NBC and consider pitching msnbc to host games that areen't national - or cnbc as on non trading days they are rocking shamwow commercials

buffalowill said...

Yup, pretty sure UW (until they host Eastern Washington next year) and Michigan State are also part of the short list of teams to never play a 1-AA opponent.
Another important point is that the PAC-10 teams also tend to schedule home and away for at least 2 of their 3 ooc games each season. Some of these are scheduled with non-BCS MWC, WAC and even C-USA opponents. These trips to Utah, BYU, Boise, etc are national "no win" games for the PAC. If you lose, you get hammered for it in the polls. I don't see the SEC (outside of the LSU/Tulane and Tenn/Memphis "rivalries")traveling to Sun Belt, MAC or C-USA teams (correct me if i'm wrong please!). However, I do see some SEC teams going to TCU in the upcoming seasons

buffalowill said...

Lot's of times I think that simply eliminating the 1-AA games would be a good start. Without at least 2 OOC games vs BCS opponents, the rankings become just too subjective and comparing conferences is derived from very few games...

LAprGuy said...

Further ...

The SEC, aside from not even playing all of the teams it its OWN conference, has played 29 of its non-conference games against non-BCS conferences.

In games against BCS conferences:
SEC 7-5 (inc. Army)
Pac-10 7-7 (inc. Notre Dame)

In games against I-AA, er FCS, teams:
SEC 10-0
Pac-10 4-0

Ridiculous.

mike said...

I think we underestimate the effect of having an extra 5 in-conference losses and, let's say 5 losses that could be avoided by playing FCS schools rather than teams like Cincinnati, Boise, or Utah. That's 10 losses for the conference. Especially early in the year, where BCS teams get to the top 10-15 simply by being 5-0, regardless of who you've played. An extra FCS team and a low end FBS team could also mean at least a full game of rest for your first team while providing two wins. In a 12 game schedule, that's huge.

Bob said...

Sorry........This has to be the biggest pile of crap of a college football article I've ever seen. Hate the SEC, but the PAC 10 gets no attention because outside of USC they suck. Face it.

Floridan said...

One of the PAC-10's biggest image problems is that other than USC, no team seems to be able to sustain a winning tradition. Some teams are good for a year or two, then sink into mediocracy.

PeteP said...

The SEC is a hype machine and the Pac-10 is its own worst enemy.

That being said, Florida has been the biggest fraud in college football for decades, with only two wins in the last 40 years outside of the South. 2 wins! Unlike Miami and FSU, Florida has always been the kings of the cupcakes, and has only "earned" its mythical national titles under the beauty contests known as the BCS and its predecessors.

Donny said...

"Cal came close in 2004, but was cheated out of a Rose Bowl berth by Mack Brown."

This is CLASSIC redefining of history. It has been proven time and again that the computers were the demise of Cal and not Mack Brown. If you take away EVERY SINGLE VOTE that was gained to Cal after their almost loss to Southern Miss in 2004. Texas STILL would've jumped them because of the superior computer score and SOS.

Read here for a CLEAR refutation that Mack Brown had nothing at all to do with the demise of Cal.

http://forums.hornfans.com/php/wwwthreads/showflat.php?Cat=&Board=classics&Number=2996885&page=0&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=0&fpart=

Scott said...

The SEC Champion (and future National Champion) plays 9 conference games just like the Pac-10. 8 regular season games and 1 conference championship game.

Jonathan said...

Why is is the 2006 UF/UM decision still being brought up as if it wasn't a good thing for college football?

Anonymous said...

Anytime you make an argument and your main argument includes "excluding such and such" your argument losses a lot of luster. Why in the world would you make an argument that excludes florida state from florida's strength of schedule? Because if you include it then we see that Florida has played 5 BCS teams OOC since 2006 and USC has played 6. If you include Notre Dame as a BCS team despite being horrible for three out 4 of those years then USC played 10 BCS games. However, Florida also has to play 13 games rather than 12 so they have 3 extra games against highly ranked BCS competition if they want a shot at the title.

Seriously GURU, you are so unquestionably biased towards the Pac-10 it is embarrasing. And I am not even an SEC fan I am a UCLA fan, I just think you shouldn't use delusional biased logic to make a point.

Jonathan said...

One more quick question (and I'm seriously asking these, even if they just seem weakly rhetorical):

When did round-robin become the standard that all conferences should implement? Unless I'm mistaken, the Pac-10 is the only conference with more than nine teams that does this. It is admirable, but are Big-10/Big-12/SEC/ACC schools really supposed to schedule 10 or 11 conference games now? Seems a bit out of hand. As much as people want to discount the conference championship game, it is there for a reason.

Anonymous said...

Just a thought. I agree that the Pac-10 is underrated and they do a poor job marketing themselves. But that could be part of what is causing the out of conference winning percentage against BCS opponents.

The bowl games constitute a large percentage of out of conference BCS opponents (maybe 1/3). Because the Pac-10 gets the shaft from the BCS on a regular basis, it bumps all of the PAc-10 teams down a bowl when they arguably should have 2 teams in BCS bowls. That, combined with the embarrassing bowl contracts the PAc-10 has agreed to ends up pitting teams that finish 2nd and 3rd in the Pac-10 against teams that finish 3rd and fourth in the Big-12 and other weaker leagues. Ironically, this likely results in a higher winning percentage than if the Pac-10 actually got the respect it deserves.

Donny said...

Sagarin's poll is so ridiculous right now. Just a week ago he had 3-5 Washington in the top 30 of his rankings. How about Billingsley who has Pac-10 ranked 3rd? http://www.cfrc.com/Ratings_2009/CC_10.htm

How about winning percentages against OOC opponents?
Pac-10 is 20-9 - 69% winning pct.

Compare that to the rest...
SEC - 85%
Big East - 81%
Big 10 - 75%
Big 12 - 73%
ACC - 66%

The reason the Pac-10 is loved by many of the computers isn't THAT they win MORE its that they play OOC games LESS. With 9 conference games as opposed to 8 they have an unfair advantage with SOS.

If Florida had to play another team the caliber of South Carolina/Georgia to replace Charleston Southern, of course they will have a higher SOS.

Bottom line.. you saw the numbers... the Pac-10 is NOT outperforming others.

Anonymous said...

Sagarin's poll is so ridiculous right now. Just a week ago he had 3-5 Washington in the top 30 of his rankings. How about Billingsley who has Pac-10 ranked 3rd? http://www.cfrc.com/Ratings_2009/CC_10.htm

How about winning percentages against OOC opponents?
Pac-10 is 20-9 - 69% winning pct.

Compare that to the rest...
SEC - 85%
Big East - 81%
Big 10 - 75%
Big 12 - 73%
ACC - 66%

The reason the Pac-10 is loved by many of the computers isn't THAT they win MORE its that they play OOC games LESS. With 9 conference games as opposed to 8 they have an unfair advantage with SOS.

If Florida had to play another team the caliber of South Carolina/Georgia to replace Charleston Southern, of course they will have a higher SOS.

Bottom line.. you saw the numbers... the Pac-10 is NOT outperforming others.

What are you smoking ? The pac 10 atleast plays the Big Ten and other BSC conferences OOC for its games . SEC , mainly Florida plays some gimp teams for its non conference schedule , do you ever play anyone out of conference north of Georgia? Whats the chances of Florida coming into the shoe , camp randall or iowa city for a non conference game ? Slim to phuckin none , USC , Arizona and others do? SEC is to much of a chicken shit conference to do sign a contract . The percentages dont mean shit if the teams your loading the schedule with are D2 and small conference teams lol , what tools.
had it not been for a Conference USA ref who was let go for making a bogus off sides on the on side kick against Iowa , Florida would have beaten by the so called weaker Big ten...even at that Iowa is 1 and 1 in bowl games vs Florida..might as well be home games for you guys since you dont own a bus or a plane and wont travel out of conference...really thats a factoid and when you do you only have 2 wins total our of conference against major BSC schools...i guess i wouldnt travel either ..bye Gaytor fans..ESPN has reserved a spot for Tim Teabag btw , right there with Jessica Palmer , anyone seen Chris Leak since his ass was cut? LOL

Anonymous said...

Thats true that Florida does not play anyone in non conf . That has to be the weakest non con schedule , and i know the fans dont make it the University does , but you SEC and Florida fans have to face up..you dont play anyone out of conference really . Only the lower tier SEC does . Florida hardly travels past Georgia , there is a cop at the state border in pink spandex sitting on top of a patrol car with a half naked clown wearing black leather shouting , "Puwwl over Puwwl over" we cant let you out of state cause you might get beat and ruin your trumped up schedule! You are beter off losing to Alabama , because if you play Texas you will be exposed.Dont worry the BSC will fix it so you get to play in Florida against Boise State , Cinci or TCU..yep you heard it here.face it.

Anonymous said...

I really wonder why Florida and Alabama dont play or have a contract with the Big Ten or the pac 10..it would settle all this crap going on now. I think they dont want to have to come north and have to put on a sleeved shirt underneath their gear.. can you imagine Florida even playing Northwestern , Illinois or even Purdue the lower tier teams of the Big Ten in November when its cold... OMG i might piss myself thats so funny. Tim Teabag and Radio Flyer would get beat like a drum.No wonder they dont have and never will have a contract , they stand to lose to much money .On the same token i cant see Florida /Bama playing USC. Zona or Oregon lke OSU , Iowa , Purdue ,Wisky play the Pac 10.

SEC will be the Media Darlings , but all fans across the nation know the TOP SEC teams dont play anyone out of conf. PERIOD

Jonathan said...

The beauty of this "discussion" is every single one of us can find an argument to support the conference we like...

SEC = Our conference schedule is hard enough!

Pac-10 = Nine conference games! We play great OOC teams! Didn't you hear? Nine conference games!

Big Ten = You couldn't handle the cold! (Even though we ourselves won't play November night games...)

Big 12 = Um...Texas!

LAprGuy said...

How about winning percentages against OOC opponents?
(SEC 85%, Pac-10 69%)


Let's use some REAL numbers ... How about winning percentages against BCS CONFERENCE opponents:
http://www.colleyrankings.com/curconf.html

SEC* (7-4) - 63%
Pac-10* (6-5)- 55%
ACC (8-7) - 53%
Big East (6-6) - 50%
Big 10* (4-6) - 40%
Big 12 (4-7) - 36%

Versus Subdivision Teams - really, games that simply shouldn't be played:
SEC (10-0)
Big East (10-0)
Big 12 (9-0)
Big 10 (8-0)
Pac-10 (4-0)
ACC (12-2)


(*-Also, Notre Dame is 2-1 vs Pac-10, 2-1 vs. Big 10. SEC is 0-1 vs. Army.)

Donny said...

LAprGuy said: Let's use some REAL numbers ... How about winning percentages against BCS CONFERENCE opponents:

That's fair enough... but that doesn't tell the whole story either. what about the winning percentages/ etc? What if the ACC had 4 teams play vanderbilt. And what if the SEC had 4 teams playing NON-BCS TCU. Not all BCS & non-BCS teams are made alike.

If you look closely at the link you left, Colley has the Pac-10 in 3rd place too. Taking into account EVERYTHING.

Who they played AND what they rank AND what their records are. Taking it ALL into account... Pac 10 is third, not first.

Anonymous said...

The best SEC team annually plays the best team from another conference and trounces them in the national championship game. What else do you need to know?

Anonymous said...

"Giving Florida credit for playing Alabama or vice versa is akin to giving USC and Oregon credit for not canceling their regular season matchup."

Actually, that is the point...Oregon and USC DO get credit for playing that game in their strength of schedule and respect from voters. So it would seem right that UF and Bama should get that same bump when they play. Doesn't make sense to disregard the game.

Also I agree with the post that says UF/Bama will end up playing 9 conference games (but, oh no, not EVERYONE in their confrence)...as if suddenly this new "we play everyone in conference" argument is the end-all, be-all. Heck, even in the NFL (which people seem to point to as the perfect system with their playoffs and all) teams don't play everyone in their Conference. They play the teams in their division (like the SEC West) and various other matchups. But we are perfctly satisfied with the the teams being selected strictly on their record to move into the playoffs. Considering that, I don't have a problem in the world with the SEC or Big12 concept. If all the leagues were set up that way with 12 teams, we'd basically have a de facto playoff by the time it was over.

Anonymous said...

Troy is the best team in the Sun Belt this year. Killed by UF. Seems like UF played the best team in a non-bcs conference near them....as the Pac-10 should do with the mwc and wac.

Or should anyone give Troy a chance? Isn't that the beef you cry about regarding Boise, TCU, Utah, BYu and Hawaii (in certain years when UF doesn't kill them too)? Maybe you should give congrats to UF for playing Troy. They are at least as good as 14 teams in the mwc and wac.

OT said...

The Pac-10 needs to expand to 12 schools.

Problem: only one big school currently not affiliated with a "power" conference that is located in a major TV market in the Pacific Time Zone fits the Pac-10 philosophy (research-oriented institution), and that school currently cannot be a member of NCAA Division I:

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Vancouver

UBC balked at the chance to join NCAA Division II along with crosstown rival Simon Fraser (which will make the jump from NAIA/CIS to NCAA in 2010) because UBC wants to be in Division I right away if UBC were to spend the money (to be accredited by a U.S. acrreditation organization) to jump from the NAIA to the NCAA.

Salt Lake is too small a TV market so neither Utah nor BYU make sense for the Pac-10. Ditto UNLV because the Las Vegas market has stopped growing for the time being.

OT said...

Speaking of expansion, will the Mountain West conference protect itself from being raided (by Pac-10 if Pac-10 becomes desperate and decides to take Utah and BYU or UNLV, for example, instead of waiting for NCAA legislation change to allow UBC and Simon Fraser to join NCAA Division I and the Pac-10) by expanding.

Boise State and Fresno State are the two WAC teams being mention as possible targets by the Mountain West, with either Nevada (Reno) or Hawaii as a potential 3rd candidate.

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