Monday, May 5, 2014

Pac-12 Determined to Reverse Fortunes in CFP

Pac-12's coaches are mad as hell and they're not gonna take it anymore!

At least David Shaw of Stanford is hopping mad, while his confederates are willing to march behind him to provide at least moral support.

"I've been saying this for three years now: I think if we're going to go into a playoff and feed into one playoff system, we all need to play by the same rules," Shaw said last Thursday during a Pac-12 coaches teleconference. "Play your conference. Don't back down from playing your own conference."

Shaw's fire was directed at the SEC, which voted last week to keep playing eight conference games while most of the other power conferences have decided to play nine in the upcoming College Football Playoff era. The Big Ten will move to a nine-game conference schedule in 2016 while the ACC is scheduled to hold a vote in mid-May.

"I don't think I was surprised (by the SEC's decision)," said Oregon State Coach Mike Riley. "But I don't think it's right. There's got to be some equity here."

If the Pac-12 seems particularly obsessed with the SEC, it's for a good reason. If the SEC is the greatest beneficiary of the BCS during its 16-year run, the Pac-12 may be rightly viewed as its biggest victim.

The Pac-12 played in a scant three BCS title games, winning just one (USC in 2004). After the Trojans lost the epic 2005 championship game to Texas, the Pac-12 appeared in just one title game in the last eight years of the BCS, while the SEC appeared in all eight, winning seven.

To be sure, the Pac-12 is determined to reverse that trend heading into the CFP. The conference has been on a hiring spree that landed such high-profile coaches such as Chris Petersen, Mike Leach, Jim Mora, Todd Graham and Rich Rodriguez over the past three seasons. At the same time more than a billion dollars were spent by schools to upgrade stadiums and facilities, including Washington, Oregon, Cal, USC and Arizona.

The Pac-12 is hoping the conference's improved competitiveness—on and off the field—will pay off in finally corralling the elusive national championship.

In 2014, the Pac-12 will be the only power conference that plays nine conference games plus a conference championship game. While there's little it can do about the scheduling of other conferences, it will have a chance to make a statement to the selection committee by performing well in a number of key nonconference games.

Oregon will host Rose Bowl winner Michigan State and UCLA travels to Texas in early-season showdowns while Stanford, Arizona State and USC all face Notre Dame. These games will help shape public opinion—and by extension, the selection committee's view—on the strength of the conference.

The Pac-12 might even have an advantage when it comes to the selection committee. At least five of its 13 members have ties to Pac-12 schools, and though Pat Haden and Condi Rice can't vote for USC and Stanford, respectively, they may still advocate on behalf of the conference's other teams.

Pac-12 coaches are emphatic that they wouldn't water down their schedules just to improve their odds of making the four-team playoff field. They have, for the most part, accepted that all they can do is to take care of business on the field and hope that the system gives them a fair shake. Maybe.

Kyle Whittingham, whose Utah team trounced Alabama in the Sugar Bowl but did not win the national championship despite being the 2008 season's only unbeaten team, got right down to it.

"There is nothing fair in college football," he said. "That's just how it is."

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