Excerpt from Stewart Mindel’s piece just after our Oregon debacle. (This is from The Athletic, which has a pay wall.)
The country Is hard enough on the PAC-12. The PAC-12 doesn’t need to make it so hard for itself.
Or, [Larry Scott] could reconsider his league’s approach to scheduling. Because the current one — playing nine conference games AND a championship game, in addition to what are usually some of the sport’s most ambitious non-conference slates, is not working. It virtually requires a Pac-12 team to go 10-0 against league opposition. No Power 5 team in any conference has yet achieved that milestone (though Ohio State could Saturday.)
“Nobody has been able to do that because we beat each other up every year,” said Whittingham. “We play that ninth game, which gives you another opportunity to take a loss. There’s been a lot of balance. I hate the word ‘parity,’ but it’s a very competitive conference.”
And this being college football, a sport where most of the brand-name programs established themselves a half-century ago or longer, Pac-12 teams don’t have to battle each other. There’s also the compounding obstacle of the league’s lack of respect nationally.
Alabama can lose 44-16 to Clemson and be ranked right back at No. 1 the next year. The Big Ten can go three years without one of its teams scoring a point in a Playoff game and not have to worry whether the next Ohio State team will be taken seriously. But chances are Utah’s big-stage facepalm will only be held against whatever non-blueblood emerges as the Pac-12’s next Playoff contender.
Before the game, Scott credited the Playoff selection committee for showing Utah more respect than the Utes had been getting from “talking heads on TV.” The committee had noticed Utah’s “consistent dominance” against recent opponents like UCLA (4-8), Arizona (4-8) and Colorado (5-7).
“It’s one of the reasons I was so supportive of the move from the BCS to the College Football Playoff,” he said, “because if you look at the committee, they’ve absolutely shown huge respect for Utah throughout the season. They’re watching the games. They’re not going off of brand, they’re not going off of history, they’re actually watching the games.”
Unfortunately for both Utah and its conference, Friday was the one time all year the rest of the country was watching, too. And they’ll be sure to bring it up the next time a Pac-12 team reaches the cusp of the top four.