Pac-12 Needs Expansion Of College Football Playoff To Be Successful

Sep 25, 2019, 4:45 PM | Updated: 5:11 pm
Head coach Chris Petersen of the Washington Huskies is given the championship trophy after the Husk...
Head coach Chris Petersen of the Washington Huskies is given the championship trophy after the Huskies beat the Utah Utes to win the Pac 12 Championship game at Levi's Stadium on November 30, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Everyone knows the Pac-12 is lagging behind among the other Power Five conferences. The conference has the fewest College Football Playoff games played among the Power Five.

Only two Pac-12 teams have ever made it to the Playoff. That does not mean the Pac-12 is a bad conference, just look at the recent AP and USA TODAY top 25 polls. There are five ranked Pac-12 teams.

The Pac-12 is probably on its way to missing out on a playoff spot for the third-straight year. The Big Ten could be heading in the same direction but they at least have a pair of top 10 teams right now Ohio State ranked #5 and Wisconsin ranked #8. The highest-ranked Pac-12 team is Oregon at #13.

Throw in the Pac-12 Network not being distributed as heavily and it adds up to the Pac-12 being a step below its Power Five partners.

What Can The Pac-12 Do?

With four spots and five power conferences, and the occasional Notre Dame bid to the College Football Playoff, it was a matter of time before one or, even two, of the Power Five leagues, would run into a playoff drought.

Expanding the playoff has been talked about nearly the second the ink dried on the original 12-year contract. Now that the deal is nearing the midway point there continues to be talk of expanding the playoff field.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott acknowledged his conference needs to do a better job on the field but he also is engaging in the conversation of expanding the Playoff.

“I don’t care if it’s four teams, six teams, eight teams or 12 teams, if we’re not elite and winning regularly, I don’t think that really changes fundamentally the overall, because we’ll be compared to our peers, and we need to do better compared to our peers,” Scott said via the San Jose Mercury News. “I’ve started conversations with my peers that make up the management committee of the College Football Playoff. I don’t think there’s anything imminent. We’ve got contracts through 2026 with ESPN. That doesn’t mean something couldn’t happen earlier, but there are some significant impediments…I’m engaged in those conversations. I’m open to the fact that there could be a better mousetrap, even though the move from the BCS to the playoff has been really good overall.”

Could the real reason behind Scott nudging at expanding the playoff be that more teams mean Pac-12 schools have a better shot at a national title? KSL’s UnRivaled speculated about this very question.

Too Much Talent?

Alex Kirry and Scott Mitchell of KSL’s UnRivaled would like to see a larger playoff field maybe for selfish reasons (more football) but it would also create a bigger variety in teams chasing a National Title.

“If you are in the Pac-12 right now, you are in a bind. If you look at the College Football Playoff and say ‘let’s expand it, why?'” Kirry asked, “I am sick of watching Alabama, Clemson, and some mix of Georgia and Oklahoma and maybe throw in Pac-12 team every other year. It is getting old to watch the same teams.”

Getting a variety in teams is a fine reason, it does get stale watching the same teams over and over. However, at some point, the Pac-12 needs to do a better job of winning games and stop losing season-opening neutral site games, according to the duo.

More Utes:

“Think of something – David Shaw is a really good coach and is at Stanford and it is hard [to win there]. They will get good athletes but it is just hard to win there,” Mitchell said. “Look at Chris Petersen at Washington. He has a certain kind of athlete he goes for and he has done great at Washington.”

Mitchell continued to build his case by using the Utes, who he used to play for, as an example.

“Then you have Kyle Whittingham. It is hard at Utah and he has done a remarkable job. They went from zero to something in nine years and that is hard to do coming into a new conference. You are just behind with money, facilities, recruiting, but to do what they have done is remarkable,” Mitchell added. “Herm Edwards is a good coach, Mike Leach is a good coach but he is at Washington State in Pullman. What you have are really good coaches that are maximizing everything they possibly can get out of their programs.”

Utah had to grow up fast to compete in the Pac-12 since the school got the call up from the Mountain West in 2011. To get the talent needed to compete for the conference title takes time but to earn a spot in the playoff takes a near-perfect season, and that even goes for longtime members of the league.

“In the Pac-12, no one has ever made the playoffs without having a loss, they have all had a loss. If you look at a team like Utah, in the challenge of all of this they have to win out so they can have a loss and still make it because it is a double-edged sword and they cannot have a hiccup,” Mitchell said. “The reality is that probably no team in the Pac-12 is going to get out of the season with no fewer with two losses. That is the reality of how things are. For Utah, as good as we want them to be they lost five games last year with basically the same team they have now. ”

In a sense, the Pac-12 is so balanced and full of talented players and coaches that these teams just beat each other up, according to UnRivaled.

The ACC has Clemson at the top and the Tigers are an elite team on the path to make another playoff appearance, but the conference they belong to is not balanced with only a few top 25 caliber teams, making a playoff berth easier.

Perhaps pushing for playoff expansion is the way to go so that the Pac-12 and all Power Five champions earn a bid to the playoffs.

Tune into KSL’s Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or download the KSL NewsRadio app to subscribe to the podcast. 

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Pac-12 Needs Expansion Of College Football Playoff To Be Successful