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Unrivaled: Does The Pac-12 Even Want To Be Part Of The College Football Playoff?

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 01: A general view of the stadium as the sun sets as the Oregon Ducks play the Wisconsin Badgers during the fourth quarter in the Rose Bowl game presented by Northwestern Mutual at Rose Bowl on January 01, 2020 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Pac-12 is already viewed as a step below the national stage. The conference has had only two teams make the playoff since its inception 2014 and it has been four years since the last Pac-12 team has made it to the Playoff.

Of the Power Five leagues, the Pac-12 would benefit the most from a larger playoff field that would guarantee its league champion a spot every year.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was asked about pushing for an expanded playoff during his teleconference when the league made the announcement on returning to play, but he was not in favor of increasing the field beyond its current four teams.

“I think there’s really no serious momentum or discussion around expansion,” Scott said. “I’m not expecting that the dates of the games will be back and we’re certainly not discussing expansion at this point.”

While Scott said one thing two weeks ago, he actually lobbied and suggested increasing the College Football Playoff field to eight, but that was not accepted and the 2021 version will go on as planned with four teams.

Scott told ESPN that he wanted to increase the size of the field due to the lack of non-conference games since determining the four teams will be more difficult than normal.

“In light of the pandemic and the varied schedules and reduced number of games — including no nonconference games for most teams — the committee will have to evaluate, I felt it was our responsibility and important to consider an expanded playoff that would include more teams and automatic qualifiers who are conference champions this year.”

Scott Should Have Pushed Harder For An Earlier Start

The Pac-12 and its playoff problem is not a new phenomenon. Oregon made the title game in its first year and Washington was a one-and-done team in 2016. Scott should have pushed for an expanded playoff and attempt to get other leagues on board, specifically Group of Five commissioners.

An eight-team field would very likely include one Group of Five team and they would have been on board. AAC commissioner Mike Aresco has been a proponent but he and other leagues said it wasn’t feasible due to logistics.

An argument can be made with the dates of the playoffs in place, there probably could have been some wiggle room to move these games around and include other bowls. The likelihood of a packed stadium is unlikely and fans and teams don’t know the destination until a week or two before so saying logistics was an issue is sort of a cop-out.

KSL Sports’ Scott Mitchell argues that if it is a lack of games being played that the Pac-12 could have done that. The Mountain West has teams in California and is able to start on Oct. 24 while playing eight games as is the Big Ten. Yet, the Pac-12 is going with seven games and starting at a later date.

“They could have easily started this season way before they could have started on the 24. I mean, the Mountain West is going to start on the 24th of October,” Mitchell said. “It gives them a chance to have more games. It gives them a chance to have some flexibility. When he talks about flexibility, the Pac-12 is going to play in play seven games in seven weeks and that last game includes a championship weekend type of format.

“They don’t have the luxury of going, ‘yeah, we’re going to have to postpone this game.’ They got to go seven straight weeks. They start earlier. Then they can shoot for nine games, and nine games is going to have you in the conversation for the College Football Playoffs. I really think the Pac-12 basically this year just said, ‘look, we just want to play football. It’s intramural football this year.’ We will look so bad if we’re the only conference in the country that doesn’t play.”

Does The Pac-12 Care About The Playoffs?

There is a reason the Rose Bowl is called “The Grandaddy of them all,” it still carries a lot of weight and is regarded as the most prestigious bowl game. The bowl is guaranteed its mid-afternoon spot on New Year’s Day regardless if it is a playoff semifinal or not.

The bowl game even held its own TV media rights deal and played the game on ABC when the rest of the BCS games were on Fox. Even prior to that, the Rose Bowl wanted nothing to do with the Bowl Alliance or be part of a national title game because it would take away from the traditional Big Ten vs. Pac-12. This led to a split national title in 1997 with Michigan and Nebraska splitting the honors between the AP and coaches poll.

Maybe deep-rooted history is why the Pac-12 may not really want to be part of the playoff, and this season the Rose Bowl just happens to be part of the playoff rotation as a semifinal game. That could be why Scott didn’t really push all that hard for expanding the field this year.

Mitchell feels that the majority of the Pac-12 doesn’t care about the College Football Playoff because there is no shot outside of a few teams to even be in consideration.

“Here’s what is happening. It’s a league that doesn’t want to be a part of the College Football Playoffs. They really don’t,” Mitchell said. “There’s probably two teams in the North, two teams in the South, maybe three. You’ve got Oregon. You kind of have Washington. I don’t know that they really care about going to the College Football Playoffs. I don’t know about most teams in the Pac-12 really caring about going to college. It doesn’t matter.”

Clearly, the Pac-12 would like to have teams in the College Football Playoff as that brings exposure to a league that really could use it, but perhaps the Rose Bowl is a fine substitute for its conference champion.

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