Conference cannibalism and the 8-game theory
There’s been a lot of talk this week about the Pac 10’s need to cut back and stop feasting on itself. We’ve had writers from the Seattle Times, Los Angeles Times, and even Arizona Coach Mike Stoops, himself, suggesting that the conference’s round robin restricts opportunities to get more than one team into BCS bowl games. Now call me slow…but I don’t get it.
According to this theory being tossed around in the past few days, with each team in conference destined to meet the other, someone has to lose. And in doing so, one team moves up, while the other gains an additional loss. As these losses accumulate (since both can’t win), it cripples the chances of anyone other than the league champion to receive a BCS at-large bid. The supposed solution would be to trim one conference game from the schedule, meaning each program would avoid a member of the conference each year, as it was before 2006. This would give the Pac 10 an additional opponent to schedule out of conference (a cupcake) to pad the win columns and be more attractive to selection committees.
“Last week in the Southeastern Conference, Auburn stepped out and played Furman. Georgia played Tennessee Tech. Kentucky hosted Eastern Kentucky. Mississippi welcomed Northern Arizona. Tennessee invited in Memphis. When’s Furlough Week in the Pac-10? Once again, the league is eating its own, pushed to the periphery of the discussion about getting two teams into BCS bowls. Of course, that hasn’t happened since 2002. And all for … what, exactly? So the Pac-10 can say it’s the only big football-playing league that has nine conference games? Time to end the fratricide, and go back to playing eight conference games, which means everybody “misses” one opponent annually.“—Seattle Times
I’ve said many times that with the Pac 10 it’s not so much a wins and losses issue, as much as it is about image. Why are people still making comparisons to the SEC? The Pac 10 isn’t near that level. Yes, I believe the Pac 10 from top to bottom may be the best conference in the country this year. But outside of the Big East, it remains the least recognizable.
Haven’t we now gone full circle? First it was said that the Pac needed to schedule boldly, and win those games to earn national respect. They’ve done that, and won those games, yet we now have people asking for a schedule downgrade to pad wins. Replacing Oregon on a schedule with UC Davis isn’t going to make anyone more respectable or attractive to bowl committees. If you’re not popular, it doesn’t matter if you have 9 teams bowl eligible, when you only have 6 bowl tie-ins. All you have is an argument, and that alone doesn’t reward you with the bid.
The complaint is that the Pac 10 has only twice managed to place two teams in BCS bowls in the same postseason. The supposed reason is the 9-game round robin…but what about the ACC? They’ve powered up to become a twelve team league, split into divisions, and avoiding certain conferences members in different years. The ACC has never been represented by two teams in BCS bowls…Ever!
Whenever you watch the BCS bowl games, you are slapped in the face with reality. You have the SEC, Big 12, Big 10, and then the rest. Those three conferences are most attractive. Those three have been best represented in BCS bowls. It’s not because of scheduling. It’s because of marketing. Selection committees choose a money-maker. They choose the teams the networks want on the field and those with fans most willing to travel and spend their money in those host cities.
2002 was the last time the Pac 10 had two members, and it also marked the last time the Rose Bowl cried about the teams they received. With an at-large bid, USC went to the Orange Bowl to meet Iowa. The Rose Bowl presented Washington State and Oklahoma. It was the lowest rated and least profitable Rose Bowl game. Only the Automatic qualifier placed the Cougars in Pasadena. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been selected at all.
Anyone still not seeing that image is the key is someone not paying attention to the writing on the wall. Oregon embarrassed USC two weeks ago. They followed that up with a loss to Stanford. That loss knocked Oregon down in the rankings, pushing them lower than USC, a team they embarrassed. They didn’t fall that far because of the single loss by a small margin. They suffered that tumble because they are not named “USC”. With games still being played, we have the Orange Bowl rooting for Southern California to win out, so they can nab the popular Trojans for their game. Had the situation been reversed, no one would set their sights on a very good but unpopular Oregon team. That is the way of the college football world. Trimming one conference game isn’t going to change that.