Pac-12 coaches riled up over SEC scheduling

College football is finally out of the BCS business.

That hasn't stopped coaches from lobbying for their own interests and complaining about the lack of a level playing field.

The ink wasn't even dry on the College Football Playoff press release about the 13-member selection committee's procedures when Pac-12 coaches started talking about perceived scheduling advantages for some conferences and the need to expand a four-team playoff that hasn't even kicked off.

The issue du jour: The SEC's decision to stick with an eight-game conference schedule while the Pac-12 grinds through nine conference games.

"That's a bigger deal than I think most people understand," Stanford coach David Shaw said during the Pac-12 coaches spring teleconference on Thursday. "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. Play your conference. Don't back down from playing your own conference."

On paper, Oregon has the talent to win the Pac-12 and make a run at the national championship this fall.

The Ducks' nonconference slate has one FCS team (South Dakota), one FBS team from a non-power conference (Wyoming) and the defending Rose Bowl champion (Michigan State). Oregon also will have to navigate its way through a Pac-12 minefield that includes UCLA, Washington and Stanford.

Perennial SEC favorite Alabama will play West Virginia (Big 12), Florida Atlantic (Conference USA) and Southern Miss (Conference USA) in September ahead of its marquee showdowns with Florida, Texas A&M and LSU.

A week before the Iron Bowl against Auburn, the Crimson Tide will tune up with FCS cupcake Western Carolina. Oregon hosts Colorado before the Civil War at rival Oregon State.

"I'm not surprised by that. Obviously, they do that for a reason," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said of the SEC sticking with its scheduling philosophy. "There's a couple leagues that are in the minority of playing less than nine league games. That's definitely to their advantage."

Florida State's victory over Auburn in January ended the SEC's run of seven consecutive BCS championships.

"The existing strength of the SEC was certainly a significant factor in the decision to play eight games," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said in a release.

SEC schools have agreed to play one opponent from another power conference (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12) every year beginning in 2016 to increase strength of schedule, which will be weighed by the committee as it selects the teams for the national semifinals.

"I can't say it's a bad strategy," Washington State coach Mike Leach said. "Until (nine conference games) is required, I think they are elevating their conference and I think they are fairly clever to do it."

The Big Ten, which is now a 14-team conference with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers, will switch to a nine-game conference slate in 2016.

The ACC, which has 14 regular members and a partnership with Notre Dame, still has to decide whether to maintain an eight-game conference schedule or move to the nine-game format.

"I don't think it's right," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said of SEC contenders playing one fewer conference game than Pac-12 teams. "There has got to be some equity here. "¦ I think we just beat ourselves up. And with the new structure for playoffs, it hurts you."

If Oregon were able to get over its Stanford problem and win the North Division this season, the Pac-12 championship game would be another significant hurdle on the College Football Playoff track.

The ACC, Big Ten and SEC also play championship games. The Big 12, which currently has 10 members and the perfect nine-game round-robin for football, doesn't.

"I think the Pac-12 is an incredibly competitive conference. I look at the teams that make up this conference and I think anybody can beat anybody on any given week," UCLA coach Jim Mora said. "I think the same could be said for the SEC. And yet we play nine games against each other. I like that. I think we like that as a conference and I think we take pride in that because we're interested in competing against the best week in and week out.

"We try not to schedule too many patsies."

Arizona State coach Todd Graham, whose Sun Devils were South Division champs with an 8-1 record last season before losing to Stanford in the title game and missing out on a BCS bowl, would like to see the champions from the five power conferences automatically included in an expanded playoff.

"We beat each other up in this league," Graham said. "I'd hate to see a four-game playoff without a Pac-12 champion."

It seems the four-team playoff won't be the final step in determining the national champion if coaches have their say.

"Definitely needs to be extended beyond four teams," Leach said. "And I think it will be someday."


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