Now this is smack talk Steve Spurrier would be proud to own.
Apparently this week’s Southeastern Conference football teleconference wasn’t the only venue for a chewing over of the SEC’s new scheduling format. It was also a big topic of conversation on Thursday’s Pac-12 teleconference.
The Pac-12’s football majordomos weren’t going so far as to side with the Alabama-Tennessee traditionalists or take up for the LSU-led Rodney Dangerfield crowd. (“Hey, Tiger, keep it fair! Keep it fair!”) Their complaint isn’t with the reaffirmed 6-1-1 scheduling format per se.
Their long-distance grousing is that six plus one plus one adds up to eight, not nine.
Nine is increasingly the fashionable digit when it comes to conference football scheduling.
The Pac-12, as you Sherlocks out there may have deduced by now, plays nine games. The Big Ten is going to nine in 2016 while quietly retiring those pretentious “Leaders” and “Legends” division names. (They will be, cleverly enough, East and West starting this fall.) The ACC, which has captured one BCS championship in a row (and proudly retired the trophy), is considering going to nine games as well.
In the Big 12, each team plays the other nine conference members. That the Big 12 has only 10 members still doesn’t compute, but we’ll leave a message for good Will Hunting and set that math matter aside for now.
The SEC, in a move that is no doubt viewed as pompous and arrogant in the non-SEC world, is sticking with eight games, the argument being Clint Eastwood’s armored bus-driving cop didn’t face as murderous a row to get to the courthouse in “The Gauntlet” as it is to play eight games in the SEC. Nine games would be cruel and unusual football.
Have we mentioned the SEC believes (rightly so) that it’s the toughest conference in college football? If you prod them just a little, SEC folk will try to convince you they’re tougher than the AFC South, too.
Well, this tough talk doesn’t wear well out on the West Coast where Clint squints. Frankly, Pac-12 coaches like Stanford’s David Shaw think the SEC is a bunch of wimps and don’t mind saying so.
“Don’t back down from playing your own conference,” Shaw said. “It’s one thing to back down from playing somebody else. But don’t back down from playing your own conference.”
Now it says a lot about the power and prestige of SEC football that Pac-12 coaches would devote even more than a passing mention of SEC scheduling to discussion that is supposed to put the spotlight on Pac-12 football. Inferiority complex? Perhaps.
But there is an ulterior motive behind the complaints. With the College Football Playoff starting this season, the Pac-12 coaches want to see the SEC playing by the same set of “rules.”
Oregon State coach Mike Riley, a former Alabama player, uttered the E-word: equity.
“I don’t think it’s right,” he said of the SEC schedule. “There’s got to be some equity here.”
“Obviously our feelings are if we’re going to call anything equal or point in the same direction for the playoffs, it seems like the qualifications for that playoff should be equal,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. “I think there’s a couple of leagues who are in the minority of playing less than nine league games. That’s definitely to their advantage.”
Finally, this from UCLA coach Jim Mora: “I would like to see everybody operate under the same set of rules.”
We got a description of the College Football Playoff selection rules this week, but no one really knows how the CFP process is going to shake out before it happens, how much weight selection committee members will give to certain factors and what criteria they will find less important.
But here is one strong possibility: After a few season’s worth of results to sift through, the power schools and conferences may decide that nine conference games is a minimum standard for inclusion in the CFP. And the SEC may be forced to comply.
Meanwhile, we can only hope/pray/fervently wish for an SEC team to be matched up with a Pac-12 team in either of this season’s semifinals in the Sugar Bowl or Rose Bowl or in the inaugural CFP championship game in Arlington, Texas. Put up or shut up. It’s a compelling way to settle things.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter @RabalaisAdv.