PULLMAN – Washington State coach Mike Leach is hardly alone in pointing out that the Pac-12 puts itself at a disadvantage by playing nine conference games. The SEC, for example, only plays eight conference games meaning its schools can schedule one extra cupcake each year.
The Big Ten and Big 12 have agreed to subject themselves to a ninth conference game, and the ACC and SEC have at least discussed it.
Those extra nonconference wins mean more schools become bowl eligible, and the top teams have fewer opportunities to be upset during the grind of a conference schedule. The reason for playing nine games instead of eight basically boils down to preserving traditional rivalries by having Pac-12 schools miss each other as infrequently as possible.
Leach says the nine-game schedule has taken an additional toll on the Pac-12 in 2016 by hurting the conference’s reputation nationally. Leach said he believes the Pac-12 is the best conference in college football this year, but that the perception is that it is not because “we’re still battling time zone issues, and population based.”
He said that because more media members are concentrated on the East Coast and Midwestern population centers, they are more familiar with teams in those regions and have a bias toward them.
“If you cover a team in LA, you’re naturally going to be more aware of them, more conscious of them. I just don’t think there’s any getting around it,” Leach said. “Is it an advantage? Kind of, except you have to live in LA.”
And Pac-12 teams’ having worse records thanks to the extra game has not helped, either.
“If you really want it even, everybody’s got to be congruent in conference games and they way they schedule,” Leach said. “Also if you had a broader playoff format you can solve a lot more of that on the field.”
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