The Biggest Loser.

We don't know who's going to win the College Football Playoff, but we already know for sure who won't.

 

 

The Pac-12 is the only Power 5 conference left out of the four-team playoff, with its champion Stanford consigned to the Rose Bowl. It's also the only Power 5 conference with just one team in the New Year's Six bowl games, while the Big Ten (three) and SEC, Big 12 and ACC (two each) landed multiple teams.

Selection committee chairman Jeff Long said that Stanford, ranked No. 6, really "wasn't close" to making it into the top four. What sunk the Cardinal was their two losses as all four playoff participants have no more than one loss each.

And just think, had Stanford scheduled, say, FCS team Sac State or even San Jose State, for its opener instead of a road game at Northwestern, it easily could've made the playoff, or at least made the committee's job very difficult in terms of which conference champion to leave out of the playoff.

Stanford faced 12 Power 5 opponents in its 13 games (counting Notre Dame), more than any team in the country. Even with that loss to the Wildcats, who went on to finish 10-2, the Cardinal still managed to beat 10 Power 5 teams, more than three of the playoff participants (Alabama, Oklahoma and Michigan State), which only defeated nine each.

While the committee claims to take strength of schedule into strong consideration, there's no evidence that it has penalized teams for their scheduling practices in its two years of existence. The SEC, ACC and Big Ten all made the playoff both years while playing only eight conference games, with every SEC team and most ACC teams playing at least one FCS opponent each.

 

The Pac-12, meanwhile, is the only Power 5 conference that plays nine conference games and stages a title game. Most Pac-12 teams also schedule at least one Power 5 opponent in its three non-conference games. Two teams (USC and UCLA) have never played an FCS team in their history.

 

 

During the past two seasons (2014 and 2015), the Pac-12 has the best winning percentage against Power 5 non-conference opponents by a wide margin (19-11, .633). The SEC is second (18-17, .514) while the other three conferences have losing records.

But none of that seems to impress the committee. While Long claims that his fellow members consider analytics and watch game film, invariably they fall for the same "eye test" metric just like your average voters in the AP and coaches polls.

Since that's the case, the SEC and ACC have shown no inclination of altering their scheduling practices, which means eight conference games and a lot of cupcakes for the rest. So for the Pac-12, it's not a level playing field. Not just for this year, but for years to come.