It's Nice What Utah Is Doing But Nuts To Think Playoff System is Winning Formula

Chris Dufresne

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting a different outcome.

Insanity, meet the Pac 12.

The conference, when it comes to the College Football Playoff, probably needs to be straight-jacketed.

It insists on playing a nine-game league schedule, in a 12-team league, each time expecting a different outcome.

The fact the league has a team in playoff contention this late, this season, is more of a miracle than it is a blueprint.

Utah is still fighting off the national pundits, ranked No. 6, but hanging on like Wile E. Coyote to the ledge of a cliff.

The SEC, meanwhile, continues to play eight league games, in a 14-team league, and reaps those rewards.

It’s as simple as this: playing an extra league game puts you at more risk. It doesn’t mean LSU, Georgia and Alabama aren’t great, it just means they always have more ping-pong balls in the lottery can.

Playing an extra league game means you take more losses "in league," every year.

Take last weekend, please. The Pac 12’s top two teams, No. 6 Oregon and No. 7 Utah, played risky road games at Arizona State and Arizona.

Only Utah survived. Down South, the SEC played its annual “Patty Cake Clambake.”

Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State outscored Western Carolina, Samford, UT Martin, E. Tennessee and Abilene Christian by the combined score of 251 to 17.

Playing eight leagues in a 14-team leagues means Alabama can miss Georgia and Florida this year and pile up six SEC wins versus opponents with a 27-38 overall record.

This isn’t illegal, it just needs to be noted.

When someone says "but Alabama's beat a quality 7-4 Texas A&M," it's appropriate to point out that five of those seven wins came against Texas State, Lamar, Arkansas, Ole Miss and UTSA.

The SEC and ACC play eight-game league schedules and have won every national title since 2014. The Pac 12, Big Ten and Big 12 all play nine-game schedules now. No school that has played a nine-game league schedule has ever won a national title.

It’s not impossible, it’s just harder and the streak could be broken with Ohio State this year…we’ll see.

The idea when the CFP started, though, was that everyone would eventually get on the same page. That hasn’t happened.

The ACC and SEC will continue to have an advantage for as long as they play one fewer league game per year. That doesn’t mean Alabama and Clemson have not deserved to win every national title since 2014—the system just makes it easier.

Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham reiterated Monday that every conference should be playing the by the same rules.

“It doesn’t really matter what the number is,” Whittingham said at his weekly press conference, “as long as the entire country is in the same boat…It needs to be equitable and it needs to be uniform because there is so much at stake. There is so much at stake with how the playoff are structured right not and it is just not a level playing field when you have a different amount of conference games.”

The problem is no one can dictate change. There is no NCAA Football Czar and the SEC and ACC are not going to play nine games and the Pac 12 isn’t going back to eight games. That’s right, the Pac played eight until the 2006 season.

We’re at a stalemate that will continue for the foreseeable future.

Utah, despite winning seven straight games and dominating its last two Pac opponents, 84-10, is still in the underdog in a lot of national playoff conversations.

Utah has no time to get caught up in idle chit-chat, though, or it will end up like Oregon. The Utes have not yet even clinched the Pac South.

To win the division and stay in playoff contention, Utah has to beat Colorado in Salt Lake City this week, then Oregon the following week in Santa Clara.

Utah should also root for Auburn to beat Alabama, Wisconsin to beat Minnesota and Oklahoma State to beat Oklahoma.

It's all roses and lollipops that Utah is still being talked about this close to Thanksgiving, but this is no way to run a playoff business.

The Utes might catch a break and get lucky, the way you hit a slot-machine jackpot in Las Vegas.

In this system, though, the "House" always has the advantage.

And the House is the SEC.


Chris Dufresne