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Pac-12 Announces New Football Championship Game Format, Future Scheduling TBD

The conference will no longer pit the North and South Division winners against each other in the championship game, instead rewarding the top-two teams in the Pac-12.

The Pac-12 has announced it will be reformatting its premier postseason matchup, and that more changes could be on the way.

After expanding to 12 schools in 2011, the Pac-12 introduced its Football Championship Game, pitting the winners of the North and South Divisions against each other at the end of the regular season. That will no longer be the case starting in 2022, as the conference announced that the championship game will take place between the two teams with the highest in-conference winning percentages, regardless of division.

The North and South Divisions will stay intact in 2022, as will the schedule rotation based on said divisions, but scheduling scenarios beyond this season remain under review.

The announcement from the Pac-12 came just minutes after the NCAA Division I Council announced that it would be relaxing restrictions for FBS conference championship games, instead leaving formats up to each conference.

According to Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff, the move was made to help Pac-12 programs earn more consistent invitations to the College Football Playoff.

“Our goal is to place our two best teams in our Pac-12 Football Championship Game, which we believe will provide our conference with the best opportunity to optimize CFP invitations and ultimately win national championships,” Kliavkoff said in a statement released by the conference. “Today’s decision is an important step towards that goal and immediately increases both fan interest in, and the media value of, our Football Championship Game.”

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Having a conference champion play a top-two conference foe would theoretically give that conference champion a stronger strength of schedule than if they had played a division champion, depending on how the standings shake out in any particular season.

As part of their press release on the matter, the Pac-12 included a chart that went through each of the 11 championship games and detailed how they would have been different in this new format. The 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2021 championship matchups would have remained the same, but five would have been different.

UCLA made the Pac-12 Championship Game in both 2011 and 2012, but Stanford and Oregon would have taken their place in those contests, respectively, had the divisions not been the deciding factor. Without those appearances, the Bruins wouldn't have made a single conference title game had this format been in place from the beginning, knocking them down alongside Cal and Oregon State as the only programs never to make one. 

In 2015, Oregon would have replaced USC, while Washington State would have replaced Utah in 2017. Colorado would have taken Washington's place in 2020.

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