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How a Theoretical Big-Pac-20 Could Handle Scheduling

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The recent summit between the Big 12’s Bob Bowlsby and the Pac-12’s George Kliavoff has sparked both hope and consternation across the college football world. Kliavoff could possibly play Roosevelt to Bowlsby’s Churchill as the as-yet-untapped full potential of the Pac-12 could be a game-changer for the Big 12, just as the United States’ entrance into World War II was a game-changer for the brave but battered United Kingdom.  

HCS has been all over this developing story from the beginning. Derek Duke has offered his thoughts on the pros and cons of a merger; Matthew Postins has discussed the easy way to merge the two leagues; and I’ve taken a look at how a scheduling alliance might work.  With those three pieces as a backdrop, let’s take a closer look at how scheduling might work in a Big-Pac-20 conference.  

 

As Postings points out, the conference could easily be divided into two 10-team divisions – a West/Pacific Time division and an East/Mountain, Central, Eastern Time division. From there each division could play a round-robin schedule of nine divisional games. This is a good starting point, but it poses some interesting challenges. 

First, playing nine divisional games leaves very little room for cross-divisional games, and one of main points of a merger beyond increasing inventory for potential telecast partners is to get Pacific Time teams games in Texas and the Central Time Zone and current Big 12 schools into marquee matchups with Pacific Time teams such as USC and Oregon. Second, current Pac-12 teams who might face banishment to the East division, such as Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Arizona State, are unlikely that this isn’t in their best interests as they currently enjoy games versus USC and UCLA every year as members of the Pac-12 South.  

An at least partial solution to this problem would be to further break the proposed East and West divisions down into five-team quads roughly based on geography. In this scenario, each team would the play its four quad rivals, up to six cross-quad opponents, and two non-conference games.  

Here’s an example of how the quads might look: 

Southeast 

Arizona 

Baylor 

Oklahoma State 

TCU 

Texas Tech 

Note: This keeps the Texas schools and Oklahoma State together, but a pitfall is that it separates Arizona and Arizona State. 

 

Northeast 

Colorado 

Iowa State 

Kansas 

K-State 

West Virginia 

Note: This is the best travel scenario for WVU; plus, it creates a John Denver Rivalry between CU and WVU, and unites CU with old Big 8 foes ISU, KU, and K-State.   

Northwest 

Cal 

Oregon 

Oregon State  

Washington 

Washington State 

Southwest 

Arizona State 

Stanford 

UCLA  

USC 

Utah 

As noted above, separating Arizona and Arizona State isn’t ideal. Perhaps they could have a “protected rivalry” so they would play each other every in the cross-quad portion of the schedule.  

As I proposed above, each team would play a round-robin schedule within its quad and as many as six cross-quad games with cross-quad matchups changing every two years so that each team would face all 15 cross-quad rivals over seven seasons. While playing ten conference games limits non-conference opportunities, I like having six cross-quad games because it gives each team two games against each of other three quads every season.  

 

Here’s an example of a full schedule: 

Southeast Quad 

Arizona plays Baylor (SE), Oklahoma State (SE), TCU (SE), Texas Tech (SE), Arizona State (SW), Stanford (SW), Cal (NW), Oregon (NW), Colorado (NE), and Iowa State (NE). 

Baylor plays Arizona (SE), Oklahoma State (SE), TCU (SE), Texas Tech (SE), Stanford (SW), UCLA (SW), Oregon (NW), Oregon State (NW), Iowa State (NE), and Kansas (NE).  

Oklahoma State plays Arizona (SE), Baylor (SE), TCU (SE), UCLA (SW), USC (SW), Oregon State (NW), Washington (NW), Kansas (NE), and K-State (NE). 

TCU plays USC (SW), Utah (SW), Washington (NW), Washington State (NW), K-State (NE), and WVU (NE). 

Texas Tech plays: Utah (SW), Arizona State (SW), Washington State (NW), Cal (NW), WVU (NE) and Colorado (NE).  

Northeast Quad 

Colorado plays Arizona State (SW), Stanford (SW), Cal (NW), Oregon (NW), Arizona (SE), and Texas Tech (SE). 

Iowa State plays Stanford (SW), UCLA (SW), Oregon (NW), Oregon State (NW), Arizona (SE), and Baylor (SE).  

Kansas plays UCLA (SW), USC (SW), Oregon State (NW), Washington (NW), Baylor (SE), and Oklahoma State (SE). 

K-State plays USC (SW), Utah (SW), Washington (NW), Washington State (NW), Oklahoma State (SE), and TCU (SE). 

West Virginia plays Utah (SW), Arizona State (SW), Washington State (NW), Cal (NW), TCU (SE), and Texas Tech (SE).  

Southwest Quad 

Arizona State plays Cal (NW), Oregon (NW), Arizona (SE), Texas Tech (SE), Colorado (NE), and West Virginia (NE). 

Stanford plays Oregon (NW), Oregon State (NW), Colorado (NE), Iowa State (NE), Arizona (SE), and Baylor (SE). 

UCLA plays Oregon State (NW), Washington (NW), Iowa State (NE), Kansas (NE), Baylor (SE), and Oklahoma State (SE). 

USC plays Washington (NW), Washington State (NW), Kansas (NE), K-State (NE), Oklahoma State (SE), and TCU (SE). 

Utah plays Washington State (NW), Cal (NW), K-State (NE), Colorado (NE), TCU (SE), and Texas Tech (SE). 

Northwest Quad 

Cal plays Arizona State (SW), Utah (SW), Colorado (NE), West Virginia (NE), Arizona (SE), and Texas Tech (SE).   

Oregon plays Arizona State (SW), Stanford (SW), Colorado (NE), Iowa State (NE), Arizona (SE), and Baylor (SE). 

Oregon State plays Stanford (SW), UCLA (SW), Iowa State (NE), Kansas (NE), Baylor (SE), and Oklahoma State (SE). 

Washington plays UCLA (SW), USC (SW), Kansas (NE), K-State (NE), Oklahoma State (SE), and TCU (SE). 

Washington State plays USC (SW), Utah (SW), K-State (NE), West Virginia (NE), TCU (SE), and Texas Tech (SE).  

This arrangement has several drawbacks in the that it will take seven seasons for each team to meet every other team at least once and eight seasons for every team to play a home and away series with every other team in the league, but that’s the price you pay for having 20 teams in one conference. Under a ten-team divisional model, with at most one cross-divisional game a year, it would take two decades for every team in the conference to play a home and way series with every team in the opposite division. Obviously, having four five-team quads is the best option.  

Deciding a Champion 

If possible, the best championship scenario would consist of the four quad champions playing a two-game mini-playoff. The quad champions would be seeded by conference record, and in the event of identical record among two or more teams, CFB Playoff ranking would be the first tiebreaker with additional tiebreakers to be used in the event two quad champs with identical records are unranked.  

While a mini-playoff and a 14-game regular season for the two finalists would likely require NCAA approval, I am willing to guess that the SEC is going to do something very similar, and NCAA approval will not be an issue. Having a mini-playoff would further raise the conference’s profile and develop its brand.   

A Non-Conference Scheduling Proposal 

Finally, with only two non-conference per year under this model, the Big-Pac-20 would need to make the most of non-conference opportunities, and because the entire point of a merger would be to raise the collective’s telecast value and exposure, I believe two simple rules regarding scheduling non-conference games should be enacted: 

  1. No games versus FCS teams.  
  1. At least one non-conference game must be against Notre Dame, BYU, a service academy, or a team from the ACC, Big 10, or SEC.    

These two simple rules would further sweeten the pot for any potential telecast partners because TV and streaming providers will be assured that 1) there will be at least twenty Big-Pac-20 games featuring a non-conference opponent from a power conference and/or with a national following, and 2) there will not be any Big-Pac-20 games featuring relatively unknown FCS schools. The additional exposure generated by these rules would further raise the conference’s profile and be a boon to recruiting.  

At the very least, the ban against playing FCS teams should be adopted. Afterall, the Allies of World War II didn’t join forces to wage war on Andorra and Lichtenstein.   

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