- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Washington fans: Go here. Soak it up. Take in the glory of Mississippi State.
(At this point, we'd encourage Mississippi State fans to turn away. Just as we are supposed to love the sinner but hate the sin, we love you but not your schedule).
The Bulldogs' best win this year was over Middle Tennessee, a team that lost to McNeese State. Its four SEC wins came against teams that went a combined 14-34.
Arizona, you beat Oklahoma State, Washington and USC. Arizona State, you beat Arizona. USC, you beat Arizona State and Washington. Washington, you beat Stanford and Oregon State. Heck, Arizona's win over Toledo and Washington's over San Diego State are better than anything Mississippi State did this year.
Each of you, I suspect, would pound Mississippi State. The Bulldogs, bless their hearts, aren't very good.
Ah, but the Bulldogs are 8-4. So many college football fans -- and media members -- look at their eight wins and your seven and say, "Mississippi State is better than Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Washington."
This is a ramification of having 7-5 disease, which some years is also known as 6-6 disease.
What's the big deal? Well, Mississippi State is probably going to go to the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl where it will play an NC State team that just fired its coach, according to our friends with ESPN.com's SEC and ACC blogs. The Bulldogs should prevail -- NC State is, after all, the ACC's only bowl-eligible 7-5 team -- and load up a ninth victory.
And at 9-4, my guess is that the Bulldogs will end up ranked in the final AP poll. At 8-5, even after a nice bowl victory, Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Washington will be a a tougher sell.
The last 8-5 team to finished ranked was No. 23 Florida State in 2005.
The 14-team SEC has no 7-5 teams. The ACC has two. The Big East has one. The Big Ten has one.
Now go here. Look over the Big 12 standings. Notice something?
The Big 12 has one 7-5 team (Texas Tech) and one 6-6 team (Iowa State). If Oklahoma State loses to Baylor on Saturday, both will be 7-5. If West Virginia beats Kansas, as expected, and TCU loses to Oklahoma, as expected, the Big 12 will have two more 7-5 teams.
The 10-team Big 12 could finish the season with four 7-5 teams and one 6-6 team, or three 7-5 teams and two 6-6 teams.
Now, we get to brass tacks: What do the Big 12 and Pac-12 share that the ACC, SEC and Big Ten do not?
If you said a nine-game conference schedule, you should give yourself a hand, pin a rose on your nose and exclaim, "Larry Scott, can we please -- PLEASE! -- kill the nine-game conference schedule?!"
I know I write this like, I don't know, 43 times a year. But I'm writing this now because of this column from my buddy, David Ubben, the Big 12 blogger. David sounds a bit peeved that folks aren't giving his conference the respect it deserves because of that confounded nine-game conference schedule. He sounds a bit like me through the years.
By the way, Big 12, welcome to the frustration club on this one, though I do seem to recall many of you in past years waving away the nine-game versus eight-game argument when Pac-10 folks raised it. We won't bring up your weak nonconference scheduling right now because that would be a rude way to greet new members of the club.
The Big Ten actually thought about going to a nine-game schedule. It got wise, perhaps because a certain blogger explained the math.
The nine-game conference schedule was adopted by the Pac-10 in 2006. It's always been a terrible idea, but at least back then there was a concrete justification: The Pac-10 played a full round-robin schedule and therefore crowned a true champion because everyone played everyone else, even if some years a complicated tie-breaking system was needed.
Now all it does, by definition, is drop six extra losses into the conference every year and create scheduling imbalance, with some teams having five home conference games and some with four. It hurts the conference in both the human and computer polls.
The end result is this: Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Washington, instead of sitting at 8-4, become 7-5 teams with little hope of ending up nationally ranked after the bowl season.
Of course, the schedule doesn't deserve all the blame for a surfeit of Pac-12 mediocrity. If Arizona, USC and Washington took care of business last weekend in winnable games, the Pac-12 currently would have seven ranked teams with eight or more wins. That would have been great fun, though I'm sure giddy Sun Devils and Cougars fans couldn't care less about that.
College football will play its final year in the BCS system in 2013. The next season, we'll start a four-team playoff, which is likely the first step toward something bigger and far more lucrative.
Already the dynamic is changing. Where there were once six power conferences, there are now four. A great race for revenue is ahead as the conference pecking order is again redefined.
By playing nine conference games, the Pac-12 only will ensure it starts the race from behind.
2dChantel Jennings and Kevin Gemmell