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Should only in-division games count when deciding division champions?

UCLA would have been playing in the Pac-12 Championship Game had a more appropriate format been used.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

I know I am making this argument too late, but it just struck me. It is pretty simple. College football conferences should only factor in-division records when calculating who plays in conference championship games.

The current format of choosing conference championship game participants by overall conference records is flawed in a conference where you do not play every team in the conference, but I just don't think it was made obvious at least to me until this season in the Pac-12. I am a big proponent of sucking it up and acknowledging that nothing in life is fair, but this one just seems like something that could be easily fixed.

This is how the standings would look in 2014 with what I am thinking and I think it paints a more accurate portrait of the balance in power in the divisions.


Oregon 5-0

Stanford 4-1

Washington 3-2

Cal 2-3

Washington State 1-4

Oregon State 0-5


UCLA 4-1

Arizona 3-2

Arizona State 3-2

Utah 3-2

USC 2-3

Colorado 0-5

The current format gives too much power to which teams a team draws from the other division. For example, UCLA was 4-1 against teams from the South with a +61 point difference against the other big five teams (Arizona, Arizona State, USC & Utah) while Arizona was just 3-2 against the other big five teams with a +27 point difference.

Just looking at these head-to-head South games, it looks pretty clear that UCLA was the most-deserving Pac-12 South team, however, it was their scheduling/performance against the North that cost them. UCLA drew the North's two toughest teams in Oregon and Stanford, and while Stanford was not the same team they had been the prior two seasons, drawing the Cardinal put the Bruins at a disadvantage to South teams that got to avoid them.

This is only a minor disadvantage since Stanford was not quite the team they have been recently, but imagine a situation like the one we saw a few years ago when Utah avoided Top 5-level Oregon and Stanford teams happening again with a better team. A team could easily underperform in its own division, but jump teams that lost games to elite non-division opponents that they themselves simply avoided.

That situation would result in some serious controversy, and then I think people might have to take a long, hard look at only considering in-division games when deciding a division champion in the Pac-12.