Former UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel warns against new playoff system

Former UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said he's worried that with five power conferences and only four college playoff spots, the Pac-12 might get left out.
Former UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said he’s worried that with five power conferences and only four college playoff spots, the Pac-12 might get left out.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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For years, college football fans clamored for a playoff system to replace the dreaded Bowl Championship Series. That BCS system seemed arbitrary, based on computer and human logic that didn’t make sense to anyone at times.

The final solution, according to former UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel, might not be as close as we all thought, though.

Neuheisel, now an analyst for the Pac-12 Network, said after UCLA’s practice on Thursday that because only four teams are selected to compete in the championship, and because there are five power conferences, someone deserving is going to be left out of the picture.


And he’s worried that it’s going to be a Pac-12 team that’s left out. The conference is beyond loaded at the quarterback position, and is better offensively as a whole than its been in a long time.

Because of this, and because the Pac-12 is the only conference in the country with nine conference games plus a championship game, Neuheisel is worried that there are too many bullets to dodge to get to the championship game unscathed.

“My concern is that the committee of 13, especially in a year one, is going to want to be really politically correct and not go out and leave a one-loss team out to supplant a two-loss team,” Neuheisel said. “I worry about that, even though I think it would absolutely be the right thing to do, because whoever emerges from this conference as a champion has the salt to be in the final four.”

There is some talk that a team with two losses could still make the playoff due to strength of schedule, but like Neuheisel said, it puts a lot of pressure on the committee to make a decision for the playoff based on more than just wins and losses.

The strength-of-schedule issues, something that existed before the playoff and will exist during it, boil down to the idea of uniformity. Every conference has different credos when it comes to scheduling.

The SEC allows teams to schedule FCS opponents in mid-season, games that are essentially byes for the best teams in the country. The Big 12 has tough non-conference games, but the teams don’t play in a conference championship. So on and so forth.


According to Neuheisel, this is why a team from the Pac-12 should make the playoff even if the conference champion has two losses.

“It should be apples to apples if we are going to leave it at four teams,” Neuheisel said. “That eventually I think is going to be the tipping point that will make it go to eight. Then, everybody’s conference champion can get in and their guys can pick however that conference champion is picked.”

This is all a moot point if the Pac-12 champion has less than two losses, but the reality is, one conference champion is not going to make the college football playoff. It could be a big issue come December, or it could not, but Neuheisel wants to make it very clear that the Pac-12 should be invited to the playoff party

“Hopefully the committee is listening to me, wherever you are, eating your boxed lunches,” Neuheisel said. “You’ll realize that no matter who emerges from this conference, they deserve a seat from that table, because this is going to be a dog-eat-dog world and there’s no schedule that even comes close to matching it.”

Follow Everett Cook on Twitter @everettcook