Georgia coach Kirby Smart celebrates after the Bulldogs won the College Football Playoff title game against Alabama on Jan. 10 in Indianapolis. Georgia won 33-18. (Darron Cummings / Associated Press)
For too long, the Pac-12 has served as an almost-willing national punching bag. During the weekend, as passionate college football observers processed the news that the College Football Playoff would not expand before the 2026 season, it was only natural that the sport’s opinion shapers assigned the proverbial clown suit to the West Coast’s Power Five conference.
Once again, based on the narrative being spun from the middle of the country, the league set itself up for ridicule. Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff had been trumpeting his full support of expansion, his flexibility in hammering out all the minutiae, and yet, when it came to voting, he had said no, along with the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conferences. So the Pac-12, which hasn’t been to the four-team playoff since the 2016 season, had somehow refused more access, risking that it might go a full decade without a representative?
Some of the criticism is fair. Some of it isn’t. But, before we get stuck in the same old pattern of picking on the Pac-12, how about we pose a different question: What if the biggest loser in the failure to expand the CFP was the conference with the most to gain — the one that had been pulling the strings harder than any other the last two-plus years to push the number to 12?
Finally, the Southeastern Conference, winner of the last three national championships and 12 of 16 overall, couldn’t bully its way to victory.
Now, a disclaimer: I believe expansion could be great for college football, and of course it would very much benefit the Pac-12 to have more teams invited to the event. The point I’m about to make is that…