Pac-12's road to the playoffs

March, 6, 2013
3/06/13
7:00
PM ET
When the new playoff system begins, no doubt scheduling is going to play a major role -- we hope -- in how the four teams are selected. Much of the selection process is still in wait-and-see mode, but ESPN Insider Travis Haney is looking at all of the conferences and breaking down which ones have the best road to the postseasonInsider.

As you'd expect, the SEC is all but assured to have its conference champion in the playoff -- and likely as one of the top two seeds.

Next up, the Pac-12, which Haney says has the best chance of any league to challenge the SEC. And, as Haney notes, the Pac-12 is likely the only other league capable of putting more than one team into the four-team race. At least in the immediate future.

Writes Haney:
Stanford and Oregon were 12-win teams a year ago, and it's obviously not a one-year thing with those programs -- even if the Ducks are entering the post-Chip Kelly era. Between Stanford's system and Oregon's recruiting of freakish athletes, and because they play different styles, there could conceivably be a year in which they do what Alabama and LSU did in 2011.

Or, both could at least potentially finish in the top four, given that that's easier to accomplish than constituting the top two. A loss to the other, like Oregon's to Stanford last season, would not be nearly as damning in regard to the four-team bracket.

Others from the Pac-12 could break through to get in, too. UCLA has overtaken USC in L.A. for the time being, but if Lane Kiffin can get through this scholarship stuff, there will be a fair fight. Between coveted recruits and exciting systems, the Arizona schools and Washington have earmarks of being on the rise. And did Oregon State just have one great season, or can Mike Riley sustain it?

Of course, there are many details still to be worked out. How much will nonconference scheduling play a role? Will leagues that play nine-game conference schedules be looked at more favorably than the eight-gamers?

George Schroeder of "USA Today" recently examined what the selection committee might look like and some of the criteria said committee will be weighing.
There is emerging consensus that the committee will have 14 to 20 members. Each FBS conference will have a representative — likely drawn from a pool of former administrators, though retired coaches might also be considered — along with several "at-large" representatives who could include retired media members. Football experience will be emphasized ...

College football has traditionally been dominated by polls, which are driven by wins — and more important, losses. The selection committee will instead be charged with deeper deliberation: strength of schedule, head-to-head results, conference championships, injuries, and so on.

We still have one more year of the BCS system, so even though two Pac-12 teams are expected to start the 2013 season in the top 10 (Stanford and Oregon), it's just speculation at this point as to how a playoff might shake out. But consider this, Stanford and Oregon fans -- in 2014 Kevin Hogan and Marcus Mariota will be in their third year as starters. Oregon RBs Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner will be very experienced. Stanford's touted offensive line class from 2012 will be in its second and third year as starters. Both teams could compete for a BCS title this year. But both will also be in a nice position when playoff time rolls around.

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