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Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Ulterior motives boost boasting

By Heather Dinich
ESPN.com

Stanford coach David Shaw concedes he has no idea if anyone out there is actually listening -- anyone, that is, on the new 13-member College Football Playoff selection committee.

And yet Shaw -- and many other coaches across the country -- are prepared this season to stand up and cheer for their respective conferences.

Louder than ever.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops might call this "propaganda." Some might call it politicking. Maybe it's simply the re-emergence of good ol' fashioned conference pride (Remember that? Before realignment redefined tradition?). Whatever it is, get ready to roll up your sleeves and join the fun. Coaches are already beating their chests and promoting their conferences just like they'd pitch their programs to a five-star recruit. With strength of schedule one of the factors that will be considered in determining the top four teams, it's a not-so-subtle way to make sure the committee knows just how deep their respective leagues go.

David Shaw
David Shaw is ready to tell everyone -- especially the playoff committee -- just how good the Pac-12 will be this season.

"No one wants to be left out," Shaw said. "Gosh, if we have a chance to get in, I want to make sure people understand how hard our road has been to get where we are, and if it's close between us and somebody else that we deserve to get that nod. It looks like a lot of conference pride, which to a certain degree it is, but it's also self-serving. Just in case whoever is talking, if their team is on that bubble, they want to make sure they've made as much noise as possible about how hard their road has been in order to hopefully get that nod and be that next team that's put into the four-team playoff."

In spite of its two losses last season, Stanford probably would have been considered for a spot in the playoff thanks to a schedule that included six ranked opponents. Is the Pac-12 deeper than the ACC? One of the selection committee's most difficult jobs this season will be judging the teams, not the conference reputations that often hinge on the best teams. But Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher says name one conference that's not top-heavy.

"It's all perception and there's more pub out there on them," Fisher said of the other Power Five conferences. "Our league is as good as any of those leagues. I think they're all good leagues, I don't mean to [disrespect] them, but I think they're no better than ours. ... If you hear something enough, you believe it."

The defending national champs no doubt raised the ACC's profile last fall, and the Seminoles are again favored to win it all. Nobody could possibly predict, though, how this season might unfold through the eyes of the committee. Should Florida State teeter on the verge of the playoff, don't be surprised to hear Fisher talking up Atlantic Division rivals Clemson, Louisville and the rest of the ACC.

"You've got to be honest," Fisher said. "When you see the situation occurring, you've got to voice your opinion. If you've got an opinion, it should be heard. I don't like to politick, but if I see something's wrong, or I don't agree, you know me -- I'll be the first one to say it."

Fisher was one of the first to say the Big 12 needs a title game. Stoops says his league is tough enough.

"Think about it: Mathematically we play everybody, they [the SEC] don't play everybody," Stoops said late last month during the Big 12 coaches' tour of ESPN. "For instance, Texas A&M. They play eight conference games.

"They have Lamar, Rice, SMU and Louisiana Monroe. Boy, those are all a bunch of toughies, right? We have nine conference games. So if [Texas A&M] was fortunate enough to be in the SEC championship game, they would play nine conference games at the end of the day and they have all those four 'toughies' to go with it."

The Big 12 is the only Power Five conference that doesn't have a league championship game, but the ACC and SEC recently voted to remain at an eight-game conference schedule. There is no limit on how many teams a conference can have in the College Football Playoff, and USC coach Steve Sarkisian said the Pac-12 is deep enough to have a realistic shot at getting two teams in.

"I think it's important to point out the path that we take to try to get to this point, the fact we are playing nine conference games and the fact we do have a conference championship game," Sarkisian said. "I know we haven't had a team in that BCS Championship Game, but if you look over the last 10 years, and the top six teams in the country at the end of the polls, we've always had one, if not two teams ranked in there. Our conference is really going to benefit from the playoff because of how much we do to beat each other up."

The selection committee might not be listening -- but it will be watching, very closely. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said there are two main things he'd like to see from the committee: "not being biased and being consistent" in its rankings.

"Sometimes you have a tendency to put your teams from your conference in there and vote other teams down to try and impact it," Dantonio said of the coaches' poll. "I think that happens. Everybody's got a favorite."

And the coaches will be sure to let everyone know who theirs is this fall.