What a wild ride it has been for college football over the past few months. Between NIL, the one-time transfer rule, and conference realignment there is so much that has changed in the sport we all know and love.
In a move that probably slipped in under the radar, the Pac-12 announced a change to their conference championship game on Wednesday. Starting this year, the two teams with the best conference winning percentage will meet in the title game, regardless of division. It is what the Big 12 uses to decide its championship game, it’s just the Pac-12 has two more members than them (for now).
There should not be very much pushback to this rule change. Anybody against the two best teams in the conference battling for the right to represent that conference in the Rose Bowl, or maybe even the CFP, is just someone that is mad that their favorite team will get squeezed out of the game at some point. This is an effort by the conference to get the best possible product on the field during championship weekend, something that we should not be opposed to.
The reality of the rule is that it actually won’t change much going forward. In the relatively short existence of the Pac-12 conference (as opposed to the Pac-10) this new rule would have changed just four of the 10 championship games that have taken place following full seasons. Technically, the championship game in the COVID-shortened season of 2020 would have also been affected but I am excluding that one because the season was so weird.
Two of those changes would have happened in 2011 and 2012, the first two years of the 12-team conference when Oregon and Stanford would have faced each other in the championship game. Those two schools also would have faced off in the 2015 version of the game as well. It should come as no surprise to anyone that those teams and years would be the biggest changes under this new rule because both the Ducks and the Cardinal were nationally relevant teams at that point and Oregon even played in a National Championship game.
The other change would have occurred in the 2018 season when the title game would have featured an Apple Cup rematch between Washington and Washington State. It would have been an immediate rematch because the two squads would have just played in their rivalry game in the final week of the season.
It is funny to note that all four of the new matchups would be matchups between two teams from the North division, even though the South division contains USC, Utah, and Arizona State. It is also worth noting that none of the revised matchups left out the actual winner of the conference championship game that year. So even if a new champion was crowned in any of those matchups, it wouldn’t be at the expense of the team that actually won it.
I think this rule change is a good thing for the Pac-12. While the idea of the two teams with the highest conference winning percentage meeting in the conference title game isn’t a completely new idea, they will be the first conference with divisions to implement that concept.
This move seems like something that would be done if fans were allowed to take over the commissioner position for the day. Having the best two teams play in the championship game is something I would associate more with trending on Twitter than actually being turned into a conference rule. Does this mean that the Pac-12 is finally listening to its fans and will give us the other things that we want? No. But it does mean that they may be listening to us more than before, which is a step in the right direction.
I doubt that we will see other power-five conferences following suit and adopting this same rule. Even though the matchups that this rule would create in the Big 10 and SEC would be super fun, it is probably a pipe dream to see in actuality.
But this could be the start of something. Whether it is this same rule or other changes that appease fans, hopefully, we see more conferences take action and make changes that lead to a better and more entertaining product on the field.