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ASU’s Todd Graham wants nine conference games for everyone

For years, the Pac-10 conference was a true football round-robin.

With 12 games on each team’s schedule, three were against non-conference opponents while the remaining nine came against conference competition.

It was simple, and there was never really any bickering about whom the conference champion was despite the lack of a conference championship game.

In 2011, the conference added Colorado and Utah, became the Pac-12, split into two divisions and created a conference championship game.

The Pac-12 kept the schedule formula in place, effectively putting their member schools at a disadvantage against teams from the SEC and Big Ten, who play only eight conference games per year.

The idea of reducing the Pac-12 conference schedule by a game has been recently discussed, but Arizona State head coach Todd Graham likes things just the way they are — and would like to see others follow suit and add a ninth conference game.

“The way I would perceive things nationally is that you’d want an equal playing field for everybody,” Graham said during a Pac-12 coaches conference call Monday. “I’d like to see everybody in the country playing nine conference games and everybody in the country having a conference championship game.”

For instance, last year’s BCS champion Alabama played only two opponents from the SEC East last season — Missouri and Tennessee. That means when they were pounding overmatched non-conference foe Western Carolina 49-0 on November 17, they could have been playing a conference game against Georgia, Florida or South Carolina — all teams that finished ranked ninth or better in the season-ending AP poll. Certainly a slip-up against one of them would have cost the Crimson Tide a chance at another BCS Championship Game appearance.

“I just think that any time you’re involved in a playoff where you’re going to have four teams selected, it’s nice to have an equal playing field for everybody,” Graham said.

The College Football Playoff, which will feature four teams vying for the national championship, will begin in the 2014 season.

“I think the fans want to see a lot better quality games than people playing a whole bunch of I-AA or really weak non-conference games,” he said. “I think it improves the strength of schedule and I think it’s better for the fans and better for the schools as far as the revenue you’re generating.”