Apr 19, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California head coach Steve Sarkisian during the Southern California Spring Game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Sarkisian: Nine-Game Conference Schedule Doesn't Hurt USC

Much of the talk during the Pac-12 spring teleconference centered around the SEC’s decision to continue playing an eight-game conference schedule, which has been accused of creating a built-in advantage. However, USC head coach Steve Sarkisian balked at the idea that the Pac-12’s nine-game schedule puts his Trojans at any sort of disadvantage.

Sarkisian’s comments followed those of Stanford head coach David Shaw, who was highly critical of the SEC’s unwillingness to play the extra conference foe that the Pac-12 and Big-12 already play. The Big-10 is slated to move to a nine-game conference schedule in 2016.

According to Shaw, the advantage the SEC gains by playing an extra out of conference game, even those against BCS opponents, is “bigger than people understand.”

Despite Sarkisian’s disagreement, which stems largely from the traditional USC mentality of seeking top competition, Shaw has a point. Conference games are generally more difficult than non-conference match ups because of the level of familiarity between teams. Big time upsets are far more likely to come from within the conference than without. As a result, conferences like the Pac-12 and Big-12 have been described as cannibalizing themselves, with lower teams spoiling the party for the conferences higher ranked outfits.

On top of that, playing an extra conference game means that up to half of the schools in a conference are guaranteed an extra loss, which isn’t the case in conferences which play more games out of conference. In a system which awards schools with a bowl game for a .500 record or better, one extra loss can have a big impact on the bowl slate.

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