Todd Graham discusses ‘un-American’ scheduling, outlines 8-team playoff

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TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - College football took a major step into the modern era with the rollout of a four-team playoff system last season. By combining a four-team tournament along with the major bowls, the sport was able to find a balance between tradition and competition.

To Arizona State head coach Todd Graham, that was a long overdue move.

"That's one of the things I'm pretty passionate about. I love this game," said Graham. "I respect this game. I think keeping the bowls intact, the major bowls, the pageantry, we can't lose that. At the same time, I'm thrilled that we have this playoff system that we've gone to with four teams."

However, Graham does not think that the playoff system fixes everything. In his view, it highlights an existing imbalance in scheduling that ultimately produces a disservice to the fans.

"Here's the issue with college football. It should be equal for everybody," said Graham. "Everybody should play nine conference games. Why nine games instead of eight? Because you play one more conference game that your fans want to see instead of scheduling a team that no one wants to see because you're scheduling wins and don't want to be out of the four-team playoff."

The scheduling disparity has been a hot topic around the sport in recent years. For example, the Pac-12 schedules nine conference games each year, while the SEC has just eight. That practice results in major powers like Alabama and Auburn annually playing late-season games against teams such as Charleston Southern and Idaho. The Big Ten is moving to nine-game conference scheduling in 2017.

In his quest to have his program take the next step into the national spotlight, Graham's Sun Devils are walking the walk with their non-conference slate. During his tenure, they have battled Missouri, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame twice. ASU has future games set with Texas A&M (2015), Texas Tech (2016-17), Michigan State (2018-19), BYU (2020-21), and LSU (2022-23).

"We need to consider what the fans want," Graham said. "Fans don't want to see you schedule four easy wins, then get two conference wins to get into a bowl game. That's un-American."

So what changes would Graham like to see be made?

"In the future, I would love to see us expand to an eight-team playoff and keep the major bowls intact," Graham said. "Every conference champion gets an automatic bid. You'd have five automatic bids and three at-large. Here's how that would affect fans. We schedule A&M, Michigan State, LSU. You'd see us playing Oklahoma, Texas. You'd see those games because non-conference doesn't have a bearing on who gets into the playoff."

Under Graham's proposal, eliminating that fourth non-conference game will level the playing field. It also will help entice teams into high-profile match-ups with other powers. Not only would the national attention provide a boost, a victory would be a significant lift for their at-large resume. If not, their conference title and playoff hopes would remain intact.

More incentive would mean more big games. More big games would make it a better sport. College football is already more prosperous than it has ever been, so the potential is enticing.

"I love the fact we have a playoff, and I'm excited about it," Graham said. "I'm thrilled we're in the Pac-12 Conference and affiliated with the Granddaddy of Them All. We should respect the tradition and history of the game. Last year, with that playoff, the game has never been stronger. Going to eight would really, really make it better."

Will college football ever increase the playoff field? Graham thinks so.

"I think you are going to see that in the near future."

Be sure to tune in to 3TV's Instant Replay this Sunday April 26 at 9:30 p.m. for the full interview with Graham, as he goes in-depth on a number of topics with Tim Ring