The SEC plays eight conference games. The ACC plays eight. The rest of the Power Five plays nine.

The SEC has made 10 appearances in the College Football Playoff. The ACC has made eight. The rest of the Power Five has made 12.

When folks start talking about conference scheduling, it’s always with the same endgame in mind. It’s no coincidence the SEC — which regularly features a mid-season cupcake contest for its top teams — has dominated the College Football Playoff while playing fewer conference games than its peers. The SEC is the toughest league in the country, arguably. It operates with that thought in mind.

The Big Ten, arguably the second strongest, has only made six appearances. Four of those six teams came in with a loss on the résumé. (A 6-0 Ohio State in 2020 was a fifth.)

It makes sense for a conference like the Pac-12 — which has only two CFP appearances and none since the 2016 season — to be open to dropping a league game.

And Merton Hanks, the Pac-12’s head of football ops and senior associate commissioner, told John Canzano on his radio show Wednesday they absolutely are.

“It’s difficult to get through a nine-game schedule unscathed,” Hanks told Canzano.

Canzano wrote the Pac-12 would likely need a scheduling partner to be in place before it lopped off a league game from the schedule, floating the ACC as a candidate. The ACC has been linked to the Pac-12 all summer long as a partner for a “loose partnership” that could bring about the kind of scheduling options we expected to see with The Alliance.

It’s a tough league, regardless of what those on the East Coast will say about it. Utah lost to Oregon State and Oregon lost to Stanford last season. Slip-ups happen.

The Pac-12 hasn’t sent an unbeaten team into the postseason since the 2010 Ducks.

Would the league be able to better insulate itself against those random upsets if its top teams were to play someone like, say, Austin Peay in November a week before a big rivalry game to conclude the regular season? It’s worth digging into. Sounds like the league office continues to do so.