So, what do you think of the news that the conference chiefs finally are proposing a four-team college football playoff — and after years of shying away from the p-word they’re coming right out and calling it that?
There’s a lot still to be decided, including how the four teams will be selected, where and when the two semifinals and a championship game will be played, and what role the current BCS bowl games (Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar) will play in the new system. But it seems almost certain that with the expiration of the current BCS arrangement after the 2013 season, college football fans will at last get what they’ve wanted for so long: a playoff.
Whether they continue with the BCS name or not, the most likely outcome will be two playoff games rotating among the current BCS bowls and then the national championship game staged by the high bidder (not necessarily one of the BCS bowls, meaning Atlanta might be able to land the game).
The commissioners will finalize the format first, probably by July, and then decide exactly how to pick the teams (whether by polls/computers or a selection committee).
I like the idea of the bowls still being involved. What can I say, I’m a traditionalist. With the rotation plan, the other BCS bowl games not involved in the semifinals would still host traditional New Year’s games, and presumably the lesser bowls would continue to operate pretty much the way they do now.
They’re also talking about college football “reclaiming” New Year’s Day and concentrating the games more in late December, with the national championship winding up by the first week of January, which I think is a good idea. Aside from the national title game, the major bowls should be played on Jan. 1. (Like I said, I’m a traditionalist.)
A playoff followed by a championship game somewhere else does have its complications, of course — particularly the travel demands on fan bases. But that’s going to be the case with any sort of playoff arrangement.
As for how they pick the teams for the playoff, I’m hoping that SEC chief Mike Slive prevails and they go with the four highest ranked teams instead of the Big 10’s preference for limiting the playoff to conference champs. I think this year, as frustrating as it was for everyone outside the SEC, proved that the best team doesn’t always win their conference. Bama was definitely the best team in 2011.
Of course, going with the top four teams in the polls wouldn’t necessarily always mean getting the four hottest or most competitive teams. UGA fans remember 2007, when Georgia finished the season as one of the two hottest teams but was ranked by the poll voters as No. 5 (because it didn’t win its division, much less its conference) and would have been left out of a four-team playoff.
Anyway, I like putting the playoffs in bowls as opposed to having the higher-ranked team host it at their home stadium, a PAC 10 proposal that appears to be pretty much dead now. A playoff game would be a logistical nightmare for some college towns and the weather might be a factor. While playing for home-field advantage might juice the regular season some, having playoff games at neutral sites in a domed stadium seems like the best and fairest approach.
Thankfully, that ridiculous idea that was floated about having the Rose Bowl pit the Big 10 and PAC 10 winners separately from the playoff and still have a shot at the national title game was shot down.
Also of interest is that the commissioners decided that under the new plan there’ll be no automatic qualifier conferences, which is likely to be the death knell for the Big East, a conference that has barely held itself together and has managed to attract new members like Boise State strictly because it previously had the AQ designation.
BCS executive director Bill Hancock called the playoff proposal “a seismic change,” and he’s right.
But in this case change is good. Assuming they don’t mess it up at the last minute — or the school presidents, who must approve the plan, don’t go off the deep end — this looks like a very positive step forward for college football (which many of us already think is the best sport around). The regular season will not be devalued (as it would with an eight-team or 16-team playoff) and will come to an end with four teams in contention for the national title instead of just two.
Plus getting rid of the increasingly unwieldy restrictions on the BCS bowls will put an end to nobody-cares bowl matchups like Virginia Tech-Cincinnati or Oklahoma-Connecticut.
All in all, I think there’s much to like about this move. How about you?
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg