What Sort of College Football Playoff Will We Get?


The eleven college football conference commissioners will conclude their meetings today in Hollywood, Florida, hopefully with two or three playoff proposals in hand. Numerous mainstream reporters (due a Google search on you’ll find plenty of great reports) are claiming that one proposal (maybe the leading proposal) will be four-team event with the semifinal played in the existing BCS bowl sites and then a national championship that is bid out to competing cities.

More questions abound than answers at this point, but SEC commissioner Mike Slive compared the discussions to a marathon where 20 of the 26.2 miles are already complete. That’s pretty significant progress. Tomorrow’s news articles should be fascinating to debate.

From everything I’ve read (and I’ve read WAY too much), I’m going to default to my first stab at what the playoff would look like. The Big Ten Plan (as it’s being called) with home-field advantage for seeds 1 and 2 seems to be dead, but I think my initial dates for the games still work just fine.

Here’s what we could be seeing.

  • The Friday after Christmas (or the Monday if Christmas is on the NFL-dominated weekend) would be semifinal games. The current bowl sites would rotate through hosting them (Fiesta, Sugar, Orange, and a new addition, the Cotton). The two non-hosting bowls would be played on January 1st along with the Rose Bowl.
  • The Rose Bowl, although omitted from the playoff puzzle, would be given back its sovereignty. It would be able to remain on New Year’s Day and would feature the Pac-12 and Big Ten teams of its choice. No AQ teams (like Texas in 2004) or non-AQ teams (like TCU in 2010) would ever spoil its purity. The other non-hosting major bowls can choose whichever teams they like but expect to see traditional alliances come back into play (Sugar with the SEC, Cotton with the Big 12, Orange with the ACC).
  • The losers of the playoff’s seasons will end, but the winners will play on the Monday after the first round of the NFL playoffs. The site will be bid out to competing cities like the Super Bowl and will showcase some northern cities (something the current CFB post-season does not feature).

Even if the supposed format above holds true, there are still numerous questions.

  • Who gets in? Will it be a pure top four tournament (as the SEC wants)? Or will it include conference champs only (as the Pac-12 wants)?
  • If it uses some kind of a poll to determine teams’ worth, what will the criteria be?
  • Will there be double hosting for semifinal sites? The way to make the most money would be to allow the bowl site to be used before New Year's and the actual bowl to be played after New Year's. So, expect to see the semifinals before New Year's, the two non-hosting bowls and the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, and the two hosting bowls just a day or two after New Year's. No other bowls will be placed after New Year's, as the commissioners want to bring their post-season back closer to January 1.

Nothing is going to be decided soon, but the conversation is sure to heat up after today’s meetings. The optimism from all sides is burgeoning, even if the conflicts are as imposing as ever. SEC vs. Big 10. Rose Bowl vs. the Playoff. BCS bowl sites vs. Neutral Site. The conclusion to these conflicts should give the college football entryway into a new and exciting post-season.

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