The widespread consensus has been that the college football powers-that-be have shelved the "plus-one" -- a term sometimes used to simply mean a four-team playoff, but used in the recent BCS discussions to mean an extra game played for the national title after playing the bowl season as it currently exists -- in favor of a straight four-team bracketed playoff.
But Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott says the fallout from the new "Champions Bowl" could pull the plus-one back off of the shelf.
"I'd say before Friday that idea of a plus-one didn't have much traction, but I think the announcement on Friday's a game-changer," Scott told the Wall Street Journal Thursday, referring to the SEC's and Big 12's deal to pair their champions off in a new bowl game when possible.
"We're pretty far down the path on four-team playoff options," Scott said, "but given the very positive reaction to what the SEC and Big 12 have done, it's possible that (a plus-one) could get some traction."
Scott specified that such a plus-one would have to make allowances for other conferences to earn their way into the national title game, but that seems a fairly easy hurdle to clear--if an ACC or Big East team (don't laugh) ran the table, another set of polls or BCS-style standings taken after the bowls would likely place them in the top-two over a defeated "Big Four" team at the Rose or "Champions" Bowls.
In fact, it's the access for the heavyweights that would actually seem to be a bigger obstacle for the "plus-one." If both the SEC and Big 12 champions went undefeated and were lined up for a clear No. 1 vs. No. 2 battle, there's little doubt both leagues would rather see that matchup happen in a national title game rather than a "plus-one" preliminary ... even if it would send the ratings for the new bowl through the roof. The same goes for the Big Ten and Pac-12; if one of their teams earned their way into the national championship game (a la Oregon in 2010), it seems unlikely they'd want to risk sacrificing their title opportunity even on an altar as hallowed as the Rose Bowl.
That's not to say Scott is going to part ways with his Rose-obsessed Big Ten counterparts when it comes to Pasadena's future. He said that "going to a more anemic, corporate environment at a neutral site" shouldn't be an option for playoff semifinals. If the final choices come down to those neutral-site semifinals or the plus-one, it's easy to see which of those two does more to preserve the Rose Bowl's current status in college football.
Of course, it's also easy to see how with Scott and the Big Ten committed fully to making the Rose Bowl a semifinal and the SEC and Big 12 having already gotten the "no campus semifinals" concession, neither of those scenarios would qualify as the current front-runner. The smart money before the announcement of the "Champions Bowl" was a four-team playoff with the semifinals being hosted by the bowls, and we don't yet see any reason to place that smart money anywhere else.
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