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Playing selection committee: BCS history proves picking four isn't easy

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Oregon should rejoice. Winning a Pac-12 title should strongly help earn a playoff berth. (Getty Images)  
Oregon should rejoice. Winning a Pac-12 title should strongly help earn a playoff berth. (Getty Images)  

There is still a lot that we don't know about the new four-team college football playoff that will begin after the 2014 regular season. But one thing I do know: Being a member of that selection committee will not be a job for the faint of heart or anyone whose address and cell phone are a matter of public record.

How difficult could it be, you ask? Just come up with some kind of metric to rank the teams and pick the top four. Ah, but remember that Jim Delany (emphasis on conference champs) of the Big Ten and Mike Slive (take Nos. 1-4) of the SEC wanted different things from this process and signed off only because they believed the selection committee would look after their interests. The committee was the thing that bridged the gap and ultimately made the deal possible.

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So, with a certain amount of trepidation, I will serve as your one-man selection committee for a day. I am only qualified because colleague Dennis Dodd was kind enough to include me on his panel. I'm going to pick the Football Final Four (I still like that name) for the past five years and will make a lot of people mad in the process. (Cincinnati, Utah, you have been warned).

But first, a couple of observations:

1: Dennis Dodd is dead on when he says it will be virtually impossible for the little guys to get into the FFF. First of all, all the little guys (Boise, TCU, Utah) have joined the Big Boy conferences (Boise, maybe not). So who's left? Houston? Since strength of schedule will play a big role in the selection process, it will be virtually impossible for those teams to get a schedule strong enough to merit selection into the top four.

Because the FFF will be chosen by a selection committee with written criteria and because the playoffs have been expanded from two teams to four and because there are no longer any automatic qualifiers (sorry, Big East), this new deal all but insures there are no anti-trust issues.

2: If I was in charge of a bowl game, any bowl game, I would be very, very nervous right now. With this move the commissioners are basically telling the bowls: We are not going to outsource our product to you anymore. You can host the game and sell some local sponsorships to help pay your bills. But we control everything else: TV, tickets, hotels etc. That's what the SEC/Big 12 Champions Game is all about. The Big Ten/Pac-12 have been doing that at the Rose Bowl forever. It will be the new financial model between conferences and bowls. And if the bowls want to be part of the New World Order and remain relevant, they will go along.

Let's get on with the picks. Like a selection committee, I used the BCS Standings as a tool but was not bound by them. I took conference championships into consideration but, quite honestly, all conferences are not created equal. Never have been, never will be. Here we go:

2011

 No. 1 LSU (SEC champ, 13-0) vs. No. 5 Oregon (Pac-12 champ, 11-2)
 No. 2 Alabama (at-large, 11-1) vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State (Big 12 champ, 11-1)

Oregon moved ahead of No. 4 Stanford (11-1) because it beat Stanford head to head and won the Pac-12. And the only reason Oregon had two losses was because it had the courage to schedule LSU as a non-conference game and should be rewarded for it. So conference championship, head-to-head, and strength of schedule go to Oregon. This is the perfect example of how a selection committee steps in, analyzes the data and makes a decision.

2010

 No. 1 Auburn (SEC champ, 13-0) vs. No. 5 Wisconsin (Big Ten champ, 11-1)
 No. 2 Oregon (Pac-12 champ, 12-0) vs. No. 3 TCU (Mountain West champ, 12-0)

Stanford finished No. 4 in the BCS but lost to Oregon on the road by 21. Wisconsin won the Big Ten and beat No. 1 Ohio State in the process. Again, when it's close I'm giving MAJOR conference champions the edge. TCU beat No. 6 Utah 47-7 on the road. That team later went on to beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. They passed the eye test.

2009

 No. 1 Alabama (SEC champ, 13-0) vs. No. 4 TCU (Mountain West champ, 12-0)
 No. 2 Texas (Big 12 champ, 13-0) vs. No. 5 Florida (at-large, 12-1)

This will be the most controversial year of all because No. 3 Cincinnati (12-0) and No. 6 Boise State (13-0) get left out in favor of No. 5 Florida. Florida, with senior QB Tim Tebow, was ranked No. 1 all year and then lost to Alabama (32-13) in the SEC championship game. Cincinnati's best win was over No. 23 West Virginia. Florida beat No. 4 LSU at Baton Rouge. Boise State's best win was over No. 14 Oregon at home. A real selection committee probably would have put Cincinnati or Boise State in the FFF to keep the peace. But remember that Florida killed Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl (51-24).

2008

 No. 1 Oklahoma (Big 12 champ, 12-1) vs. No. 4 Alabama (at-large, 12-1)
 No. 2 Florida (SEC champ, 12-1) vs. No. 3 Texas (at-large, 12-1)

Alabama's only loss was to Florida in the SEC championship game. Alabama also beat No. 9 Clemson, No. 3 Georgia on the road, and No. 14 LSU on the road. No. 5 USC (11-1) lost on the road at Oregon State but won the Pac-10. So I'll concede that a selection committee might put them in ahead of a second team from SEC or a second team from the Big 12. Texas beat Oklahoma head to head by 10 (45-35) and should have played for the Big 12 championship. No. 6 Utah was 12-0 with wins over three ranked teams: No. 24 Michigan, No. 11 TCU, and No. 14 BYU. It later beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

2007

 No. 1 Ohio State (Big Ten champ, 11-1) vs. No. 4 Oklahoma (Big 12 champ, 11-2)
 No. 2 LSU (SEC champ, 11-2) vs. No. 3 Virginia Tech (ACC champ, 11-2)

This year drives the Georgia Bulldog fans crazy because at the end of the season No. 5 Georgia (10-2) was as good as any of these teams. There would have been a strong argument to put Georgia in ahead of ACC champ Virginia Tech, which lost 48-7 at LSU. But here is another case where a selection committee might give the edge to a conference champ with one extra win.

So there you go. Let the debate begin. What was the dumbest pick I made?


Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.
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