Posted by Eye on College Football
Occasionally the Eye on CFB team convenes Voltron-style to answer a pressing question in the world of college football. Today's query:
What are the chances of the BCS adopting the Big Ten's home-field semifinals playoff proposal? And if they do, how much of a good thing (if at all) is that for college football?
Tom Fornelli: I think it's clear at this point that the playoff is coming. Whether or not it's going to be the Big Ten's proposal of the top two seeds hosting semifinal games, I'm not sure.
I do think that's the best way of going about things for the schools and fans, though. It would minimize travel costs for the schools, and it's the only way to make things fair. Hosting the games at places like the Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl or Rose Bowl wouldn't be. Right now, if you're a Big Ten or Big 12 team and you land in the top two, you're not only traveling outside your home state but your entire conference footprint to play in those locations.
Plus, how exciting would it be to see a school like Florida possibly having to travel up north to play Wisconsin in Madison during December? We already know what happens to the Big Ten when it has to head south for the winter. With this proposal we'd get to see what happens to the SEC when it's forced to head north.
As for whether or not this would be a good thing for college football, I don't see how it would be a bad thing. You take a lot of the money that you've been giving to bowl games and put that cash into the schools. Plus, as long as you keep the playoff to the top four teams, get rid of the BCS AQ statuses and everything else, you can restore the bowl traditions that are so important to everybody.
Chip Patterson: I'm with Tom: I don't see how this could be a bad thing. I certainly understand there are plenty of concerns along the way, but any step in this direction is one I support.
Jerry Hinnen: I'm afraid I can see how this proposal could be, if not a bad thing, a worse thing than it should be.
There's two downsides to the Big Ten's plan as presented. The first is that it proposes to yoink those top four teams out of the bowl pool entirely, meaning that the two semifinal losers wouldn't get the bowl experience at all, despite having the kind of season that would have put them in the BCS top four to begin with. If you're, say, Stanford and your postseason experience is traveling to Columbus to watch your season end in front of 100,000 Buckeye fans in 25-degree weather, I'm not sure at all that's going to feel like much of a reward. I'd much prefer the semifinals be played in mid-December, with the losers still eligible for BCS selection; it's better for the teams (who get their deserved week of bowl festivities) and better for the bowls (who get better matchups).
The other downside is an unavoidable one: that this could be the first step down that slippery slope to the sort of eight- or 12- or 16-team playoff that sees the college football equivalent of the New York Giants ride a single hot streak past more deserving teams to a national championship. This is another reason the Big Ten proposal should do more to placate the major bowls--they've collectively taken a lot of heat for their role in preserving the BCS's current status quo, but their money and influence are also a key line of defense in ensuring the "plus-one" doesn't become a "plus-six."
But whatever downsides you come up with are always going to pale in comparison to the upside. The biggest flaw of the BCS has always been the No. 3 team that deserved its shot as much as either (or both) of the No. 1 and No. 2 teams and didn't get it, the team that -- as Phil Steele has called it -- needs to be in the playoff. The squabbles over No. 4 vs. No. 5 are going to continue, yes, but that's a small price to pay for giving 2001 Miami, 2003 USC, 2004 Auburn, 2010 TCU, or 2011 Oklahoma State their shot. Giving them that shot in an electric on-campus atmosphere -- be it in the Midwest, on the West Coast, the Southeast, wherever -- makes a huge triumph for college football that much more, well, huge.
Bryan Fischer: We're moving toward change, but what form it takes certainly remains to be seen. Let's be clear that there were something like 50 proposals presented at the last BCS meeting, so what's notable is not this specific Big Ten proposal but the fact that the conference has changed its tune and is open to some sort of playoff.
Jim Delany has two things he is looking to accomplish no matter what happens with the BCS: keep the Big Ten in a seat of power and protect the Rose Bowl. This proposal does both and seems to be a win-win for just about everybody. I think we're moving in the right direction and Delany is finally going with the flow instead of obstructing it.
Having seen how well things worked out for the Pac-12 with an on-campus championship game, I'm in favor of including a home field advantage tie-in no matter what proposal surfaces. The detractors are always worried about the regular season and keeping the bowl system and a plus-one/four-team playoff would make things meaningful during the year and keep the current structure (more Alamo Bowls!) in place. The most interesting thing, to me, will be how long we'll be stuck with the system. It could be a 10-plus year deal--which is interesting if tweaks need to be made in order to ensure a better playoff system.
TF: I would think that the any deal has to be longer than 10 years, just because conferences are going to want to keep things from expanding to 8 teams or 16 teams for as long as possible. Because we all know that as soon as the four-team playoff begins, then so will the "Expand the playoffs!" arguments.
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