College football may get a Final Four – and millions in new revenue
The proposed playoff structure marks a big philosophical shift within the world of college football and opens the door to a Cinderella team winning a national championship.
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So, now that the nitty gritty is behind us, what impact will a four-team playoff have? Well, it isn’t expansive enough to change the BCS being dominated by powerhouse programs from the major conferences – the ACC, the Big 12, the Big 10, and, especially, the SEC. The continued emphasis on regular season performances and conference wins all but ensures that no Cinderella teams from tiny schools will emerge. The most fans can hope for in terms of a major upset would be a team that routinely dominates its small conference (like the perennially spurned Boise State Broncos, who play in the Mountain West) squeaking into the final four and winning it all.Skip to next paragraph
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Detractors will point out, not incorrectly, that the commissioners’ proposal sounds awfully familiar: Regular season performance, poll rankings, strength of schedule, and conference championships are precisely the criteria already used by the BCS computers to determine how the postseason shakes out.
“Until you have an eight-team or 16-team regular season playoff, there will be folks out there who aren’t completely satisfied,” PAC 12 commissioner Larry Scott said, after the announcement Wednesday. “But we’re trying to balance other important parties, like the value of the regular season, the bowls, and the academic calendar."
Furthermore, the new structure could backfire and actually make the postseason even less inclusive by enabling the already dominant South Eastern Conference to steamroll everyone else. More than any other conference, the SEC has emerged as a junior NFL since the BCS’s inception, winning eight national championships in 14 years (and the last six in a row). Last season, the SEC had at least three teams with strong cases to compete for the title. Two of them did – LSU and eventual winner Alabama. Depending on how much weight the selection committee allots things like conference championships and schedule difficulty, an all-SEC team final four isn’t a totally crazy idea. Highly unlikely, but not crazy.
While the teams in the hunt for the title may continue to look overly familiar, the likely playoff still represents a monumental philosophical shift within the game of college football. In virtually every other high-profile league, including college football’s professional counterpart, the playoffs hold the possibility of the unexpected, the improbable championship run. It’s a routine occurrence in the NHL which just handed the Stanley Cup to a Los Angeles Kings team that nobody saw coming. This year’s Super Bowl champs, the New York Giants, only won it all after a mediocre regular season that barely got them to the playoffs.
That’s still implausible in the college game, which takes unmatched pride in the importance of its regular season. But by agreeing to a playoff, the commissioners are conceding the possibility of the Cinderella team – or, at least, the appearance of such a possibility.
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