The college football playoff talk continues.
While it now appears that we have arrived at some sort of consensus on the idea that college football will, indeed, have a playoff system soon, weeks and weeks of discussions have yet to generate any kind of consensus on how that playoff will ultimately look.
As the game moves forward to the adoption of a formal "tournament" system (yes, it will be a small tournament, but a tournament nonetheless), the same problem that has prevented college football from evolving sensibly in years past--that is, good old fashioned self interest--continues to stand in the way of both sanity and service to the collective good of the game.
In other words, our beloved game is as screwed up as ever before. Here, we attempt to clear up some of the mess, or at least make some sense of it, impossible though that may be.
1. So what's the deal with this new SEC-Big 12 "Champions Bowl," anyway?
The short answer is this: This new bowl game will pit the champions of the SEC and Big 12 on New Year's Day every season from now (presumably) until eternity, thereby giving these two leagues a tradition that (in their minds, at least) will eventually compete with the Rose Bowl. Now, for the long answer: Essentially, the game is a power play by Mike Slive and the SEC, which despite all of its success on the field in recent years has always been jealous of the Big Ten and Pac-12's ownership over the Rose Bowl, which, let's face it, has always been a great deal cooler than the Sugar Bowl (football in a dome = depressing). By creating this new "Champions Bowl," the SEC gives itself the opportunity to literally build a Rose Bowl of its own; with this deal signed, Slive will be able to dictate almost every last detail of this new game, including the oh-so-important question of where it will be played and how much money he can make off of it (don't kid yourself into thinking the Big 12 will be making any decisions here). In short, this game is about one thing and one thing only: Slive, and the SEC, letting the rest of the nation know that they're in charge.
2. OK, fine. But what does the Big 12 get out of it?
Pretty simple. By aligning with the uber-powerful SEC, the Big 12 gives itself some much-needed stability and, of course, some recently lacking respectability, too. It's certainly true that the Big 12, which has seen the likes of Texas A&M and Nebraska leave in recent years, isn't quite what it used to be, but it still has Texas, and it still has Oklahoma, and now, it has a partnership with the most lucrative and successful conference in the nation. For the SEC, this deal was about power; for the Big 12, it was about self-preservation. Both got what they wanted.
3. How will the game impact the playoff discussions?
In a word: Significantly. The powers-that-be in college football were already finding it difficult to discuss this playoff while also dancing around the existing bowl games (the Rose Bowl, of course, has long been a thorn in the side of the pro-playoff crowd). Now that the SEC and the Big 12 have a serious financial interest in making this new bowl game of theirs work, there is yet another major issue to consider (and more people to placate) as the conference commissioners go about the work of trying to craft a playoff system that works while also keeping everyone comparatively happy. It was a hard job before news of this game arrived. Now, it's darn near impossible.
Coming next, in Vol. 4: The great debate over how teams are selected; the impending dawn of the era of the superconference, and more.