The Big 12 and the SEC will create the “Champions Bowl,” their faux Rose Bowl to rival the Big Ten and Pac 12. In isolation it is just a bowl game, but in concert with a shifting paradigm it is significant. It’s not a “game changer,” but a reflection of how much the game has changed. College football has entered “the superconference era.” It won’t be written, as those anti-trust lawsuits can be pesky, but the next postseason system will favor the Big Ten, the SEC, the Pac 12 and the Big 12 overwhelmingly.
The four-team playoff is coming. The debate will be choosing the teams. Expect compromise between the “conference champions” and “top four teams camps.” Expect some conference champions, with parameters for accepting a deserving wild card team. How will programs be seeded and ranked? Multiple commissioners and athletic directors have brought up strength of schedule. SOS weights heavily toward the major conferences.
The Big Ten, Pac 12, Big 12 and SEC already play the toughest schedules. That will be enhanced by the Big Ten/Pac 12 non-conference scheduling agreement. It’s not a stretch for the Big 12 and SEC to realize a similar arrangement might work out for them. The remainder of their scheduling would be body bag games. ACC and Big East teams would have weaker conference schedules and a nearly impossible time trying to rectify it through non-conference games.
Three to four teams from the big conferences would make the playoff every year. Adding the two major bowl games, that composes a BCS with entirely big conference teams. It’s not the present BCS, but a far more lucrative one where there’s at least double the TV revenue and bowl games are beholden to schools. Those conference already dominate the best second-tier bowl games below that. That should only polarize further in 2014. Under that system, there’s no need for an eight or 16-team bracket creep. The four conference title games become the missing playoff games. They would become vastly more lucrative properties. That’s where realignment comes in.
The Big 12 needs a title game. This means adding at least two teams and possibly four. The conference has its logical target, the football schools in the ACC. Reportedly, Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Miami have made informal contact with the Big 12.
Regardless of what is said now, expect those teams to leave the ACC. The conference all but guaranteed this the moment it signed an awful TV deal that leaves its football “powers” at a disadvantage for the next two decades. Those schools might construct a financial argument for staying, but won’t be able construct a competitive one. Losing money is conscionable. Resigning to second-class football status is not. The ACC would not be frozen out, but it would become very, very cold. Notre Dame is not ceding its independent status to bail out a sinking ship. The only thing derailing a potential move of ACC football schools to the Big 12 is the SEC deciding to hijack two of them.
The 2014 postseason reforms will alter the paradigm. How much may remain unclear, but the uncertainty will inspire only more rash action.
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