College Football Playoff: How the Major Conferences Break Down

The four college football superconferences will meet to decide on a new postseason system. We’ve heard the gambits. Now it’s time to figure out how this will play out. Bowl games will be involved. The Rose Bowl will stay in B10/P12 hands. The real questions are the exact format, what teams will be selected and the methodology used to select those teams. Here’s how the conferences break down.

SEC: The SEC wants a four-team playoff without a conference championship requirement. They want to improve the current formula but have not ruled out a selection committee.

Big 12: The Big 12 wants a four-team playoff. They want no conference championship requirement. They prefer a selection committee.

Big Ten: The Big Ten is open to a playoff but wants a plus-one on the table. They would not be opposed to system that respects conference championships. They favor a selection committee.

Pac 12: The Pac 12 has kept the plus-one on the table but is open to discussion. The Pac 12 wants a conference champions requirement. They would prefer an objective formula but are willing to look at a selection committee.

These are calculated PR releases intended for public consumptions. They have to be read as opening salvoes in negotiations, not airtight statements of fact. Here’s how that debate should go.

Format: The present BCS is dead. The plus-one is unrealistic. If the Big Ten or the Pac 12 seriously wanted that, they would invest themselves, defend the concept and scream from the rooftops. Instead, they keep reiterating it has not been ruled out. Harvey Perlman’s comments were no different than his previous ones. This looks like a leverage play to let the Big Ten and Pac 12 agree to the playoff in exchange for something.

Selection: The full conference champion argument seems dead. The 3-1 proposal vs. the straight 1-4 ranking proposal would probably create a deadlock. This is almost impossible to resolve cleanly, unless the selection methodology renders it irrelevant.

Method: The one thing Jim Delany was firm about was junking the present BCS formula. The debate is between tweaking a new formula to everyone’s satisfaction or forming a selection committee. Human polls are flawed. A statistically sound objective formula from Vegas is improbable. The selection committee seems the most feasible option.

Two of the big four have expressed full support. The other two are willing to discuss it. It is not perfect but it does everything for everyone. The SEC and Big 12 could get multiple teams in. The Big Ten would not have one of its teams bumped by nonsense math or polling. The Pac 12 would have its conference championship respected. Polls and formulas might pick Stanford over Oregon last year. A selection committee would almost undoubtedly choose Oregon.

A four-team playoff with a selection committee is not ideal, but it would be acceptable. It progresses officials to the important (and possibly more contentious) stage: how much money they are going to get and how to distribute it.

[Photo via Getty]

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