Ask CFN - Your Playoff Questions Answered
Notre Dame vs. LSU In the 2007 Sugar Bowl
Notre Dame vs. LSU In the 2007 Sugar Bowl
Posted Jun 22, 2012

Will Notre Dame have to join a league? Who's the big loser in the new playoff system? Your playoff questions get answered.

2012 ASK CFN

June 21 - The New Playoff 

E-mail Pete Fiutak

The new playoff system proposed by the 11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick caused more than a little bit of a stir, and it raised plenty of questions. Below are many of the main questions answered about what college football is in for very, very soon.

Fire over your questions, comments, and baskets of mini-muffins to, or you can tweet them to me @ColFootballNews. I might not be able to answer them all, but I promise they're all read.

Q: How are they possibly going to come up with a committee for this? Won't it just be like the basketball committee with RPIs, spreadsheets and biases? – Ken G.

A: Don't start lumping in what the playoff system is going to be with anything the NCAA basketball selection committee does. For hoops, it's all about finding the right cities for the right schools while weighing the merits of all the teams on the bubble. For football, it's going to be relatively cut and dry. There will always be some biases here and there, but all the teams in the final four will be great, unlike a March Madness setup which devolves into which mediocre teams get in.

Can you name anyone on the NCAA basketball selection committee? You probably won't know the names of the football committee, either, but there's no way the commissioners and powers-that-be won't stock the selection group with their own guys. The big boys will be well represented.

The only thing that really matters in the equation is transparency. As long as each member has to detail how and why he or she voted a certain way, and as long as they don't go behind some secret door and then hide once the final four comes out, fans will accept it. The deserving teams and the process will be more obvious than you think.

Q: What are they going to do with the BCS? Why don't they just use those rankings and take the top four teams instead of going by some committee? – No Name

A: Because rankings and seedings are two completely different things. The committee might take into account the rankings, but that doesn't mean the seedings will go accordingly.

For example, if the SEC champ is ranked No. 1 according to some format, the Big 12 champ is No. 2, Big Ten champ is No. 3, and Pac-12 champ is No. 4, the matchups will still probably be the SEC vs. Big 12 in the new bowl and the Big Ten vs. Pac-12 in the Rose. It doesn't matter; you have to win two games to win it all anyway.

The BCS might stick around as a ranking system, but the idea of a BCS league and a BCS bowl won't matter much anymore. There will still be bowl ties and the current BCS bowls will still maintain a level of prestige, but there won't be the rules and restrictions like there are now.

Q: How is this possibly going to work from a logistical standpoint? Don't the playoff sites have to be known years ahead of time? – B.W.

A: Not really. Think about it. Teams don't know which bowls they're going to until early December, so instead of, say, Oklahoma State vs. Stanford in the Fiesta it will be Oklahoma State vs. Stanford in the Fiesta as part of a playoff. Many of the bowl ties will be maintained, and then, when needed, the matchups will turn into playoff games. However, the national championship will be figured out well in advance with the game likely to be bid on and farmed out for several years down the road. It will be a bit like the Super Bowl with dome cities like Indianapolis and Detroit getting a shot in the cold weather cities, and the typical players like San Diego, New Orleans, Miami and Tampa all involved in the mix.

Q: Why did the Big Ten totally cave? I thought (Big Ten commissioner) Jim Delany was supposed to be the strongman in this and he just sat there and took it from the SEC. – Dan T.

A: That's one of the biggest misconceptions of what just went down. Delany got almost exactly what he wanted and needed for the Big Ten. He wanted the Rose Bowl to remain relevant, and now it is with the game to all but certainly be a part of the playoff mix if the Big Ten and Pac-12 are in the playoffs. The committee pick-four format actually helps the Big Ten's cause. It's not a champions-only format, but it's not far off. Believe me; it's going to take a lot – A LOT - for a conference champion from the Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and/or Pac-12 to get bumped for a wild-card.

Q: How much money is everyone going to make? Will it be silly money? Tens of millions? Billions?! – JT

A: As is, each Big Ten school is getting a check for around $250 million dollars based on all the bowls, TV rights, BTN deals and all the other fun stuff the league has its hands in. Once these playoffs kick in, the dollars are going to be ridiculous. HOWEVER, that part of the equation has to be worked out and soon the real fight will begin. Coming up with a playoff wasn't really that hard once the commissioners put their minds to it, but dividing the pie will be a dogfight of epic proportions. When all is said and done, the playoff won't bring in Super Bowl-like revenue, but this new deal and these three playoff games will be bigger than any other sporting event outside of anything the NFL does. This will be bigger than the NBA Finals, World Series and March Madness ratings-wise with a steady stream of ad dollars flowing in. The numbers are going to be astronomical, as will the dollars and numbers for the conference championship games that now will be more important than ever.

Every school will be making money hand over fist – just in time for the class action lawsuits from all the former players with banged up brains. But that's for another day.

Q: When does the playoff actually start? Everyone says 2014, but does that mean 2015? - RM

A: The plan appears to be set to go into effect after the 2014 season with the first playoff bowls officially kicking off on New Year's Day of 2015.

Q: Who loses in this? I love the idea of a playoff finally being here, but what's the downside? What am I missing? – No Name

A: You should be breaking something tasteful if you're a Big East or ACC fan. Now, for those two leagues, it's go unbeaten or bust unless something wacky happens. I've been surprised throughout this entire process that the ACC and Big East didn't have more juice. They should've been kicking and screaming for an eight-team format with the six BCS league champs getting an automatic invite. Instead, watch how those two leagues abandon ship on as many tough non-conference games as possible in an effort to pump up the records to be in the discussion. An SEC or Big 12 champion will get into the playoffs with one loss or even two, but the Big East and ACC will never get that break.

Q: Is there any chance they're going to change this around and decide that an eight team format would be better? Why make a lot of money if you can make a lot more? – Jack S.

A: Walk before you can run. Remember, the idea of a playoff in any form was completely and totally off the table last year at this time, and now, just like that, it's happening. Let the college presidents and athletic directors let this breathe for a little bit. There's probably going to be a ten-year deal put in place to make this current idea go, but make no mistake about it, if the chance is there to make more money by changing things up with an eight-team playoff, the TV networks will be more than happy to adapt and adjust their deals to make sure it all works out.

Q: Call me crazy, but what was wrong with the old poll system? I always liked it when the bowls mattered. – David A.

A: You're crazy. The old Poll ‘n' Bowl system sucked. No one was happy; almost all the national champions were based on a guess; and it took a minor miracle to get a true championship matchup. The BCS, for all of its flaws, was an improvement, and the new playoff format will be an even bigger step forward.

Q: Oh, yippee. Now the SEC is going to get three teams in every year and the national championship will be just as boring as it was last year. Count me out. – Bill K.

A: The reason you didn't like the Alabama vs. LSU rematch was because Oklahoma State didn't get its shot. If Alabama beat Oklahoma State and LSU beat Oregon on the way to a rematch in a national championship, then there would've been an entirely different dynamic and there would've been far greater fan interest.

I highly doubt that you'll ever see the day when three teams from the same league get in, even if it's a case like 2011 when an argument could've been made that LSU, Alabama and Arkansas were the three best teams in America. On the plus side, there's a fail-safe catch-all in cases where there are still question marks. The 2008 Texas vs. Oklahoma debate wouldn't have happened, and 2006 Michigan would've deservedly been in the playoffs after its epic battle against Ohio State. And, of course, last year, Alabama would've been a part of the equation.

Q: Does this playoff mean that Notre Dame finally has to join a conference? – Theo

A: No. In fact, this setup makes joining a conference less necessary than ever. If there was a champions-only system then it would've been a different debate, but with a committee and a top four format, the schedule will mean as much as anything else. With the brutal schedules the Irish face over the next few years, if they were to get it close to the pin with a 10-2 record with both losses close calls against top teams, then they'd have a shot. If they ever go 11-1, consider them all but in and 12-0 means a sure-thing invite no matter what.

Q: Finally!!! The fans win!!! They heard our cries for a playoff and now college football has finally changed! POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!! – No Name

A: Not quite. College football hasn't really changed. Two teams will play one extra game. That's it. The bowl system isn't going to change and 90% of the teams will be shooting for a post-season exhibition extravaganza.