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College Football Playoff: Show Me The Money

Over the last few weeks, the powers that be have gathered behind closed doors trying to decide the future of a major college football playoff. I’ve been pretty clear that I believe we are on the precipice – the edge of the cliff for you people down on the plains – looking over the potential demise of college football.

The four-game format will work if, as Coach Saban suggests, we stick to the top four teams regardless of conference. I have no confidence that the media-driven craving for a playoff will stop at four. However, let’s take a look at some of the suggestions that have emerged:

Big 10 Commisioner Jim Delany:

Some people think it should just be the top four teams; some people think it should just be the four highest-rated champions,” Delany said. “I was just floating some ideas of how you might have a hybrid where champions were respected and there was still room for at-large.

 

Whining aside, Delany has had some good input in the debate. He’s been clear that he wants to use the bowls as part of the playoff (good) and he’s also admitted that the playoff scenario is all about the money and not the game. We’ve said that all along.

However, his idea that a playoff should only include conference champs is a bit delusional. He is upset that his conference does not have a regular top four team. If the Big 10 can’t compete on the field, perhaps they should consider competing in a different league.

Nick Saban:

If you’d have to win a championship, you might get the first team, the fifth team, the seventh team and the 12th team in the country playing in this tournament. That’s not what people want.

 

I think Coach Saban said it best when he said “Hell no.”  No one believes  No. 1 vs No. 12 is a legitimate title game. Above that, there are some conferences that will never be in the hunt unless the playoffs are extended to more than four teams. That scenario would be bad for football. Like I said, I have no confidence that they will know when to stop expanding.

Delany (again):

The polls don’t always measure strength of schedule. Some conferences are playing nine games, some are playing eight. The Pac-12 is playing nine and then to go out and play a round-robin game against us, that’s ten and some of them are going to play Notre Dame — that’s eleven difficult games.

 

Delany was right when he said that current rankings don’t put enough weight on strength of schedule, but his criticism doesn’t really apply to Alabama as he intended. Playing a weak schedule and riding into a playoff on rankings would benefit teams like Boise. Alabama plays in a strong conference and plays some high profile out-of-conference games. Strength of schedule needs to count for something.

Mike Slive on the new SEC vs Big 12 Bowl:

We’re excited because it creates a match-up of the two most successful conferences in the post-season. Given the fact that we’re transitioning into the four-team playoff, we thought it was a good chance to create a very meaningful game.”

 

The conference pissing contest continues with The SEC and Big 12 creating a bigger game than the highly irrelevant Rose Bowl. However, all of this wrangling could lead to something I predicted in 2010 — a new super conference could be formed when the traditional schools decide they are tired of sharing revenues with the weaker conferences who are struggling to change the rules of the game to appear relevant.

A playoff could work in one scenario. The top 12 or 16 schools should break away from the pack and form a new league, play each other, crown a champion, and keep the money for themselves. Unfortunately, most people would never agree which elite programs in the nation would break away. There would likely only be one team from Alabama in that new super conference, for example. No one would be happy with that either when their teams were formally relegated to a second tier.

 

Be careful what you ask for. Your favorite team might not make the cut.

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