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B1G playoff plan primarily benefits ... B1G

2/7/2012

A college football playoff is on the horizon, and even the Big Ten, for years seen as the No. 1 obstructionist conference, has put together a postseason plan.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Sources told the Tribune that a Big Ten plan would remove the top four teams from the BCS bowl pool and have semifinal games played on the college campus of the higher seed. That would do away with the facade of "neutral" sites such as New Orleans, Miami and Pasadena, Calif., and ease travel concern for fans.

The championship game then could be bid out, like the Super Bowl. ...

"We have to listen to the fans; we cannot be tone-deaf," said Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips, who chairs the Big Ten's Administrators Council. "The Big Ten is open and curious."

While that statement alone -- "open and curious" to a playoff -- will surprise a lot of people, the plan itself is one that should excite Big Ten fans. The possibility of playing games with national championship implications in places like Columbus, Madison, State College, Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Lincoln and Iowa City should draw rave reviews from Big Ten fans.

Why? Because the current setup is inherently stacked against the Big Ten, which plays virtual road games in most of its bowls. The Big Ten faces the SEC in Florida, the Pac-12 in California and the Big 12 in Texas. Although Big Ten fans travel well to bowls, especially BCS bowls, the advantage Big Ten teams would have in cold weather in this plan can't be denied.

Think about it: SEC teams would be forced to travel up north. In late December, no less.

Big Ten teams would have to finish in the top 4 of the final BCS standings to make the playoff, which no Big Ten team has done since No. 1 Ohio State in 2007. And Big Ten teams would have to finish No. 1 or No. 2 to land a home game. But the possibility is tantalizing.

If the Big Ten champ finishes No. 3 or No. 4 in the BCS, it would have to travel for a postseason game, most likely to some warm-weather location in the South or West.

Sound familiar? Big Ten teams do it every January.

There is the matter of protecting the Rose Bowl, which is Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany's No. 1 priority. Delany often has stated that the Rose Bowl is the Big Ten's top external relationship, and he doesn't want to have access compromised.

While a playoff would prevent the Big Ten champion and the Pac-12 champion from meeting in Pasadena every year, we'd still see a lot of entertaining Big Ten-Pac-12 matchups at the Rose Bowl. And while a playoff system would take attention away from the bowl games, the Rose Bowl is the only contest that has prestige even when it doesn't factor in the national title race. If any bowl can maintain its shine in a playoff environment, it's the Rose.

A playoff is coming to college football. It's just a matter of when.

The Big Ten can either continue to be an obstructionist or accept the inevitable and plan for it.

This proposal keeps the league's interest in mind, which is exactly what Big Ten fans should want.