Take Two: Big Ten's proposed playoff plan

February, 9, 2012
Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.

Today's Take Two topic revolves around the Big Ten's recently disclosed college football playoff proposal. The league's plan would take the top four teams from the BCS pool and stage semifinals at campus sites, with the championship game at a neutral site that might not involve the bowls. So the question is: Does this plan help the Big Ten in its quest to win a national title?

Take 1: Brian Bennett

First of all, I'm still recovering from the shock of learning that the Big Ten is open to a playoff. Those are words I wasn't sure I would hear in my (or Jim Delany's) lifetime. Credit the league for being more flexible than it is often credited for or portrayed as, and understand that the Big Ten wants to hop in the front car of this unstoppable playoff train rather than be run over by it. Playing semifinal games at home sites instead of using the bowls makes so much sense that I'm actually surprised that top college football officials would consider it. Not only does that keep the conferences from giving away such valuable property to shady bowl executives and losing money on hostage-like ticket guarantees, but it also keeps the importance of the regular season. Finishing No. 1 or No. 2 instead of No. 3 or No. 4 becomes far more important when you can gain home field advantage, and this plan also benefits fans and their travel budgets.

But would it help the Big Ten win a national title? I'm not so sure. Yes, getting a home game and forcing warm-weather teams to come up north would provide an advantage. Astute researchers have pointed out that, using the BCS formula as our history guide, Big Ten teams would only have hosted a semifinal game three times since 1998. All three of those times involved an Ohio State team which wound up playing in the BCS title game anyway. So while in theory a home-field and weather advantage could help the Big Ten, the truth is the league needs to get a lot better first just to bring that in play. And I believe that if a team is good enough to win a national title, it can do so anywhere, just like when Alabama beat LSU in Louisiana last month.

Take 2: Adam Rittenberg

Some excellent points, BB. I like the fact the Big Ten is no longer being the obstructionist conference in relation to a playoff. Instead, the league is being proactive about what many of us see as an inevitability in college football. The Big Ten is acknowledging the momentum toward a playoff and has put together one option. There will be many others from the other leagues, but this one keeps the Big Ten's main interests in mind. While I agree that great teams can win anywhere, Big Ten teams play at least one-third of their season in cold weather. Those teams practice in the cold and play in the cold, and they make adjustments to the weather. Come bowl time, it's back to sunshine and virtual road-game environments.

Will this help the Big Ten win a national championship? Not as much as oversigning would (rimshot). But it can't hurt. It provides at least the chance for the league to have nationally meaningful games on its campuses in the cold. I'd love to see SEC or Pac-12 teams play at Ohio State or at Michigan in late December. The weather is an advantage the Big Ten hasn't been able to exploit because of where the BCS bowls are located. Having these games in Big Ten stadiums would be great for the league and for its teams. History shows that these games won't happen every year and might not happen very often at all -- often preserving the traditional Rose Bowl matchup. But the mere possibility of having them should excite Big Ten fans if the plan is adopted nationally.



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