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 is this: What's the future of the Rose Bowl as college football moves toward some type of playoff system?
Take 1: Adam Rittenberg
This is a huge question for the Big Ten, which is open to a playoff in college football and recently put forth a four-team proposal, while at the same time pledging its loyalty to the Rose Bowl. The Big Ten values the Rose Bowl relationship and doesn't want the game to be damaged by some type of playoff system. At the same time, the league is no longer taking an obstructionist position against a system that most college football fans want. If you want the Rose Bowl's take on the playoff push, check it out here. One big question is whether a playoff model would incorporate the major bowls in any way. I think the Rose Bowl, more than any other bowl, has the potential to survive and thrive independent of a playoff. It hasn't had the drop in interest (attendance, TV ratings, etc.) that other major bowls have had. The Rose Bowl remains part of the New Year's Day routine. It's an event.
A playoff would decrease the likelihood of the Big Ten champ and the Pac-12 champ meeting in Pasadena, but it wouldn't eliminate it. The chances of having one champion in the game remain fairly high, as recent history shows. In fact, we might see more Big Ten-Pac-12 matchups in Pasadena with a four-team playoff and a loosening of bowl selection procedures. You wouldn't see TCU or Texas at the Rose Bowl if the Rose could simply select the No. 2 Big Ten or Pac-12 team. An eight-team playoff has a greater chance to hurt the Rose Bowl, if the Rose isn't part of the playoff structure. Although the Rose can survive a few years of having the No. 2 Big Ten team face the No. 2 Pac-12 team, it can't have two 8-4 squads going at it every Jan. 1. So it really depends on the model.
Take 2: Brian Bennett
The model does make a difference, but I have concerns on just how relevant the Rose Bowl will remain in any playoff system. Don't get me wrong -- the experience, the setting and the tradition will always make New Year's Day in Pasadena special, and the Big Ten is correct in making this relationship sacrosanct.
But a four-team playoff in some way or shape sure seems to be coming in the very near future. I'm all for it and think it is the right way to preserve the importance of the regular season while also determining a truer national champion. But there's no denying this will have an effect on the Rose Bowl. If the bowls are made part of the semifinal and final rounds -- and I suspect this could happen given the strength of the bowl lobby -- then the Rose Bowl will either have to settle for non-traditional matchups or sit on the sideline. If home sites are used for the semifinals -- a great idea, by the way -- then the Rose will either end up taking Pac-12 and Big Ten champions who are not in the final four or second-place teams.
And let's face it: that four-team playoff will capture everybody's attention and will overshadow everything else. While reaching the Rose Bowl would remain an unforgettable experience for the teams involved, the rest of America would simply look at it as no better than the fifth-place game. People will still watch, because football is football and there's no better thing to do on New Year's Day. But in the long term, I think the magic of the Rose Bowl would erode with a playoff system. That's still a trade-off I'm willing to make.