SEC's playoff position: Big Ten is scared

May, 31, 2012
5/31/12
11:47
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I feel a lot more enlightened now that my Big Ten colleague, Adam Rittenberg, took the time Wednesday to spoon-feed us folks down here in SEC country on just what the Big Ten’s position was on a national playoff.

We thank (or is it ‘think’) ye, Adam.

Sometimes, us Southerners are a little slow to grasp thangs and aren’t as sharp as you city slickers, and we’re much obliged to your reinforcing that hackneyed, close-minded stereotype.

[+] EnlargeNick Saban
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesAlabama coach Nick Saban and the SEC want a playoff to involve the sport's four best teams, regardless of their conference.
What’s not a stereotype is that the Big Ten is scared, and I’m talking trembling-in-its-boots scared that it’s going to be left out of the party when a national playoff becomes a reality in 2014.

That’s what happens when you haven’t been a player nationally since before teenagers in this country were actually calling each other to talk instead of texting.

And, yes, Adam, we do know how to text down here in these parts.

But while we’re spelling things out, here’s something the Big Ten folks might want to alphabetize: All conferences aren’t created equal. What’s more, despite the SEC’s streak of six straight national championships, college football has and always will be cyclical.

So, sure, conference championships are important. But if your conference is weak, winning your championship doesn’t guarantee you a spot at the party.

A playoff, by definition, gathers the best teams in that sport and allows those teams to play it off on the field.

When you start adding restraints, it’s not a playoff. Moreover, you’re not solving anything. If that’s the case, then we might as well go back to the old model.

Just because the Big Ten is a non-factor right now nationally doesn’t mean it won't ever be.

The best example was 2006. Had a playoff been in effect that season, Michigan and Ohio State would have been among the best four teams in the country, and both teams certainly would have gone.

But you also don’t keep out another great team that season simply because it lost to another great team in its conference and didn’t win its conference championship.

Nick Saban is absolutely right. The fans want to see the best four teams play it off, and that’s whether we select those four teams with a new and improved BCS standings with more weight given to strength of schedule (my personal favorite) or with a selection committee.

The truth is that everybody in this process is self-absorbed to a degree, which is why I have a hard time believing we could truly find an impartial committee of knowledgeable people who don’t have a dog in the fight.

I understand the concept of allowing one wild-card team in the playoff along with three conference champions.

I also understand the concept of not watering down the regular season in college football. Every game should count.

But it’s a new day in college football with the looming playoff, and we all have to get used to a changing landscape.

Ultimately, I think common sense will prevail.

There was a time when only two teams from a conference could make the NCAA basketball tournament. When that rule was in place, there were obviously enough people in positions of power who thought that was the right thing to do. Plus, the tournament didn’t have as many teams as it does now.

Looking back, that was a stupid rule and kept great teams out of the tournament every year.

It would be equally stupid to similarly restrict a national playoff in football.

And as for actual understanding, the way we understand it down in these parts is that those folks who are trying to restrict access are usually the ones who have the most obvious agenda.

In other words, win a few games that count. Quit being such an afterthought in the national picture and understand that the easiest way to effect change is by going out on the field and doing something about it … and not by sitting around in your high-rise corporate offices and whining about it.

Other than that, ya’ll be sure and have a nice day.

Chris Low | email

College Football

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