Thursday, June 21, 2012
SEC power will grow with coming playoff
By Edward Aschoff
We finally (almost) have our college football playoff.
And the SEC couldn't be any happier.
After it seemed as if SEC commissioner Mike Slive might have to bend a little more than expected in a playoff compromise, according to reports, he exited Wednesday's BCS meetings with that big patented smile he owns.
When the BCS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick announced that they had endorsed a seeded four-team playoff model for college football that would begin for the 2014 season, they did so with the idea that those four teams would be selected under the "best four" method. A committee will select the four teams by considering certain criteria such as conference championships and strength of schedule.
So it won't be just conference champs. It's like that hybrid model people were talking about it. Regardless, it's something that if passed by the BCS presidential oversight committee, which meets June 26 in Washington, D.C., will give the SEC even more power than it already has.
Now, the SEC is almost guaranteed a spot in the four-team playoff with its conference champ. Period. Now, getting No. 2 in will be a little more difficult but the past tells us it can happen. Remember, the wording is that conference champs will be considered, so it isn't a given that all four will be champs every year.
Realistically, having two teams from the SEC, or any other conference, in this four-team playoff won't happen that often. According to ESPN Stats & Information, if a four-team playoff were determined by BCS standings, the SEC would have had two teams in a playoff three out of the 14 years under the BCS. So would have the Big 12.
But that was under the BCS, which is all but dead. If the oversight committee passes this model, the BCS will go away and a much more sensible committee will be formed to pick the best four teams to play for a national championship.
One hope some commissioners have is that conferences won't be grandfathered into a "wild-card" spot or spots. Picking the top four should be about the current season, not past accomplishments. But we can't sit here and think that most committee members won't struggle when it comes to pitting a No. 4 SEC non-champ against a No. 5 conference champ from, oh, let's say the ACC. Then, past body of work might outweigh a championship in a conference still trying to push itself to the big boy's table.
It might not happen every time that scenario occurs, but it could, and Slive has to like that.
But one way the league could help its argument for placing two teams in the playoff is to increase those schedule strengths. We could see teams ditch the cupcakes for some real meat more often.
I'm not suggesting that Alabama-Texas or Florida-USC will become the norm, but occasionally you might see it. You might even see more SEC teams travel outside of the Southeast to play games (gasp!). For fans of real competitive college football that's certainly a plus. And if you knock off one of the other major conference's top teams, that will only increase the SEC's chances of getting another playoff team.
Slive entered the BCS meetings holding the strongest cards and even when it seemed like he might have to give a little, he emerged on top. The SEC is all but guaranteed a spot in the playoff each year and now has increased its championship odds with the chance of getting two or maybe even three (which would be a rarity of rarities), leaving other conferences yet again looking up at him and his southern empire.