Sources: Cotton favorite for finale
MIAMI -- The Rose and Sugar bowls will host college football's first national semifinals on Jan. 1, 2015, with the AT&T Cotton Bowl a "prohibitive favorite" to host the national title game on Jan. 12, 2015, sources said Monday.
Under the 12-year deal, which begins after the 2014 season, the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio and Allstate Sugar Bowl will be played on Jan. 1 every season whether they are hosting the national semifinals or not.
During the 12-year contract, the Rose and Sugar will host the semifinals four times. In the years they aren't hosting, the national semifinals would be moved from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, sources said.
The only exceptions would be on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, and Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, when the Rose and Sugar would move to Dec. 31, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2022, respectively. If the Rose and Sugar don't host the semifinals in those two seasons, the national semifinals would be played on Dec. 30, 2016, and Dec. 30, 2022. Six bowls, also to include the Orange, will rotate as hosts for the national semifinals. The other three have not been officially determined. Sources told ESPN they would be the Cotton, Tostitos Fiesta and Chick-fil-A bowls.
In November, ESPN reported that those six bowls would be considered only for the initial national playoff game on Jan. 12, 2015, to expedite the selection process with the game about two years away. The remaining national title game sites will be bid out to any city interested in hosting the game, similar to how the Super Bowl is chosen, BCS executive director Bill Hancock has said.
Last month, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN that the Rose and Sugar bowls would host the national semifinals in the same year as part of the six-bowl semifinal rotation. CBSSports.com initially reported the Rose and Sugar likely would be held annually on Jan. 1 with 4:30 p.m. (Rose) and 8 p.m. (Sugar) kickoffs during the upcoming new playoff format.
The BCS commissioners met Monday and will meet again Tuesday in Miami as they continue to iron out details for the new playoff. Among the major topics of discussion: determining how and of whom the selection committee will be composed and finalizing the location of the semifinal rotations.
In the upcoming college football playoff, the top four teams -- as determined by the selection committee -- will meet in the semifinals. After those four teams are selected, the league champion or top available team from the Pac-12 and Big Ten will play in the Rose Bowl, SEC and Big 12 teams in the Sugar Bowl and ACC in the Orange Bowl.
The ACC's Orange Bowl opponent will be the highest-ranked team of either Notre Dame, an SEC team not in the national semifinals or the Sugar Bowl or a Big Ten team not in the semifinals or the Rose Bowl. However, in the years the Rose and Sugar bowls host the national semifinals, the BCS commissioners have agreed that the Big Ten or SEC champion will not be placed in the Orange Bowl, sources said. Instead it will be placed in one of the three other access bowls, which will be part of the national semifinal rotation.
Also, the highest-rated champion from the Group of Five conferences (Big East, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt) will earn a berth in one of the six major bowls but will never be eligible for the Sugar or Rose bowls.
When the Rose, Sugar or ACC is hosting a national semifinal, the champion from each league or next-best-available team if it's in the playoff would still receive a bid in one of the six major bowls. After all of those teams are placed, the remaining at-large selections to fill out the six major bowls will be based on the highest-ranked teams as determined by the selection committee, not already selected.
Hancock also discussed Monday other aspects of college football's upcoming playoff:
• More than a dozen cities have inquired about hosting the national championship game. The playoff needs a name, too.
• The selection committee will try to stage the semifinals with geographic considerations in mind. However, No. 1 and No. 2 seeds will not be put at a "home-crowd disadvantage" in the semifinals. For example, No. 4 LSU won't play a semifinal in the Superdome against No. 1 Ohio State.
• Neither conference affiliation nor a possible rematch will have any effect on the semifinal pairings. If it works out that Texas and Oklahoma meet in the semifinals, so be it.
ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel contributed to this report.