Which conference has best playoff path?

Updated: February 28, 2013, 3:33 PM ET
By Travis Haney

I spoke this week with a few BCS-level athletic directors, polling them on how they thought scheduling would change with the coming four-team playoff.

After a few minutes of chatting, each said something similar: They wanted to know what the other ADs were saying and thinking.

The administrators are undoubtedly a curious and cautious bunch entering this new era in the sport. They're mostly keeping open minds.

"I think most of us are taking a wait-and-see approach," one of the ADs said.

Another: "Everyone has a different school of thought. But we don't know what we don't know right now."

Chiefly, what they do not know now, and will not really know until a year or two into the playoff, is what the selection committee will value and how they should accordingly schedule. It's one thing to hear these things discussed in the abstract, with talk of emphasizing conference championships and other factors, but it'll be another to actually see the selections taking place.

(For example, if there'd been a playoff in 2012, which teams would have earned the third and fourth slots? Florida, at 11-1 coming out of the SEC, would seem like a safe bet, but what about the final spot? Oregon, the No. 4 team in the BCS standings? Stanford, the BCS No. 6 team and Pac-12 champion that dealt the Ducks their only loss? Kansas State, the one-loss Big 12 champ?)

But one thing we can say with relative certainty is that the available paths each contender has to a playoff berth will play a key role in which teams are in the postseason mix and which get selected -- and that these title paths have the potential to vary greatly depending on the conference and nonconference schedules of each contender.

(How do each of the five major leagues stack up in this regard? We'll get to that in a bit.)